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.
Asad Ali, a young man in his 20s, has a passion for teaching.
He is a high school graduate and has no teacher’s training degree, but
he has compassion and inborn pedagogic skills that endear him to his
students. His father wanted him to join the army, but Ali preferred his
classroom to the battlefield. If Pakistan had more teachers with his
commitment, the country would be a different place altogether.
Ali would be a failure in the postmodern education system the
Pakistan government is making futile attempts to create for a people
still stuck in the medieval ages. Had Ali managed to adjust to the
prescribed system, his students in Khairo Dero—the village in Sindh
where he lives and works—would be unable to relate to him as they do
THE recently launched report of the National Human Rights
Commission’s Karachi chapter on health as a human right is indeed
timely. The report seeks constitutional changes to make the citizens’
right to health justiciable.
Of great significance is the report’s redefinition of the term
‘healthcare’ which has conventionally been interpreted very narrowly in
Pakistan as providing treatment for the illnesses that afflict people in
the country. Preventive medicine and the social factors leading to
diseases (termed as social determinants of health) are generally ignored
by those managing the health sector. The fact is that healthcare in
Pakistan is dominated by the pharma-driven allopathic medicine.
ADD ‘or commerce?’ to the question in the title. With the examination
season in full swing, to be followed by college admissions a few months
later, this is naturally the question being asked by many young people
aspiring to higher education.
Gone are the days when the choice was more or less evenly spread
across all disciplines, with arts having a slight edge over the others.
Individual aptitude, the job market and the capacity available in
colleges determined the ultimate picture that emerged.
Our ‘education’ — going to school, coming out of home, learning to be
with ‘others’, making and losing friends — might well be the most significant as
well as broadest range of social interaction for an individual in his lifetime.
It prepares and defines the person for non-familial contact and the process of continuous
learning that accompanies life. In that sense education is essentially
KHAIRO Dero, gulan jo sehro/ Sajay dunya jo khair/ Khairo Dero maan
theendo (Khairo Dero, a garland of flowers/ The whole world’s goodness
will/ Start from Khairo Dero. (Nazar Husain Shah)
So sang the devotees of Nazar Husain (fondly called Jabal Shah) when
they performed for me on a hot summer evening in Khairo Dero where I was
on a short visit recently. Nazar Hussain, a Sufi, came to Khairo Dero
from Layyah when he was 14 years old, after he fell into a well and was
rescued. The legend says he received instructions to make Khairo Dero
his home, and his dargah now stands here.
When twice within a span of 10 days you are reminded of the ‘freedom
of expression’ Pakistanis supposedly enjoy, it makes you wonder. First,
it was a retired ambassador, Karamatullah Khan Ghori, who reminded the
audience at his lecture on the Middle East at the Pakistan Institute of
International Affairs (PIIA), that in Pakistan the press is more free
than in the Arab world. He was right, but it irked me. If we need a
yardstick, does it have to be a region which is the worst model of
Then came the Adab Festival’s debut in Karachi last month. In the session on Nasim Zehra’s outstanding book, From Kargil to the Coup: Events that Shook Pakistan,
we were told by a retired general – Wasim Ghazi – that civil society
had failed to present alternative narratives to the conventional stand
adopted by the army on various issues. That was very surprising.
THERE is a problem with our health sector. It has been heavily
‘medicalised’. Taking their cue from the pharmaceutical companies, many
physicians and surgeons tend to adopt the curative approach
preponderantly, depending on diagnostic technology and drugs. Preventive
medicine has been pushed aside, as have been its essentials — public
health awareness, nutrition, personal hygiene, lifestyle and sanitation.
As a result, healthcare has become so costly that it is increasingly
out of reach of the masses. Only the rich and privileged can hope to
obtain satisfactory treatment when they are ill, while the country’s
national health indicators are shockingly dismal.
ON March 1, a burst of gunfire snuffed out the life of a gentle soul
in Washington D.C. He was a social worker helping the mentally
challenged and drug addicts. He was Jawaid Bhutto, a teacher of
philosophy and a progressive scholar in Pakistan before he moved to the
US. I knew him as my friend and the husband of a former colleague Nafisa
Hoodbhoy. Bhutto’s death grieved us immensely.
The irony didn’t escape me on this occasion. Here was a man who was
known to be an ardent advocate of peace and love as well as gun control
laws being killed by someone who was not entitled to be carrying a gun,
given his mental state, so it was reported.
WE ARE now more than
six months into a federal government formed by the PTI. The party disrupted the
emergent tradition of two main federally operative parties: the PPP and the
PML(N) have now to contend with a powerful entrenched third factor.
Today, the PTI’s voice resonates as the
country’s. Apart from a reiteration of the conviction that the PPP and the
PML(N) are entirely responsible and answerable for each and every ill that
besets Pakistan; what is it saying for us and to us? And what is it doing to
treat those maladies or to dispel political and socio-cultural misgivings as
felt and voiced by the people themselves rather than presumed or ascribed to