Sunday, April 25, 2010

SAY SORRY TO YOUR WIFE

Sorry may be the hardest word - but scientists claim it could be one of the healthiest.

Researchers have discovered that women who receive an apology for hurtful behaviour suffer less stress and potential damage to their heart than those who don't.


It may be of little comfort to Tiger Woods' wife Elin, who received several fulsome apologies from the golfer for his serial infidelity, but it is claimed that the pulse of a wronged woman returns to normal 20 per cent quicker after a well-timed 'sorry' than without it.

Unfortunately for men, a male heartbeat takes longer to recover after an apology than without, according to the research, suggesting that men become irritated when there is an admission of guilt.

The research was undertaken by American scientists using 29 men and 59 women whose diastolic blood pressure was measured throughout an experiment.

Diastolic blood pressure is a measure of pressure in the blood vessels between heartbeats - if it is persistantly high it can increase the chances of stroke or heart attacks.

The men and women were asked individually to undertake a mathematical task. They were told they had five minutes to complete it but were interrupted after two minutes and told harshly to carry out the arithmetic more quickly.

They were interrupted twice more before five minutes had elapsed and told to speed up.

Finally they were told: 'You're obviously not good enough.'

Two minutes later half of the men and women were given full apologies.

The researchers found that, on average, the women's diastolic blood pressure returned to normal 20 per cent quicker if they received an apology, while the men's took 20 per cent longer to return to normal after a sorry.

One of the researchers said: 'Results indicate that there are potentially healthy benefits to forgiveness and apology'.
Courtesy MAIL

THE PRICE OF TRUE LOVE

They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. And according to a new survey, there is actually some truth in the fairytale phrase.

Research shows that the average woman will date 24 different men, and spend more than £2,000 before finding 'Mr Right'.

The average date costs a woman £85.38, taking into account the money spent on money spent on hair, new clothes, travel and drinks.

This includes £2.48 on fake tan, £2.55 on a new outfit and £12.86 on their hair.

And despite most women preferring chivalrous men with manners, it seems most women like to go Dutch on a date, splitting the bill to spend £12.20 on food, £9.60 on drinks and £7.64 on entertainment.

Over the average 24 dates, a woman will spend over £2,049.12.

A spokesman for UKDating.com, which polled 2,173 of its members, said: 'Although you cannot put the price on true love, it seems you can certainly put a price on finding it.

'While men are still traditionally footing the bill of the date on the night, this shows how much women are prepared to pay behind the scenes to make each date successful.

'This shows that even in these credit crunch times, women are prepared to invest a significant amount of money to bag their perfect man.'

The study found that seven per cent of women have been on between 41 and 60 dates before finding someone to share their life with.

And one per cent women said they had been on between 61 and 80 dates before finding someone suitable.

The UKDating spokesman added: 'Men traditionally don't expect gifts, but this new trend for women to bring a gift certainly wins points with their date.'

The research also revealed that despite the amount spent on each date, a third of women have left halfway through after realising they had met with 'Mr Wrong'.

One in four women will meet a man just once before deciding whether or not he is 'the one'.
Thirty-five per cent will give a man two dates, and 16 per cent make their decision after three dates.
Coutresy MAIL

Thursday, April 22, 2010

LIGHT US UP, PLEASE!

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

Politicians sitting together in airconditioned rooms and mulling over the proposals submitted by WAPDA bureaucrats can hardly solve anything. If it at all could, it would have helped solve quite a lot already

Moving back to Islamabad has proved to be quite an experience. The city has grown more expensive by the day, not that it was more affordable in the past. But the most remarkable thing about it is the developmental change. Underpasses and flyovers have been built, which were only being thought of when I left. And I did not leave decades ago. Things have been built in not more than three and a half years. Another interesting feature of the city is the compartments in which it has been divided; most galling of all, of course, is the red zone. The name sounds as if we are living in Iraq.

It would not be indulging in hearsay to state that the city has stayed divided for quite some time, even if not for the sake of security. We used to say that between Sector G and F exists an invisible Durand Line, which keeps the have-nots away from the haves. But now something quite different is happening. The haves have been interned in a prison of their own devices. Fear, the mother of all compromises, has done it again.

