Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2021
Mountains and valleys evoke beautiful images in the mind of big city dwellers, of peace and quiet, lightness of being, and the absence of the madding crowd. We presume the life of the people who live inside the fascinating landscape to be as blissful. Once you are there, it does not take much to realise that the people living at the edge — where the land merges into mighty mountain ranges — face immense hardship.
Mountain people depend on subsistence agriculture, wage labour, circulatory labour migration, tourism and mountaineering services for survival. Opportunities for government employment are limited. Most households survive on a combination of livelihoods. The people of Shigar and Ghanche districts, whom I met during a trip to Skardu, talked of many challenges. These included the absence of livelihood opportunities except tourism, scarcity of water, poor road networks, inadequate social infrastructure, climate change and frequent landslides.
Published in Dawn on February 7 2018
ONCE upon a time, in one of the neighbourhoods in Karachi’s PECHS area where I grew up, there stood two or three houses in each row of the demarcated land; the remaining plots lay vacant. Children would roam around, play in open spaces, climb the trees and go back home.
Fifty years have gone by and practically no plot has remained without a structure. I do find children on the streets, only boys though, between nine and 17 years, playing cricket in the afternoon for an hour or less. All are domestic help; the kids get some respite from their chores while their masters take a siesta. They live in this neighbourhood but belong to the fringes of society. Compelled to leave their homes up in the north, they supplement the household income through child labour in the city.
Though visible, child labour remains undocumented. One census taker told me that children engaged in domestic service were not counted in the 2017 census as they were not members of the households they lived in and that there was no category to document their existence.
Published in Dawn on February 5 2017
THE discourse on labour in Pakistan is dominated by the terms and conditions of employment and other indicators such as the labour participation rate and the status of employment. Labour productivity, a crucial measure of economic performance and one of the key indicators of the labour market, receives scant attention and is yet to be reported by the Federal Bureau of Statistics in its yearly Labour Force Survey being published since 1963.
The factors that determine labour productivity include physical capital and technology, human development (health, education and skills of the labour force) and labour relations. Underpinning productivity is work ethics which is considered the key force behind economic growth and prosperity in any country. Though work ethics, or the lack of it, in our society is constantly commented on in the private sphere, the issue is seldom debated or researched by social scientists, economists and policymakers.
Published in Dawn on July 26 2016
WORLD Youth Skills Day on July 15 went by quietly in Pakistan. There was no fresh resolve, nor any policy announcement by the government for ‘skills development to improve youth employment’ — the UN theme of the year — though it would have been an opportune moment to share recommendations of the task force on the national technical and vocational education and training policy the government formed in May 2014.
Published in Dawn on July 13 2016
“Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.” – Paulo Freire
You are probably one of those employers who find that no matter how many times you change your domestic worker, the woman you hire for household chores has a strong desire to educate her children. Of course, she herself, aged 16 to 50, is illiterate and comes from the rural hinterland of Sindh or southern Punjab. But deep down in her heart your maid knows the power of education.
Stars scribble in our eyes the frosty sagas
The gleaming cantos of unvanquished space — Hull Crane
If you believe in stars (even if your belief is like a faint sensation), if you believe that the wanderers of the cosmos influence your destiny on Earth then it’s time to rejoice. The year 1985 Juts been termed by astrologers as opportune for women.
The New Year began on a happy note when I came to know of the findings of a Pakistani astrologer. He says women are going to make remarkable headway in 1985. The progress will be made in the realm of education; knowledge will expand. The chart he has calculated, indicates that on March 20, 1985, Mercury will enter the Heaven’s at 9:17 PM and thence of will be the ruling Planet.
This research report was written for Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Karachi and was published in January, 2011.
Pakistan’s devastating floods caused by extraordinary rainfall in July-Sept 2010 affected over 20 million people, causing 1,985 deaths and injuries to 2,946 people. The floods wreaked havoc, washed away crops and rural settlements, flooded towns and urban centres, damaged roads, bridges and irrigation canals, schools, hospitals and all social and physical infrastructures. The disaster led to unprecedented displacement of 1,550,000 people from flooded areas to dry places, mostly nearer homes and to urban centres in the home districts. A large number of people from the affected districts in Sindh, took refuge in the cities of Karachi and Hyderabad. The families who had resources, assets and support systems in dry districts cities stayed with their relatives and friends. The majority of the IDPs who lost their abodes, meagre assets and means of livelihoods had to take refuge in shelters and makeshift camps put up by the provincial governments, NGOs and international humanitarian agencies. The displaced persons in the camps overwhelmingly belonged to the lowest stratum of society.
In addition to relief work, PILER undertook a profiling and livelihood needs assessment survey to gauge socio-economic indicators and the livelihood status of the IDPs prior to the floods and get an idea of their future plans and aspirations. The objectives were to share the findings with relevant stakeholders (i.e. state, civil society, resource institutes) for possible linkages that would facilitate the IDPs in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase and provide a basis to the PILER advocacy inputs towards a rehabilitation plan that commits to upgrading the living and work conditions of the IDPs and facilitate their access to fundamental rights and citizenship based entitlements.
Click the link below to view the full report:
The Flood Affected Population in Sindh – Rebuilding Lives and Livelihoods: The Case for Structural Reforms
Published in Dawn, Karachi, Pakistan on 13 June 2001
Teenage solid waste managers pedaling bikes, ferrying collected stuff in satchels. Neatly dressed executives driving air-conditioned Honda Civic. Green-turbaned, bearded, lanky young men, walking towards seminaries. Common womenfolk attired in shalwar qameez and duppata on their way to market, offices, educational institutions. Small traders talking on mobiles, steering Suzuki pick-ups. Young boys chatting at cyber cafes. Girls in designer’s jeans strolling in select areas. Women with hijab congregating at home or in five star hotels for dars. These are but few outer manifestations of lifestyles of contemporary Pakistani society, to be exact, contemporary urban Pakistani society.
Sometimes it seems to me as a people we score poorly in problem-solving behavior. That is, we often exhibit a lack of initiative and mental synthesis to attain a goal when faced with a situation of some complexity.
We have a tendency either to ignore the problem altogether or shove it under the carpet. By no means do such tactics shield us from the effects of something gone wrong. A problem, in fact, if not solved creates a myriad of other problems.
She got married when she was 20. If only she would have said “No, I don’t want to get married right now. I would rather study.” But she didn’t say it. She could have had her way. She had that will to fight.
But I guess the idea of getting married appealed to her. It was exciting and romantic. Besides, her mother was too anxious to marry her off as her father was old and about to die. And she wanted to be done with that cumbersome task in his lifetime.