Stories about rural areas

Balochistan is thirsty for a drop of water – what will it take for Pakistan to notice?

It is no secret that Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, is facing a chronic water shortage issue and has been experiencing severe droughts for decades. Water is one of the basic necessities of life, fundamental for the existence of life to begin with, and without it we will all cease to exist. And yet the province is moving closer towards becoming a land without water. At least seven small and large rivers flow across Balochistan, from which the Hingol River (the longest river in the province) covers a length of 560 kilometres. Despite the flow of these seven rivers, Balochistan is in ...

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Sending your child to school doesn’t guarantee that he will actually learn

In a utopian setting, the quintessential scenario for Pakistan would be to educate every child, thus leading to countless benefits, not least in relation to important indicators such as employment, health, equality and so on. Receiving “free and compulsory” education is also a legal constitutional right for every Pakistani child aged five to 16 under Article 25A. However, let’s face the harsh reality: Pakistan is unable to educate every single child. According to budget estimates, the government will only spend around a meagre 2.03% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education in 2018. This is way below international requirements. Resources are ...

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I wanted to change the lives of underprivileged school kids, but they changed mine

While growing up in Karachi in the turbulent 90s, my neighbourhood used to be a perpetual warzone. Acting tough was the only way of surviving. Our future outlook used to be so bleak that career orientation was not even a fleeting thought in my mind. As time passed by and I was faced with the prospect of monetary meltdown at the domestic front, I used to wonder why no one ever extended a helping hand to me and to numerous others who stood at the brink of an abyss that had already consumed hundreds, if not thousands, from our generation due to ...

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PPP claims to be cleaning up Karachi, but the looming stench in the city claims otherwise

The Karachi I grew up in was a city where garbage was picked up regularly. Swarms of jamadarnis (women sweepers) descended each morning to sweep the dusty streets in our neighbourhood in PECHS, picking up any plastic bags that the wind had blown overnight.  Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) trucks came in to collect the garbage from the corner garbage bins regularly. The law and order situation was such that my grandmother (who I admit was a bit of a maverick) felt no fear in taking a rickshaw by herself. She was fearless and she’d hold out her hand at the end of the journey with change so that the rickshaw driver ...

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So… in Pakistan people are getting divorced because of… gas shortage?

Whatever you say about our parliamentarians, you have to admit they have a sense of humour. I’m referring to the recent claim by the learned MNA Tahira Aurangzeb about how gas shortage is the reason for the increasing divorce rate in the country – she is the mother of Ms Maryum Aurangzeb, our minister of state for information, who said that our ministers and senators cannot survive on Rs60,000 a month. The learned female lawmaker wasn’t sure of our divorce statistics two or three years back, when there was no shortage of gas, compared to how many cases there are ...

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As long as there are dreamers like Chenu, I am hopeful about Pakistan’s future

Go home, turn on your television, switch to the news channel and keep watching it for at least one hour. Next, pick up the newspaper, skim through the headlines and read the main stories on current affairs. If the feeling that the world is falling apart and we are all doomed does not hit you, then you are in need of serious help. We live in a world where every day we are bombarded by negative news through all the major mass media outlets. In light of this, we crave for a story that might make us believe in good ...

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What is Pakistan’s national dish? Hint: It’s not daal roti!

During lunch, a colleague asked us what is the national dish of Pakistan, and everyone present provided a different answer. I said that’s easy, it has to be daal roti (lentils and flat bread), right? This was quickly rebutted by someone mentioning that it has to be a rice-based dish and that roti is not as common as you may think, especially in the past decade or so.  One would assume the answer is biryani? I mean who does not eat biryani? But no, it cannot be. Biryani is too elite a meal and too limited to certain regions of this vast and culturally diverse country. ...

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Hospitality – The strong dissimilarity between rural and urban Pakistanis

Earlier this year, I was in rural Punjab conducting fieldwork on a study called ‘Women’s Work in Agriculture and Nutrition’. Prior to that, I was interviewing adolescents and their families in lower income areas of Karachi for a study called ‘Being an Adolescent in Karachi’. As a surveyor, I was introduced to interview respondents by a local resource person in both settings, and although my position as a researcher was the same in both sites, I noticed a stark difference on how people treated strangers between the two sites.  In rural-southern Punjab, people’s candour, warmth, and kindness were prominent. Even though majority of ...

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We need to stop treating menstruation as a ‘fault’

“So what do you do when you… you know… have your monthly period?” I said to my domestic helper, after my mouth-gaping-open-in-shock reaction was over and I found my voice. For an urban woman, what she was telling me was unthinkable. I was truly scandalised that many women in Pakistan’s underprivileged parts walk around with no sanitary cloth or napkins when they have their menstrual period. Others do use folded pieces of cloth, she told me, but even then the hygiene conditions she was describing were hardly satisfactory. The year was 2010. Pakistan had been hit by one of the worst ...

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What good is the Shaheen1A Missile?

“Pakistan successfully test-fires Hatf-IV ballistic missile” This was the headline that greeted me a few days ago as I logged into my Facebook account. Instinctively, I clicked on it and began reading. The story discussed the launch of a new ballistic missile called the ‘Shaheen1A Missile’ which has the capacity to carry nuclear warheads to a distance of 900 kilometres (km). After skimming through the main news, and skipping the parts of what the naval chief had to say about this, I moved towards the comments section. As expected, patriots, nationalists, and whatever other jingoistic euphemism we use to explain such kind of people, ...

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