And this is the place where the 17th Amendment was passed and has now been superseded by the 18th. This is the place where the current chief justice was deposed by a dictator who called himself the most democratic one. It was, of course, somewhere nearby that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, and decades ago her father hanged by her own country’s army upon the orders of its apex court. Now this city is swarming with the political leadership of the country to mull over the solution for our electricity disaster. At least the leaders sound committed today. But is there any real solution in the offing? I do not doubt that the issue of the electricity shortage, consequently the power outages, is a political problem too. I will come to the political part later. But primarily it is a technical matter. Only a committee comprising true professionals can do justice to it. All that the politicians can do is issue accurate data on the state of affairs concerning the electricity issue. The circular debt, the actual shortfall, the real installed capacity, the major bottlenecks, the best options available and the impact of international inflationary pressures and IMF terms on power generation, all can be published on the internet and in the papers within a day or two.

Once that is done, a convention can be called of all of the country’s leading electrical, nuclear and other relevant engineers. For even better measure, leading economists can be called in too. All can sit together to develop a set of proposals that the politicians can later implement. Otherwise, politicians sitting together in airconditioned rooms and mulling over the proposals submitted by WAPDA bureaucrats can hardly solve anything. If it at all could, it would have helped solve quite a lot already.

I know a lot is being said about conservation. We are told not to marry after dark, not to keep our shops open after that and make Saturdays a holiday as well. But with due respect, these are quite foolish suggestions. The only hope of a failing economy’s recovery lies in generating ample economic activity and, in a country where manufacturing industry has hardly ever flourished, functions like weddings and small businesses like shops are generating the actual activity. And now you want to shut them down. Actual conservation can come through putting an end to line losses and power theft. Why will people not steal electricity when wires hang naked on poles in front of their houses? In decent parts of the world, most of the cables are buried underground. It is an open fact that the country’s power authorities have failed miserably to modernise the power distribution system. No matter how much additional electricity you produce, it is bound to be lost in the labyrinth of this sordid system. The actual solution lies somewhere else. Why has WAPDA not improved its distribution system? Because there is no competition! How can we bring about change? By introducing competition, plain and simple. And it should not be an artificial competition. In Karachi, they did privatise KESC but still there is no competitor in terms of distribution.

Private, competing distributors certainly will initially sell electricity at more expensive rates and only the richer part of the population will buy it from them. But this will still lift pressure from the public sector, helping it to reach out to the underprivileged segments of society and perhaps also revamp its own distribution system.

Now comes the political bit. It is good that, finally, the politicians are at least showing active interest in solving this problem. Mian Shahbaz Sharif has even presented a nine-point paper on this. Many of these points are good, some brilliant. But, as I have said earlier, this country produces a good number of world-class technocrats per annum. It is time to consult them.

The prime minister should also be complimented for bringing all provincial heads and influential politicians to one table. This show of solidarity is impressive. But have you wondered why it took our politicians two years to sit together on this very critical issue? Because the country’s political culture was lacking consensus. Thanks to the 18th Amendment there is some consensus now. The government and other influentials need to work on it further.

Pakistan needs to renegotiate its terms of reference with Pakistan. This was a proposal that was actually presented by Mian Nawaz Sharif. His party boasts of a man of experience who could help in this situation because he has stayed free of Pervez Musharraf’s corroding shadows. I am talking about, as you must have guessed, Ishaq Dar. While everyone is complimenting Raza Rabbani, a man I have respected regardless of the 18th Amendment, we often forget the contribution of Ishaq Dar. The amendment would not have been possible without his contribution either. He is important also because he tailored the current term’s first budget. The PML-N needs to come back to the cabinet and we all need to convince it to do so. You will see a marked difference immediately, for democratic consensus and synergy is an absolute sine qua non. The Islamabad I knew could at least accomplish this much.

The writer is an independent columnist and a talk show host. He can be reached at farrukh.khan@pitafi.com
Courtesy DAILY TIMES April 22, 2010

UN COMMISSION'S COMMAND PERFORMANCE

By Syed Talat Hussain

The commission, from the very word go, builds up its argument of ‘rogue establishment’. This dimension of the report makes it arguably the most important document to have been produced in recent times. A document that is likely to become an international reference point against Pakistan’s ‘establishment’

Washington has tried to do it, but has failed. Delhi has attempted it several times, but without much luck. However, a three-member commission with a small staff, and funded ironically by the Pakistani taxpayers’ money and endorsed by the country’s president, has finally pulled it off: Pakistan’s army, the entire range of intelligence agencies, the ISI, the MI and the IB, and the much-maligned shadow government comprising retired officials and members of the police department, have been formally declared to be part of a rogue set-up. A set-up that not only creates mayhem internationally, but also does not baulk at killing its leaders.

