Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ending poverty – drama or whimper?

by Haris Gazdar

Incidence of multidimensional poverty in Pakistan, 2014-2015
Photo Credit: UNDP, Pakistan

The first sustainable development goal (SDG1) is dramatic: “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” by 2030. Is it even a logical possibility? Have learned economic philosophers not pondered over the relative nature of poverty – which means that no matter how well off everyone is, some will be poorer, and poverty is about those who are poorer. Perhaps because the “ending poverty” wish is so fantastic it has been helpfully broken down into more tractable targets: ensure that no one lives on less than $1.25 a day. This idea owes its origins to a debate about global poverty lines – or levels of income below which a person is considered to be poor. And if the $1.25 a day target seems too rigid then there is the more achievable goal to “reduce by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.” This gives quite a lot of leeway to national governments to come up with their own definitions of poverty reduction and then to try and achieve them.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Today's Lyari

by Natasha Ansari and Ebad Pasha

Photo credit: Dr. Nida Kirmani

Often in mainstream discourses on Karachi, the alleged “most dangerous city in the world,” Lyari continues to be routinely framed as the most dangerous address within Karachi.[1] Though it is undisputed that the “gang-war era” certainly wreaked havoc on the lives of Lyari’s residents in overt and covert ways, and the post-conflict trauma thereafter is an active remnant of those times. Nevertheless, through our recent fieldwork for the UNDP-Youth Employment Project, it is evident that persisting perceptions of it being a notoriously volatile place due to gang violence are not helpful. Not only is this oversimplification arguably no longer a lived reality for most of Lyari’s residents post-operation—it moreover reductively masks and betrays a more complex relationship with the structural nature of violence, and can therefore be a harmful generalization, if not a misguided one. We attempt to tackle some tropes and misconceptions regarding violence in Lyari’s current context in terms of unemployment, Rangers’ “security” framework and gender based on some initial findings from our research.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Violence and tolerance

by Haris Gazdar

Non-violence, sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reutersward
Photo credit: Flickr/Georgio Galeotti

Targeted violence against Shia Muslims came home to me recently. I was catching up with a close relative (let’s call him Zain) who has himself been a victim of such violence a few years ago. He was shot and injured, but thankfully recovered. We were at a family gathering and I urged him to take another helping of food when he said that he needed to watch his diet because he had “restricted his mobility” and was not getting enough exercise. It turned out that there had been a spate of shootings culminating in the attack on a majlis at a home in the North Nazimabad locality of Karachi, and many of those incidents directly affected his social circles. Zain felt that he needed to be cautious. The almost normal way in which we spoke about these threats was, on reflection, shocking. Perhaps, being a survivor, had made him stoical and stronger.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Do we give back?

by Amna Akhtar

What can we give back? Respondents at  the field site in Dadu
Photo credit: Collective team

‘Tell me what’s wrong with my baby. There are no health services in these areas. Help us.’ Conversations and pleas such as these are not uncommon for researchers to hear. Every time we step into the field in rural, low income areas of the country, we are met with countless appeals from our respondents to do something. To act. To intervene. But as researchers, that is the one thing we are trained not to do. As observers of an issue or community our task is to objectively gather information, interact with locals and gather insights. We cannot ‘help’ people or provide goods or services. The only thing we may give at times is compensation for the time people spent with us and consequently lost out in their wages and earnings.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Mind your language

by Hussain Bux Mallah

Using language for politics is not new.
A WWII poster discouraging the use of 'enemy' language
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Una Storia Segreta

There has been an increasing recognition of the role of language in learning and children’s intellectual development. Research has shown that children whose primary language is different to the language of instruction in school are more likely to drop out or fail in early grades. Studies have also shown that children’s first language is the optimal language for literacy and learning throughout primary school. In Pakistan, where retention rates are abysmal and students in the public education system perform poorly (data from NEMIS reports a literacy rate of 58% and class five retention rate of 69%), it is important to reflect on the role of language as one of the key drivers of learning outcomes.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Plugging the gaps between farm and fork

by Samar Zuberi and Rashid Mehmood

Increased production does not mean improved diets for the undernourished
Photo credit: Flickr/Asian Development Bank

Nutrition has been an increasing concern in Pakistan for almost half a decade. The release of the 2011 National Nutrition Survey showed no improvement in nutrition indicators in decades, and highlighted alarming rates of undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies. These results alongside a strong international push to re-focus on nutrition have succeeded in placing nutrition higher on the policy agenda within Pakistan. Pakistan has recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were proceeded by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). SDG #2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Busting the myth of a 'hatta katta' Pakistan

by The Collective’s Research to Action team

George Segal, Depression Bread Line sculpture, 1991
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Public domain pictures

