Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2021
The key elements of neoliberal policies — free market, minimal state intervention and flexible labour — hinge on a crucial principle which, according to Noam Chomsky, is “undermining mechanisms of social solidarity and mutual support and popular engagement in determining policy”. Yet, despite the crushing creed of neoliberalism that gives precedence to individual ‘freedom’ over collective agency, strong resistance to neoliberal hegemony is alive and kicking in the world.
One such voice you find at home is of the Anjuman-i-Mazarain Punjab where apparently ‘all is quiet’ since its general secretary Abdul Sattar Mehar was acquitted in September 2020 after four years of incarceration. The Anjuman’s struggle against corporatisation of farms is ongoing as successive governments have not granted them land ownership. It has been two decades since tenant-cultivators in Okara and the adjoining districts took control of the farms and stopped paying rent.
Published in Dawn on January 21 2018
THE 12th Five Year Plan (2018-23) — to be finalised soon — is based on a strategy that combines “inclusive growth with green development”. In recent years ‘inclusive growth’ — growth that benefits all segments of society — has replaced ‘poverty alleviation’ as a catchphrase in development planning. Everyone is talking about it, including the IMF, World Bank, ADB, ILO, national governments as well as those averse to the ‘growth’ paradigm. So let’s hope all players in the international and national arena mean it and are out to promote “equity, equality of opportunity, and protection in market and employment” as defined by the World Bank.
The time has come for Pakistan to address inequity and to tackle the informal economy, which is considered a barrier to inclusive growth as it excludes the majority of people from accessing opportunities of productive growth in the economic realm and deprives them of entitlements at work because of their informal status. In comparison, workers engaged in formal, registered, tax compliant businesses and units are legally covered for social protection.
The government cites its inability to bring thousands of small enterprises under the tax net, while the enterprises point to financial constraints as the main reason for remaining informal. However, both concede that formality is desirable for it benefits all stakeholders in the long run. Yet the goal remains elusive.
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.
Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy. Particularly when it comes to falling prey to the stereotype. For instance, it’s a generally held belief among women (forget men for a while) that ‘women are dull, uninteresting and stupid’. At most, they are ‘shrewd’ and ‘bitchy’. It hurts me when I find educated women holding the view.
I wouldn’t say all educated women harbour this notion. I know many women who judge people, whether men or women, on their individual worth, untarnished by prejudices, stripped off of stereotypes. Nonetheless, I’ve come across women, working and educated who have a rather negative opinion of women.
“Women bore me,” one told me with disdain, “they only talk of dresses and jewelry.” You might have forgiven her and let it go by sticking a label ‘so-called intellectual’ if you’ve ever heard her talking about things like Kant’s Criuque of Pure Reason or Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Autumn of the Patriarch or watched her falling into a heated argument over USA’s foreign policy in Latin America or the games politicians play in Pakistan.