This devastating indictment runs through the entire report of the UN Commission of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances surrounding the assassination of the former Pakistani prime minister, Ms Benazir Bhutto. While the commission’s press conference last week, where the report was released, took extra pains to state their neutrality, focused reading of the fine print of the report makes it abundantly clear that there is nothing neutral or ‘apolitical’ about the report’s message. This is so especially when it comes to narrating the linkages between the decisions such as official security plans and Ms Bhutto’s murder and also events after the assassination, like the hosing down of the scene of the crime and the latter-day official stance that the former prime minister had been killed by Baitullah Mehsud’s murderous gang.

The commission, even though fact-finding in nature, becomes exceptionally generous in apportioning blame and drawing conclusions which, while seemingly are directed at individuals in high places, in fact implicate in the murder plot the institutional set-up of both the army and the intelligence agencies. With the skill of consummate researchers, the writers of the report contextualise their findings (read judgements) by referring to past cases of unsolved murders. In this choice selection, they make it a point to include the controversial killing of Baloch nationalist leaders, which though an important domestic issue, has little or no relevance to Ms Bhutto’s murder. The only reason one can think of for putting these names in the list is that Pakistan’s intelligence operatives’ names have been associated with these killings, particularly by Baloch nationalist circles.

Thus the commission, from the very word go, builds up its argument of ‘rogue establishment’, augmenting it all the way to the last page, with a plethora of suggestions, insinuations and clever juxtaposition of known facts. The commission’s fundamental premise in the report is that the murders of the past and that of Ms Bhutto’s were all ‘political assassinations’, which, by inference, means that those in power had a hand in it. (The section is titled ‘Political assassinations and impunity in Pakistan’.)

This inference does tally with popular wisdom in Pakistan. It also echoes the country’s drawing-room whispers and street chatter, which are not always wrong in their assessments. From that standpoint, blaming the then wielders of power like General Pervez Musharraf and his co-sharers of political authority is nothing extraordinary. But the commission’s report does not train the guns of suspicion and findings towards a limited set of individuals at the top. Its narrative includes threads of an elaborate plot, which, according to its findings, could only have been hatched by institutional connivance and conspiracy. In hurling the blame at General Musharraf, the commission indicts his entire team: former DG ISI and at present the Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, his predecessor and at present corps commander Gujranwala, Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj, the then DG MI, Major General Nadeem Ijaz, who is at present Log Area Commander Gujranwala, and also a score of other high-ranking officials representing army-related or army-dominated institutions.

The commission’s depiction of these individuals’ deeds is mostly in dark colours; their actions are shown to be part of a well planned but hastily handled murder plot. Page 30, para 120, illustrates this point well. Major General Nusrat Naeem, then ISI deputy director general, is shown to be a shaky liar. The commission says that he had initially denied making any calls to the hospital to confirm Ms Bhutto’s death, but when “pressed further”, he acknowledged he had made the call, “before reporting to his superiors, to hear directly from Professor Musadiq that Ms Bhutto had died.”

Similarly, on page 33, para 133, another hugely controversial point is quoted as fair fact. Citing anonymous sources, the report suggests that city police chief Saud Aziz did not act independently in deciding to hose down the crime scene, but had received a call from Army Headquarters (General Kayani’s command centre) to order the hosing down of the crime scene. The report quotes yet another unnamed source that attributes the decision to General Nadeem Ijaz. In the same para, it cites police officials saying “everyone knows” who had issued the orders.

These elements of the report, when read with the section on “threats and possible culpabilities regarding the assassination”, make an international case against Pakistan’s military and the intelligence set-up. In para 201, page 47, the commission’s report reads like a page from quarterly assessments issued by bodies like the International Crisis Group. The commission, going beyond its declared mandate, goes on to postulate that the jihadi groups have developed a nexus with elements in Pakistan’s establishment and that sufficiently explains Ms Bhutto’s assassination since these partners in crime were threatened by her return to power. Amazingly, the commission does not qualify its judgment by directing its accusatory finger to some “elements” alone. On the next page, the commission defines the establishment in most comprehensive terms: “the military high command and the intelligence agencies form the core of the Establishment and are most permanent and influential components (of the term)”.