No one in Pakistan sleeps on an empty stomach. Myth. There is plenty for everyone. Also a myth. Half of Pakistani households experienced hunger in the last year. Over 40 per cent of Pakistani children under five are malnourished. So why do we never hear about this? And what can we do to bring this to light in policy making and political processes? Haris Gazdar raised this at a panel discussion ‘Does Climate Change Worsen Hunger?’ at Habib University last month. The panel featured a keynote speech by Professor Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food and reactions by Professor Richard Falk, director of Climate Change, Human Security and Democracy Project at the Orfalea Center, University of California Santa Barbara and Mr. Gazdar. The panel was moderated by Dr. Muhammad Haris, Assistant Professor, Social Development and Policy, at Habib University.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Is the Minimum Wage a ‘Living Wage’ in Pakistan?

by Kabeer Dawani

A worker stitches a football at a stitching center in rural Sialkot
Photo credit: Collective team

In June 2016, while announcing their budgets for the 2016-17 fiscal year, the federal government and all the provincial governments increased the monthly minimum wage for unskilled workers from Rs.13,000 to Rs.14,000. Similar increases in the minimum wage have been made in previous years as well, and as far as we know, no criteria on needs or cost of living are used to determine the minimum wage. Given that these increases are arbitrary, the question arises: is the minimum wage even sufficient for a worker and his/her family to live a basic but decent life?

Monday, 15 August 2016

Coercion inside the home

by Haris Gazdar and Ayesha Khan

Domestic workers in the 14th century
Photo credit: Wikipedia commons

Bonded labour constitutes one of the gravest violations of individual human rights. It is perceived — both at the popular level, as well as among legislators and the judiciary — as akin to slavery. Yet, bonded labour often comes disguised in a web of legitimate ‘voluntary’ economic transactions mediated through social control. Haris Gazdar and Ayesha Khan explored bonded labour in domestic work and begging in a chapter in the book ‘Bonded Labour in Pakistan’. The book is edited by Ayaz Qureshi and Ali Khan and published by the Oxford University Press. An excerpt of the chapter was recently featured in Dawn’s Books and Authors. An even shorter version with a focus on rural domestic work is reproduced here.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Immortalizing Edhi

by Noorulain Masood

Edhi (1928-2016): Mural in Karachi dedicated to Edhi
Photo credit: Collective team

Edhi died on the 8th of this month. Just twenty days later, media coverage and social calendars that were packed with commemorations have already gone sparse. The cruel reality of our times: nothing lasts forever. But Edhi has to be kept alive.

Monday, 18 July 2016

My choice or not?

by Sidra Mazhar

Women returning from fields after a hard day's work
Photo credit: Flickr/Khalid Mir

Agricultural practices and interventions affects nutrition of women, children and the entire household through various pathways and it is interesting to note that women empowerment, though much neglected, has a significant role to play when it comes to improving nutrition. To understand this link, I recently attended a webinar on “Women’s nutrition through an empowerment lens” organized by Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH) and Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA). The webinar explored the impact of women empowerment on women’s and their children’s nutrition. It detailed the effects of women empowerment in livestock-focused-agriculture followed by an investigation of women empowerment in nutrition index.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Imagining poverty

by Haris Gazdar

How can our economic policy instruments reach the poor?
Photo credit: Wikipedia

There are two views about the economics of poverty reduction. One, that economic growth will trickle down and reduce poverty. Two, that there is no automatic trickle-down and growth may or may not be inclusive. It depends on which sectors grow, whether growth creates new and better jobs, and whether the poor are able to take advantage of economic opportunity.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

'Alien' garbage pickers of Karachi

by Azmat Budhani

Man at rubbish dump in Karachi
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr

“My name is Muhammad Ali. I am a Pathan, born in Quetta, and living in Karachi since the last decade. I am sixteen years old, can speak and read Urdu well besides Pashtu. My parents had migrated from Afghanistan. I don’t know exactly when they migrated, which area they belonged to in Afghanistan or why they had to migrate.” The respondent was interviewed for a research study in Karachi by the Collective team.

Monday, 6 June 2016

When the respondents questioned

by Saba Aslam

Respondents at rural site Dadu
Photo credit: Collective team

For the four-year research project, “Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility” we were asked to visit rural and urban communities of our respondents who had participated in the research for three consecutive years. This year, the idea was to engage with the respondents, explain to them research findings and thank them for their involvement throughout these years. A day before my visit to district Dadu, I spent time preparing for my interaction with our female respondents. I tried simplifying the findings and I was eager to conduct the session. To my surprise, the response I received from the female respondents was completely different to what I had been expecting.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Okara Dispossessions: From Jhanglees to Murabba holders to Faltus

by Hussain Bux Mallah

From British India to Pakistan: the journey of dispossessions in Okara
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Chicago Sun Times archive

