Category Archives: Development

Egyptian Revolutions

Egypt, which is the largest Arab nation-state, has never been a free country. Invariably, the country has had the misfortune of being ruled by a Pharaoh, governor or a dictator. In ancient times, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony entered into alliances with its queen Cleopatra in order to further Roman interests. In modern times, America has come to occupy the position which Rome once did. Given America’s one-sided foreign policy in the Middle East  (which favours Israel and discriminates against the Arabs), keeping Egypt in chains under a dictatorship is what suits “the west” the most. In return for a subservient Egypt disgracefully governed by someone such as Hosni Mubarak, Washington is also able to manipulate its influence in the Arab world to safeguard the interests of its Israeli proxy. Were Egypt free and on the offensive (not necessarily in the military sense) against Israel, then the house of cards upon which America’s hegemony in the Middle East rests would surely fall.

The idea that Egypt has perpetually been a nation in chains is notionally repudiated by certain events in her history during the period 23 July 1952 – 28 September 1970. Equally, one can predate the Revolution to 15 January 1918 as this is the date on which Gamal Abdel Nasser was born. Continue reading

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Condition of widows in Pakistan

Dr Masuma Hasan

Being a widow is not a stigma in Pakistan either in religion or under the law. Marriage in Islam, which is the religion followed by the majority of the population, is not considered as sacrosanct. It is viewed as a civil contract between two individuals which can be dissolved. Thus the extreme sanctity attached to marriage in certain other religions does not operate to turn a widow into an outcast or be held responsible for her husband’s death. Traditionally, widows have been encouraged to re-marry and marriage to a widow has always been considered as an honourable act.

According to the latest Census (1998), in a population of 132.4 million, there were 2.7 million widows in the female population of 69 million. The largest number, 442,179, were found in the age bracket 75 years and above, followed by 416,773 in ages 60 to 64 years, and 326,176 between 50 to 54 years. However, Pakistan’s population in 2010 is estimated at over 170 million so the number of     widows has also increased.

Supportive influences

The law of the land, as embodied in the Constitution of 1973, and all previous constitutions, does not discriminate between the rights of women and men. The Constitution guarantees equal rights to both and rules out discrimination on the basis of sex. It empowers the State to make special laws for the protection of women and children and take steps to ensure the full participation of women in all spheres of national life and protect the marriage, the family, the mother and the child.

A widow inherits one-fourth of her husband’s property if she has no children, and one-eighth of his property if she has children. The Government has made humane provisions for the widows of its employees. After the death of a Government employee, his widow receives the family pension until her own death. Widows of lower paid employees also receive a one-time grant for rehabilitation from the official Benevolent Fund. In the private sector, which works for profit, there are no universal rules governing support for widows of deceased employees, but given the culture of philanthropy, some short-term provision is probably made. Continue reading

Aurat Foundation’s response to the floods

(By Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs)

The Indus River floods almost every year. After the flood recedes, the people living along its banks repair their homes and shops and pick up the threads of life again. In some years, the flooding is acute and the government, civil society and other donors mobilise to bring relief to those left homeless and destitute.

Dr Masuma Hasan

This year, the floods have been described by some, as the worst natural disaster in the history of mankind. Devastation? Tragedy? Calamity? None of these words truly describe the magnitude of what has struck disaster-prone Pakistan. As if terrorism and the war against it had not caused misery and displacement enough. It is estimated that 20 million people have been affected by the monsoon rains and the Indus flood which has broken dykes and embankments and submerged millions of acres of land. Hundreds of towns, villages and hamlets have been evacuated. People are on the move, desperately seeking a patch of dry ground and the means of survival.

The impact of this disaster will be felt for generations to come. The gains Pakistan’s economy, infrastructure, industry, health and education sectors had made have been washed away by the angry Indus. Heritage sites have been destroyed. Sludge covers the land, many feet deep. Crops, livestock and fodder have been lost, public and private records of governance, education, businesses and landownership have drowned. Stocks of grain and rice have been swept away. Who will sow the next crop? Epidemics and disease threaten our land. Continue reading

Land and the politics of ethnicity

Politically motivated targeted killings, sectarian violence, forced occupation of other people’s property, illegal bulldozing of poor settlements, an increasing crime rate and an increasingly helpless and corrupt administration, are making Karachi ungovernable. There are many local, national and international causes for this state of affairs. However, a major cause is the politics of ethnicity and the close link it has unwittingly acquired with the trillions that can be made from the land and real estate business.

According to the 1998 Census, 48 per cent of the city’s population is Urdu speaking, 14 per cent is Punjabi speaking, 12 per cent is Pashto speaking and about 9 per cent is Sindhi speaking. The rest of the population speaks all the remaining languages of Pakistan. Continue reading

Khairpur Nathan Shah

By Arif Hasan (published in Dawn on 28 October 2010)

Muhammad Iqbal Memon, DCO Dadu invited me to visit Khairpur Nathan Shah to “advise” him on its “rehabilitation”. In the briefing held in Dadu on 10 October 2010, and attended by Imran Zafar Laghari (the MPA of the area) and Sikandar Panhwar (the TMO) , we learnt that the town had over 15,000 plus homes and shops, its water came from tube wells seven kilometres away as the local subsoil water was brackish, and that the sewage system consisted of open drains (as in the rest of the small towns of Sindh) and disposed into cesspools or pumped untreated into the saim nali through three disposal points. The absence of an underground sewage system is a major cause of disease and environmental pollution. The town is divided into thirteen community based paras or neighbourhoods. It has functioning educational and health institutions including degree colleges for both girls and boys. Continue reading

Floods and after

By Arif Hasan (Published in Dawn on 27 August 2010)

For a sustainable reconstruction of the physical and social infrastructure of flood ravaged Sindh, it is necessary to understand to what extent the damage caused by the flood is man-made. Some of the broad indicators are obvious.

Arif Hasan

Due to the construction of barrages and hundreds of kilometres of flood protection embankments the flood plains of the Indus have been considerably reduced. They can no longer cater to exceptionally high floods. As such, these flood waters are carried away by canals to considerable distances away from the flood plains. The canals in turn flood the colonised areas. An important question is whether the water carrying capacity of the flood plains can be increased and whether engineering works can reduce pressure on the canals in case of high floods? Preliminary discussions with engineers suggest that this is feasible.

Not only have the flood plains shrunk but shrub-lands and forests in them have been destroyed to make way for agriculture. This has increased the scale of flooding and the velocity of water. It has also made embankments more susceptible to erosion and collapse. In addition, settlements, some permanent and other semi-permanent, have developed in the flood plains, adding considerably to the vulnerable population. Continue reading

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