This dimension of the report makes it arguably the most important document to have been produced in recent times. A document that is likely to become an international reference point against Pakistan’s ‘establishment’ in present and future domestic and international campaigns.

The writer is a leading Pakistani journalist
Courtesy DAILY TIMES, April 22, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

GOODBYE KHALA SAFIA: ....... & it seems to me you lived your life like a candle in the wind

OBITUARY

BY MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com
03335363248

She lived her life in a shell with the members including her all three daughters, a destitute husband, and a one-room house. While living her life as an insolvent lady- to whom nature never smiled upon quite often, as her husband was taken away couple of years ago, followed by her eldest daughter suffering with a deadly disease of cancer, she remained cool, calm and collected, perhaps that’s the only thinnest option she had. Being underprivileged, never swelled to her mind, as she was the darling of the massive family who could be found anywhere and everywhere- and executed all the customs and rituals our society created for us to do. Throughout her life, she suffered but survived and survived with dignity until she disappeared forever, to meet her creator today (April 20, 2010). She is my lovely Aunt- Khala Safia, the youngest of three sisters.

Living in Samanabad, Lahore, Khala Safia suffered severe cardiac arrest couple of days back and as the news traveled the distance from Lahore to Islamabad, Ammi got ready packing straightaway for Lahore, while other family members remained busy in life’s work. Khala however, recovered as we made her call the other day. I went to upstairs to get my office documents leaving for office and found Bushra (my sister) talking on phone to Khala. As soon as she saw me, she said, “Lo Mahtab a gia jay, Aiday naal gal karo,”… I was in hurry and told my sister in gestures to tell Khala he is disappeared and said he would talk to you in detail from his office. These two days went by rapidly and I forgot to make a few second call to Khala to enquire her health- & today when I heard this devastated news of her sad demise I have been refreshing my mind to find when I interacted Khala last time. Had I call her, I would have been a satisfied soul at least remembering her last voice but I was not honoured to listen her swansong even!!!

Now on while the tears are rolling down my cheeks and I am trying to hide from my office mates sitting beside me, I pray to Almighty, “May Khala’s beautiful soul rest in peace and glory and give fortification to her 3 daughters, and number of her dear ones.”

I would also like to dedicate few of special lines from Sir Elton John as Khala deserves these lines more than Marilyn Monroe or Princess Di.

Goodbye Khala Safia
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart
You called out to our ‘family’
And you whispered to those in pain

Now you belong to heaven
And the stars spell out your name

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never fading with the sunset
When the rain set in
And your footsteps will always fall here
Along England's greenest hills
Your candle's burned out long before
Your legend ever will

Loveliness we've lost
These empty days without your smile
This torch we'll always carry
For our family's golden child
And even though we try
The truth brings us to tears
All our words cannot express
The joy you brought us through the years

Goodbye Khala Safia
May you ever grow in our hearts
You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart

Who'll miss the wings of your compassion
More than you'll ever know.
....... CONTINUED .......

Saturday, April 17, 2010

THE NEW MEDIA: PITFALLS & POTENTIALS

By Zaair Hussain

The Pak Tea Houses of old may be gone, but online spaces have emerged in the void. Now as then, artists and intellectuals need not be legion to fulfil their service to their country; a drop of colour in a pail of water can go a long way

As the internet approaches adulthood, developing countries are asking themselves: where will the new media take us? What unbeaten paths will it reveal, what stubborn obstacles will it bridge, what darkness will it melt away? Of all the wonders that man has wrought, new media is unique; it rises not steadily but exponentially, a technological doubling and redoubling in shorter and shorter spans of time, a terrifying and exhilarating rush to an unknown singularity.

One of the greatest draws of the new media in underdeveloped countries is emotional rather than empirical: the imagery it evokes — of borders melting away before the glare of anonymous commonality, of the sum total of earth’s knowledge in the palm of anyone’s hand, of a gossamer web woven across mankind, knowledge and emotions sliding to and fro like dewdrops upon its silken threads — is frankly breathtaking.

But we overstate its grand promise at our peril. We are not South Korea, where high speed internet is as common as coffee mugs. Nor are we even like Iran, where sweeping literacy and home-grown translation fuelled the “Twitter revolution”.

Though the temptations are sinfully grand, aiming too high is the surest way to miss any viable target. The one laptop per child project, for example, promised to revolutionise education for the poor by making it joyful, interactive and dynamic. Its lustrous sails are immediately slashed, however, by poorly trained teachers and an inefficient governmental dispensation network. E-books could theoretically feed an exponential increase in reading with a free library at everyone’s fingertips, but what use would they be in the vast swathes of the country without basic literacy, let alone electricity and internet networks?