The resistance of the tenants of Okara Military Farm villages to changes in their contract and to threats of eviction is cause-celebre, particularly for left-leaning activists and intellectuals. This is as it ought to be. There have been various attempts by the authorities to evict residents since the time of General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. The issue flared up again under General Musharraf in 2003, and after a hiatus it came to the headlines once more in April 2016 when it was reported that security forces positioned a tank in addition to the usual tear gas rounds to disperse people who were celebrating the International Peasant’s Day. A 17-year-old boy died and many protestors were injured and arrested. The government stated its determination to charge the protestors under the National Counter Terrorism Act of 2013.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Celebrating women of Pakistan

by Noorulain Masood

Photo credits: British Council Pakistan

WOW is usually a term of exclamation, of wonder, of celebration; and that is what the Women of the World (or WOW) festival aims to accomplish. The WOW Karachi is a one day festival, on 1st of May, to spark an open and honest dialogue on the rights and issues of women in Pakistan, celebrate women and girls and discuss and address some of the obstacles they face in achieving their potential. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Making your work count: it's all about impact

by Amna Akhtar

Not all impact is measurable; the ray system of an impact crater
Photo credit: Wikipedia/ NASA

What is the usefulness of your work? How can it be leveraged to contribute to meaningful and positive change? Do you really think you are helping people? I am often met with questions like these from family, friends, colleagues and just about anyone I attempt to explain my work to. This is not an uncommon situation for researchers who are often called upon to demonstrate the value of their work. The fear behind this is that research products on their own can be inaccessible for many people, and unless researchers are pushed to connect their work to people and practice, they may not care very much about their work making a difference in the world.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Patriarchy and women's work

by Hussain Bux Mallah

'Women's work'-poster from World War II,  Australia 1943
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Australian War Memorial, Accession No ARTV01064

Who knew that simply changing the key respondents of a survey would completely transform the process? In over a decade of field work experience, I have developed a set of best practices for myself and our team to be able to conduct a survey of almost any nature. Little did I know that my experience was limited to only a half of the population. Designing the survey with women as key respondents had some extremely unexpected and interesting implications.

Monday, 28 March 2016

More decentralization, please!

by Kabeer Dawani and Ammar Khalid

From left to right: Mr Arif Hasan, Nalini Shekar, Dr Noman Ahmed, Ammar Khalid, Kabeer Dawani and Dr Asad Sayeed
Photo credits: LUMS HSS

In 2015, for the first time Pakistan held local government elections across all four provinces under a civilian government. All three tiers of government are now democratically elected – something that is unprecedented in Pakistan’s history. However, while this is a crucial step in the right direction, the laws enacted by the four provinces are restrictive and have been criticized by various quarters for not devolving any meaningful powers to the local bodies.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Hunger and undernutrition – knowing versus feeling

by Haris Gazdar

Getting by on hungry days
Photo credit: Wikipedia/U.S National Archives & Records Administration

There is hunger in Pakistan and there is undernutrition.  The two are closely connected but not the same. We all know what hunger feels like. It is a bodily sensation associated with discomfort and pain. Social policy knows hunger in terms of energy intake. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations defines hunger as the daily consumption of fewer than 1,800 kcal by an individual. The Pakistan government’s own benchmark, until recently, was 2,100 kcal per day.  Undernutrition is the outcome of sustained periods of inadequate food intake on the health of a person. Social policy knows undernutrition through comparing an individual’s physical attributes such as weight, height or blood micronutrient counts with those of a healthy population.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Caste and I

by Saba Aslam

The diversity of Asia's peoples
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Nordisk familjebok

I come from a family where caste has little or no significance in either getting to know about a person or a particular family. This was one of the reasons why I never really asked my father about the origins of my ancestors. May it be social gatherings, or formal meet ups with colleagues, knowing about a person’s caste had never been a basis of interaction. However, I wasn’t new to the concept and had studied about different castes, cultures, races in an introductory socio-cultural anthropology course in my undergraduate degree. Moreover, caste is definitely talked about in instances when people get married especially in the context of highlighting somebody marrying outside his/her caste. This may be perceived differently depending upon how much weight a person places on his/her caste.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Who Benefits from CPEC?

by Asad Sayeed

Photo credit: Wikipedia/mandarineveryday

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (henceforth CPEC) has evoked mixed emotions in the country. On the one hand, the Federal Government and the private sector (especially some businessmen and bankers) have called CPEC a ‘game changer’ in the fortunes of Pakistan’s economy and on the other hand, provincial elites – particularly of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) – are apprehensive that their provinces will not get the fair share of benefits that will accrue from CPEC. The debate on CPEC thus is polarized around the issue of horizontal inequality that it is expected to generate.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Passive or Non-Violent?

by Haris Gazdar and Noorulain Masood

Martin Luther King, Jr. at an anti-Vietnam War rally (April 27, 1967)
Photo credit: Wikipedia/Minnesota historical society/Flickr

Bacha Khan is an inspiration for many. Founder of the Khudai Khidmatgar movement, he was a man who directed his vision and political insight to advocate for peaceful social change. The carnage at the Bacha Khan University is not the first time his legacy of non-violence has faced a violent backlash. In fact Bacha Khan spent much of his life in jail or exile. He died in 1988 under house arrest. His funeral in Afghanistan saw two bomb explosions. Fifteen people died. While the attack on the university is a reminder of how far we have strayed from Bacha Khan’s philosophy, so does the response.