The changing sociology of rural Sindh

By Arif Hasan

The media, print and electronic, are full of very important news and its analysis. Pakistan-US relations, the judiciary-executive conflict, the Karachi killings, sectarian strife, the Balochistan “insurgency”, and similar issues are regularly written about and/or discussed by well-informed experts. …….. …….

…….  From the early 70s to the late 90s, I have worked in rural Sindh and documented and published on the processes of change taking place in different areas of the province. After a lapse of 10 years, I visited a large number of rural areas with which I was previously acquainted. These visits were made between 2010 and 2012 and involved meetings with village communities, transporters, arhatis, real estate agents and local NGO staff and Community Based Organisation activists.

The change that I have observed and which has been articulated by the groups I interacted with, is enormous and that too in 10 years. The most visible and important change is the presence of women in development and political discourse. They are employed in NGO offices, they manage development programmes, they are social activists and the majority of them are from the rural areas. In some of the remote villages I visited, there were private schools and beauty parlours run by young village women. Blocking of roads to protest against the “high handedness” of the local landlords, bureaucratic inaction, and/or law and order situations, has become common. Women participate in these demonstrations and in some cases these blockages have been carried out exclusively by them.

Discussions with groups on the issue of free-will marriages were also held. The vast majority of individuals were in favour of such marriages even if they violated caste divisions. However, they felt that it is the parents that have to change so as to make such marriages conflict free. The non-availability of middle schools for girls was also discussed. Surprisingly, the village communities had no problem with the girls studying with the boys in the male middle schools. In addition, discussions with the Sindh Rural Support Organisation’s (SRSO) women groups, which consist of the poorest women in a village, revealed that about 20 per cent of them had mobile phones and almost all of them watched television although around 30 per cent households actually own a TV.

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Pakistan and the threat of extremism Turning point? Despite outrage over Malala’s shooting, the dark forces are gathering again

ISLAMABAD – MANY say they now realise it has taken a 14-year-old schoolgirl to teach Pakistan the meaning of courage. Back in 2009 Malala Yousafzai began chronicling the dark grip of the Pakistani Taliban on her homeland, the pretty Swat valley in the country’s north. She had a clear-eyed conviction that girls had a right to an education, something the Taliban did their best to prevent, even after their local rule was broken in an army offensive. She called the Taliban “barbarians”. On October 9th the barbarians took their revenge, shooting her in the head. She is now in a British hospital, in Birmingham, with a specialist unit for war injuries. Doctors are impressed by her resilience.

Back home, says Nusrat Javed, host of a popular political show, “Malala has liberated Pakistan.” Pakistanis have voiced unprecedented anger against the Pakistani Taliban, calling for the peaceful majority to reclaim the country’s destiny from gun-toting, head-chopping extremists.

The question is whether political, military and religious leaders have Malala’s gumption. Most condemned the attack without condemning the Pakistani Taliban. A few went further. The army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, who had already taken a more aggressive stance against extremists in recent months, sounded ready for action. After visiting Malala in hospital in Pakistan, he said: “We refuse to bow before terror. We will fight, regardless of the cost. We will prevail.”

Continue reading Pakistan and the threat of extremism Turning point? Despite outrage over Malala’s shooting, the dark forces are gathering again