Writing for English publications in Pakistan, I find comfort in a soothing mirage: a constellation of hearts and minds touched, perhaps ennobled by my pen. For this article, I must set down this pretence (softly, so as to pick it up again later) and acknowledge that we address only the educated, the elite, the well-heeled minuscule minority. If Pakistan were a haystack, they could pass through the eye of a hidden needle.

Having said that, however, this minority is never mute, never insignificant. This tiny class of people has always been able to punch above their weight, and social media empowers them further. There are true boons that the new media grants Pakistan, and to overlook is no less a crime than to overestimate.

I will begin with the most prominent feature of new media: its freedom. In countries like ours, where censorship was long a given, recently a nightmare and not yet a distant memory, the online community is a reserve force of inestimable worth. The blogosphere exists, to quote the last (and certainly least) of the Indiana Jones’ movies, “in the space between spaces”. It is a lawless region, and lawlessness is the flipside of freedom. Its unassuming, quiet power was seen in Iran, when the mighty Council of Guardians was nearly brought low by an application boasting fewer characters than this sentence, a social network whose mascot looks for all the world like one of the bluebirds in Cinderella. In our own recent past, a dictator who locked down the very sky could not stop the signal.

If every Pakistani channel was snatched from the air tomorrow, new media would hold the line, not by clumping together like the Spartan 300, but by spreading its numbers to every corner of the world. The very intangibility of the internet renders it incredibly robust. The blogosphere would skip messages like stones across the vastness of oceans and continents, setting the world abuzz as it did in Pakistan, Lebanon and Iraq during times of crisis. YouTube would air images that no channel could carry, the drama and sincerity only enhanced by their raw amateurishness. New media has the power to stir the people, and shake the authorities.

New media is also a Godsend to the young creative forces of our country. Any film student or amateur photographer with a decent camera and a fresh idea can share their vision with the world. Any aspiring writer can find communities of peers across the world and trade writing samples. Our young artists and thinkers, our maestros in the making, can access far more exposure, community feedback and constructive critique than formal institutions in Pakistan typically afford. A world of vibrancy and versatility has opened up. The Pak Tea Houses of old may be gone, but online spaces have emerged in the void. Now as then, artists and intellectuals need not be legion to fulfil their service to their country; a drop of colour in a pail of water can go a long way.

Perhaps the most practical implementations of new media in developing countries, however, have been SMS to internet technologies.

In China, for example, a programme called Cool English incorporates SMS messages into its overarching goal of making English ‘fun’ to learn. Sierra Leone’s national election was monitored by 500 election observers at polling stations reporting any irregularities via SMS, a practice swiftly catching on worldwide thanks to a few innovative NGOs. The UmNyango Project in South Africa sets up rural women with free text messaging to report on domestic abuse, giving a voice to those who suffer for speaking openly. Local-language SMS projects in India and Bangladesh dispense healthcare information to expecting mothers.

In a country with more cell phones than scandals (and more scandals than grass), these technologies have an obvious practical potential and are already utilised in Pakistan’s private sector. A private news channel, for example, has a citizen journalism project that accepts updates on their website via SMS (text, picture or video).

Our immediate future lies with broadcast media, not the internet. But whereas the former allows us only to consume what is set before us (however broad the menu), the latter enables us to become chefs unto ourselves, to serve up what we have to offer to the world. Be it ultimately lauded or derided, that is a profound endowment.

Pakistan has in new media a tool and a resource that must be utilised. What we do not have, however, is a technological shortcut to a brave new world. We cannot avoid the unglamorous work of building centuries-old institutions — political, social, educational and economic. No tool can refine, sculpt or mould what is not there.

Zaair Hussain is a Lahore-based freelance writer. He can be reached at zaairhussain@gmail.com
Courtesy Daily Times April, 16, 2010

Pornographic magazine for the blind launched

A pornographic magazine for the blind has been launched - complete with explicit text and raised pictures of naked men and women.

The book, the brainchild of Lisa Murphy and called Tactile Minds, is designed to be 'enjoyed' by the blind and visually impaired - and is on sale for £150.

Among the 17 raised images include a naked woman in a 'disco pose', a woman with 'perfect breasts' and a 'male love robot'.

