South Asia is again in crisis and could be on the brink of
war. For the second time in six months, the world is on tenterhooks,
waiting to see what turn events will take. Because the two antagonists
are armed with nuclear weapons, the possibility of a confrontation is
taken seriously. And as has happened before, Kashmir is at the center of
the dispute that has kept India and Pakistan at loggerheads for over 70
ONE reason why our education system is going to the dogs is that our
policymakers earnestly believe that to be meaningful, education must be
serious and dull. They think that a student enjoying herself in class is
not learning anything. That would explain why our classrooms are
generally not intellectually lively and why our students learn so
Having said this, I will ask the question I had asked in my earlier
column, ‘Books are fun’: can a child enjoy any activity in a language
she cannot understand? The answer is so obvious that it amounts to
insulting the readers’ intelligence and I am sorry for raising this
question again. Yet our schools insist on teaching small children in a
language they do not understand and enjoy. In Karachi, with the
exception of public-sector schools and some NGO-run educational
institutions such as TCF, the medium of instruction is either English or
a hybrid of Urdu-English because the teachers know no better. The worst
part is that all the reading and writing is done in English because the
textbooks used are in English.
Was it a coincidence? Or a case of action and reaction? To a casual observer
of the scene, there may have been a connection. That is how the scene
played itself out. It was a balmy Sunday afternoon two days before Eid,
and the occasion was a panel discussion on the economy at the T2F. Former PTI Finance Minister, Asad Umar, was being grilled rigorously about his government’s policy vis-à-vis the IMF. His interrogators were Pakistan’s two top-ranking economists, Kaiser Bengali and Akbar Zaidi.
RECENTLY I decided to have some fun with books and children. Isn’t
that a paradox? We are perpetually told that our children do not read
books. So how could I even think of combining the two and call it fun?
But believe me, it was fun. I decided right away against any boring
imposition on the children. No speeches on how wonderful books are. Let
them discover this for themselves.
My friend Farida Akbar, a trainer of Montessori teachers, and I held a
session during the summer programme of a school for underprivileged
children where I teach English to Grade 9 students on a voluntary basis.
SETTING aside the particularities of NAB and the context of specific tenures and incumbents, what does ‘accountable’ connote more generally? Housewives for instance take accounts/hisab daily: How much money was spent on the alu, matar, daal; is it actually the weight and price charged? Double-check! If there are discrepancies who is cheating or being fooled? The cook? His favourite sabziwalla? Are they in cahoots? If the cook is to blame he is replaced, and possibly the grocer and butcher as well: produce at another shop is the same price and better quality. Punishment and investigation are linked to forestalling recurrence.
What if a negligent housewife suddenly
wakes up and finds she has been cheated by a series of cooks over years of
poorly supervised housekeeping?
PAKISTAN is a bundle of contradictions. We have acquired the latest
technologies in medical fields. But we have failed to keep pace with
these changes. In fact, socially, we have stagnated if not actually
Take the case of organ transplantation, which has made great headway
in the country thanks to the Sindh Institute of Urology and
Transplantation. The institute provides free treatment to nearly 2.6
million patients every year, and performs 350 kidney transplantations
from live-related donors. The SIUT also provides free-of-cost, lifelong
healthcare to the donors as well as the recipients.
Pakistan’s democratic advances and retreats are usually perceived
in terms of a tussle between power-belts: a civilian establishment comprised of
what– post lateral-entry– we may no longer justly call mandarins, enabled by
and facilitating administration and policy for an electorally empowered party
leadership: now called chors and dakkus. (Party activists,
dissidents, and turncoats of lesser stature we could soon be calling raillu
kattas.) In the scales for charge of
the governmental process is the military establishment.
We still term it the khakis.
Notwithstanding the fact that the last military coup was essentially a day-long
airborne drama, those clad in blue and white do not emerge as coup-Caesars.
Perhaps what really matters is what you have on the ground — or the ground
realities of the political field. What
are these and who determines them? Supposedly in the electoral democratic
process the voters. But who enfranchises and disenfranchises?
QAMAR Zaman is the father of an infant boy. He works in Karachi’s
Defence Authority’s Phase 4 Commercial Area. He had just finished his
duty at 6pm on June 10 and had stopped to purchase vegetables for his
wife to cook for dinner, when he was knocked out by a hail of gunshots.
For him everything went black thereafter.
He later learnt that a guard before a mobile shop close by had accidentally pulled the trigger claiming that he did not know that his gun was loaded. He had just received the weapon from his colleague who was going off-duty.
WHY should an official of the US Embassy, representing the Department
of Agriculture, be going overboard to ‘collaborate’ with Pakistan on
projects involving genetically modified maize? This unwanted advice
seems to be seedy business at a time when there is a tug of war taking
place between various lobbies in the agricultural sector.
Even more regrettable is that in the past such dubious overtures by
biotech giants have been extended to too many people whose integrity is
in doubt. Quite a few were elected representatives of the people who
went ahead to change the Seed Act in 2016. The legality of this move has
now been challenged by the farmers in a court of law. The amendments in
the act paved the ground for introducing GM seeds in the country.
Moves are now afoot to win over opinion in the quarters that matter.
This time the target is maize, one of our best food crops next to wheat
and rice. The battleground is in the highest quarters. Pakistan produced
6.1 million tonnes of maize in 2018 showing a yield per hectare of 5MT
(about 2MT per acre). This was 2MT in 2003. The Philippines which
switched over to GM corn in 2003 could increase its yield per hectare
from 2MT to only 3MT in the same period.
battle of tweets we have been witnessing of late, reminds us that we
have certainly come a long way from the style in which diplomacy was
conducted since 1648. That was the year when the Peace of Westphalia
launched the modern secular sovereign state system. It introduced new
guidelines for states in their dealings with one another. They demanded
“accuracy, calm, patience, good temper, modesty” from an ideal diplomat,
as defined by Harold Nicolson, the British diplomat famous for his
books and diaries.
Trump’s twitter page in Washington, DC using a Game of Thrones-styled
montage. In April 2019 the US President tweeted “Game Over” declaring
himself fully vindicated in the investigation into Russian election
meddling and alleged collusion in the 2016 presidential elections.