Published in Dawn on August 17th 2018
While the country watched the induction of the newly elected parliamentarians and celebrated the 71st Independence Day, it was business as usual in the extractive sector in Pakistan, a business that claimed the lives of 15 coalminers in the dark alleys underground on Aug 13-14. The immediate cause, as reported, was methane gas explosion. Or, faulty blasting technique as asserted by the trade union federation.
Perhaps the cause or causes of the accident in the coalmine will never be known. Was it faulty ventilation and a flawed alarm system, inadequate illumination intensity, invisible hazard signage and the absence of an emergency and evacuation plan, or the lack of workers’ training, or a combination of all?
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2015
A robust national statistical system is pivotal for development, equitable growth and planning as it facilitates evidence-based policies and, judicious and timely decision-making to achieve goals set by the country.
The system comprises official bodies that gather information and statistics through surveys and censuses on diverse aspects such as the economy and labour, demography and sociology, trade and business, politics and culture, housing, health and education, etc.
In the morning hours when you leave for office you find women, young and middle-aged, sitting in groups at the edges of the streets of several localities in Karachi — North Nazimabad, Gulshan, Garden, PECHS, Clifton — some chatting, a few ruminating, a couple doing needlework.
These are domestic workers waiting for bajis, their employers, to wake up, open the doors of their homes and let them in to the world of work that exists at the fringe of the labour market. It is one that is bereft of job security and decent wages and excluded from the scope of labour laws.
Published in Dawn on June 30 2014
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspective deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” — Italo Calvino
CONCEALED within a leafy neighborhood, crushed between 1,000 to 2,000 square-yard bungalows, in Jamshed Town, Karachi, invisible to the world of comfortable living, exists an enclave of narrow alleys, haphazard and shabbily constructed one or two-room dwellings of the city’s migrant workers. Called Bano Colony, this surreal settlement, with upper storeys jutting out here and there, reminds one of the narrow labyrinthine alleys in Shagai, one of the katchi abadis in Mingora, Swat.
Inhabited exclusively by Pakhtuns, this enclave has two entry points: the east side leads to male-only living; the west end opens to family quarters. On entering the male-only section, for a second you feel you are stepping into the ruins of a demolished structure. Here the rent of one small, windowless room, shared by six (or more) males — minor, young, old — along with a communal kitchen, is Rs6,000 per month.
Eyes are vulnerable — those tenuous instruments, as blind Borges called them — and film is vulnerable. And it is the confrontation of two such vulnerabilities which makes the cinema such a poignant medium. — Bresson (‘Notes sur leCinematographe’).
Looking at Deepti Naval’s plain yet attractive face in Saath Saath. I thought there was after all a girl on the silver screen you could identify with – a pleasant identification, for she emerged as a strong-willed person who made her own decisions. Even the love-story wasn’t far-fetched. It could have happened to you, or to any other woman.
Saath Saath is not a very arty movie. It’s a soft, realistic, semi-serious film. But it’s one of those few ‘new wave’ Indian movies which make me wish we could have the same kind of parallel cinema in Pakistan.