Canadian Lisa says that she made the book to fill a gap in the market, adding: "There are no books of tactile pictures of nudes for adults.

"We're breaking new ground. Playboy has an edition with Braille wording, but there are no pictures."

She said that she made the book after realising that the 'blind have been left out in a culture saturated with sexual images'.

Between 1970 and 1985 Playboy printed copies of its famous magazine in braille - but without raised pictures.
Courtesy Telegraph

SECRETS TO A LASTING RELATIONSHIPS

Yes, relationships do last for years. Are you wondering how? How is it that two people are together, are true to each other and are in love for decades? Here are a few tips ...

- Be honest, always: This is a basic need for any relationship to survive. You just have to trust your partner and let him/her believe that they can trust you.

- Accept your partner as he/she is: Yes no one is perfect. Some of us are sloppy. Some of us are perpetually late, some are just too obsessive compulsive about things. You should just accept the person for who they are.

- When you are wrong, admit it: Arguing that you are always right is not right at all. Be brave enough to admit you are not.

- Talk about your problems to your partner: Sit down with your partner and talk about anything that is bothering you. This will strengthen your relationship and bring you together.

- Be independently happy: Of course you love him/her. But you should not rely on your partner always for everything.

- Choose your arguments wisely: Yes, this holds in every relationship. Words can really hurt people and you should be very careful when you are arguing.
Courtesy ToI

Friday, April 9, 2010

FATHER at 74 says BANANA responsible

Gerry Burke has been reported to have become the oldest father in Great Britain, having fathered a boy at 74 with wife Dawn Burke who is 35.

The proud father attributes his love for bananas as responsible for his virility.

"I eat lots of bananas and always have done. Maybe that's what's kept my body healthy. But I think the love of a good woman, my Dawn, has a lot to do with it, too. I'm just doing what comes naturally," thesun.co.uk quoted him as saying.
Courtesy TOI

Sunday, April 4, 2010

MALADY OF A CRIPPLING NATION

By Anum Raza Hasan

Structural flaws, leadership vacuum — the blame game knows no end. Self-reflection offers riveting counsel to overcome self-defeating phrases. Maybe one should stop relying on state authorities to show willingness for change. Perhaps change begins from within by paying testimony to the power and outreach of self-initiative.

Human development entails an earnest attribute of placing people at the heart of development. It presents the idea that perhaps people are entitled to realising their potential, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead lives they value. Because women comprise more than half of our human resources and are central to the social as well as economic wellbeing of societies, development goals cannot be fully reached without their participation. Women and development thus becomes a holistic concept wherein the goal of one cannot be achieved without the success of the other. But has Pakistan realised yet that ignoring 51 percent of its population — its women — and keeping them in oblivion will only debase its already crippled framework of existence and face of civil society capacity to survive, let alone progress? The gap between male and female literacy that ranks Pakistan 127th out of 130 countries surveyed last year by the Switzerland-based World Economic Forum forecasts an imminent disaster.

The report titled ‘Power Voice and Rights: A Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and Pacific Asia’ reveals almost half of the adult women in South Asia are illiterate, a higher proportion than in any other region in the world. It chronicles that Pakistani women’s participation in the labour force is less than 20.8 percent of the female population and in parliamentary representation, women hold only four percent of ministerial positions. Although the net primary school enrolment for girls is 57.3 percent, the secondary school enrolment is 25.8 percent with tertiary enrolment as low as 4.2 percent. Lifting the veil on gender discrimination in Pakistan as the world looks to the region for breakthroughs in marked development, to restore global economic growth and geo-strategic stability, one must finally wake up to half its people that may still be left out, to the disconfigured smokescreen — its women.

One of the notable advancements in the development debate had been the move to consider gender equality as a key element on its agenda. Disappointment over the trickle-down approach paved the way for the adoption of the basic needs strategy, which focused on increasing the participation in and benefits of the development process for the poor, while the women-in-development initiative recognised women’s needs and contributions to society. We must realise that development requires more than the creation of opportunities for people to earn sustainable livelihoods; it also requires the creation of a conducive environment for men and women to seize those opportunities. Development should translate into sustained improvements in the well being of the individual — men and women alike. Development implies not only more and better schools but also equal access to education for boys and girls and governments that give men and women equal voices in decision-making and policy implementation.

If one were to check Pakistan’s scorecard on gender sensitive literacy initiatives, this is how it would read. In 2003, the Punjab government with assistance from the World Bank implemented the “Girls’ Stipend Programme”, which provided a cash stipend of Rs 200 to families to ensure their daughters attend school. As a result girls’ enrolment in secondary schools in the 15 poorest districts in Punjab increased by 60 percent from 175,000 to 280,000 since 2003. This project was extended to include high school girls as well. During the past decade, several policy initiatives were undertaken, each with a strong component for improving girls’ education in the country such as the National Education Policy 1992 and 1998-2010, the Social Action Programme (SAP) in 1993/94, which focused on improving the social indicators for girls and women. The common provisions endorsed by all the policy initiatives included universal primary education for girls and additional funding for women’s literacy programmes. This may seem satisfactory; however; these could be a square peg in a round hole or simply insufficient for the structural problem remains largely unaddressed.

Barriers to girl child education require an integrated approach where poverty and household income of the family that affects parents’ choices to prioritise expenditure on the education of their children need to be tackled. Patriarchal structures of Pakistani society that assign men the dominant role and hence preference for sons’ education need to be challenged. Low status associated with women generally participating in income generating activities that are said to lead to neglect of their husbands, children and families needs to be rethought. Socialisation of girls that remains inferior to that of their male counterparts while growing up needs to be questioned. Gender-sensitive policies officially claimed to be the guiding principle — enshrining them in the millennium development goals which the government has signed — will not be enough. One needs a multi-pronged attack on the structural challenges of gender inequality for female literacy to be given a chance to flourish. It is while keeping this picture in mind that the government must set about improving educational facilities for girls. However, such an action would only be cosmetic unless accompanied by a strong effort to change existing mindsets that currently see women as unequal to men.

In a nation plagued by multiple ailments, be it the threat of terrorism or deprivation of basic supplements, each citizen has high stakes in making gender equality work. The structural repair cannot be managed without the support of men themselves as they should realise that educating and empowering their female counterparts would only elevate the positive returns from life and reduce misgivings. Notwithstanding the breakthrough with legal frameworks protecting women against harassment and domestic violence, the woman is again pegged as a victim rather than a free individual. Let’s not bury the pervasive need to liberate women from the restrictive jacket of narrow societal prejudices and emerge as agents of a change that spells equal opportunity.

Structural flaws, leadership vacuum — the blame game knows no end. Self-reflection offers riveting counsel to overcome self-defeating phrases. Maybe one should stop relying on state authorities to show willingness for change. Perhaps change begins from within by paying testimony to the power and outreach of self-initiative. May I suggest an inkling of reawakening to the dearest reader of conscience to extol options beyond pragmatism, to do whatever it takes but acknowledging, establishing and nurturing the female genre as critical to leave some sort of vestiges of ‘progress’ and equality our generation can process. Pakistan must not leave us behind because if it knew most maladies eventually prove unforgiving to the lives and existence of humans and nations alike.

Anum Raza Hasan is a freelance journalist and human rights activist with an academic specialisation in International Development. She can be reached at anumhasan@dailytimes.com.pk
Courtesy Daily Times, March 27, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fatima Bhutto charges 'uncle' Zardari, says my father's killers leading nation!

KARACHI: March 31 Former Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's grand daughter, Fatima Bhutto, has charged 'uncle' President Asif Ali Zardari for orchestrating the murder of her father, Mir Murtaza Bhutto, saying the killers of her father are 'ruling the country at present'.

Speaking during her book 'Songs of Blood and Sword' launch function, Fatima described in detail her father's murder, which took place 14 years ago.

Without taking Zardari's name, she said 'the man, who orchestrated the crime of killing her father, is presently leading the nation.'

"The streetlights went off and roads leading to 70 Clifton were blocked by heavy contingents of police who were waiting to kill my father," Fatima, a noted political commentator, said.

She said it was evident who killed her father, and added that those police officers who were arrested in connection with Murtaza Bhutto's murder case were set free later and were even awarded national medals.

"Some of them are travelling to foreign countries as dignitaries," The Nation quoted Fatima, as saying.

Fatima and her step-mother Ghinwa Bhutto have often hinted that they believe Benazir or her widower Asif Ali Zardari had a hand in the killing of her father Murtaza Bhutto.

Though Benazir made several warm references in her autobiography, 'Daughter of the East', to her niece, Fatima believes her aunt tried to split the Bhutto family.

Fatima, who already has two books to her credit, did her Master's degree at London's School of African and Oriental Studies. Instead of heading a debating society like her aunt at Oxford, she wrote her dissertation on the resistance movement to former president Ziaul Haq.

She published a book of poetry, 'Whispers of the Desert', at the age of 15, followed in 2006 by a collection of stories about the 2005 earthquake that killed 73,000 people in Pakistan.
-ANI

MIRZA- MALIK MARRIAGE: where did it all begin for them?

It’s an Indo-Pak love match that has created ripples on both sides of the border but no one seems to have a clue about just when and where did love blossom between Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik. A day after shocking almost everyone, except family, by announcing that they will tie the knot in mid April, speculation continues as to where exactly the romance began.

Sources say the two first met in Australia in January where Sania had just crashed out of the Australian Open and Pakistan had suffered yet another embarrassing defeat at the hands of Ricky Ponting’s men. Not a trip to remember professionally but personally it was to be a life-changing one at least for Sania, who broke off her engagement with childhood friend Sohrab Mirza at the end of that month, citing incompatibility.

The break up was stunning because their lavish engagement just six months earlier was still fresh in everyone’s mind. Neither Sania nor her family gave the exact reasons for the split but given Monday’s announcement, speculation is rife that the 23-year-old Hyderabadi’s meeting with Shoaib may have contributed to the break up. Shoaib too had been luckless in love before meeting Sania and that incidentally also had a Hyderabad connection. The all-rounder was accused of marrying and dumping one Ayesha Siddiqui but Shoaib denied that, insisting that he was merely engaged to the said girl. Both seem to be controversy’s favourite child with Shoaib, a former captain of the Pakistan team, currently serving a one-year ban for indiscipline on the Australia tour and Sania battling a wrist injury besides warding off queries about just why she ended her engagement with Sohrab.

Sania’s career has veered off towards the uncertain after a breakthrough 2005. She rose to a career-high 27 in the WTA rankings in 2007 but poor form and never-ending injury battles have seen her slide to 92 currently. Ironically, the two would be getting married at a time when India-Pakistan diplomatic ties have frozen following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. But they are certainly not the first cross-border couple. Former Pakistan Test opener Mohsin Khan had tied Indian actress Reena Roy in the 1980s but the marriage didn’t last. Marriage casts a shadow over Sania’s career but given the support Shoaib is promising, the Hyderabadi seems set to continue her on-court life as well.

“I fully understand what it takes to be an international sports person and I will support Sania in her career as long as she wishes to play. Representing India at the 2012 Olympics is very important for her and I will be the proudest husband if she can win a medal for her country,” said Shoaib. He said the exact date and place of his marriage have not been decided yet. “It is (marriage) happening next month somewhere and I think parents will decide the dates. It’s entirely up to our parents wherever they will decide,” Shoaib said. Shoaib said both the families were happy with the development, as was Sania. “Well Inshallah, we are getting married soon and our families are very happy. We both are also happy,” he told ARY TV channel.

Sania, who has lived in media glare ever since rising to stardom as an 18-year-old after moderate success on the WTA circuit, has pleaded for privacy. “My wedding is inshallah going to be the biggest day of my life. I have been in the constant glare for too long and would appreciate the privacy at this very personal moment in my life,” she said. But given the massive interest surrounding her new relationship, quote-hungry journalists are unlikely to leave her alone. Meanwhile, Sania flew to Delhi on a brief visit to get her visa to Pakistan where a post-wedding reception is scheduled next month.

Accompanied by her mother, the 23-year-old Mirza, went to the Pakistan High Commission and completed the formalities. “We have got the visa. We are happy. Now that we have got the visa, we will be travelling to Pakistan”, her mother Nasima Mirza told reporters. Sania herself declined to comment on the impending marriage. “I am not answering any questions,” she told reporters. Nasima said the family was very happy with Sania’s decision. “We are very happy about her decision. We are all with her and Inshallah we wish all the best to her,” she said.

Her mother refused to talk about Sania’s previous engagement with childhood friend Sohrab Mirza. “I don’t want to comment on what all happened in the past and we should all look ahead,” she said. While the marriage is likely to be held on April 11 or 12 in Hyderabad, the ‘Walima’ or reception is expected to be held in Lahore on April 16 or 17. Six members of Shoaib Malik’s family have also applied for visas to travel to India but Shoaib himself hasn’t submitted his application so far. But he is expected to do it soon,” official sources said.
AGENCIES