Development / 05.06.2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DUeizp_3vU In this conversation Dr. Anjum Altaf talks to Dr. Amit Basole, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Employment at the Aziz Premji University in Banglaore. Dr. Basole is the lead author of the report The State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19 presents the findings of research on the impact of the pandemic on labour in India. The complete report is available here. This the second conversation arranged under the auspices of Irtiqa Institute for Social Sciences, Karachi. The first conversation with Dr. Jayati Ghosh (The Post-Covid Economy: What We Want and How We Can Get It) can be found here. An excellent interview with Dr. Basole on the findings of the report is here.  ...

Politics / 06.03.2019

By Anjum Altaf Pakistan should be a welfare state. With millions of people straddling the poverty line, there is no other way forward. Those who believe the market will offer a solution are driven by ideology, blind fundamentalists in the same category as religious fundamentalists. Only the state can cater for such destitution and the fact that a state has no interest or ability to do so does not mean that the task should be turned over to the market. The plain truth is that the market cares nothing for those without the ability to pay and there are many more in that category than should be acceptable. Not just that, without a strong state the market doesn’t trickle wealth down it siphons it up. The only viable alternative is to force the state to deliver on its responsibility and in the long run the only...

Development / 22.01.2019

By Anjum Altaf Oxfam presented its new report at Davos whose main takeaway for India is that: "Indian billionaires saw their fortunes swell by Rs 2,200 crore a day last year, with the top 1 per cent of the country’s richest getting richer by 39 per cent as against just 3 per cent increase in wealth for the bottom-half of the population." https://theprint.in/economy/richest-indians-got-wealthier-by-39-worlds-poorest-saw-their-fortunes-dip-by-11-in-2018-says-oxfam-study/180630/ Shekhar Gupta at The Print has castigated this report in very strong terms as methodologically flawed and politically motivated. Please read the news item and watch Gupta's critique then write a comment with your own analysis. Where do you come out on this issue? [I wish he would stay still while speaking -- it is tortuous to watch] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=eBvdW4rfMYo Here is a set of expert opinions solicited by The Print: https://theprint.in/talk-point/oxfam-inequality-study-skewed-parameters-to-assess-wealth-or-disbalanced-economic-growth/181348/ Consider the three in conjunction with the following argument which inserts some much needed theory into the debate. https://thebulwark.com/is-all-economic-growth-created-equal/ Read this as...

Religion / 13.01.2018

By Kabir Altaf One of the frequent topics of debate among those interested in South Asia is the caste system and whether it is unique to Hinduism or features in other South Asian religions as well. Hindu society has traditionally been divided into four castes (or varnas): Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (rulers, administrators and warriors), Vaishyas (merchants and tradesmen), and Shudras (artisans, farmers and laboring classes). A fifth group consists of those who do not fit into this hierarchy at all and are considered “untouchable”. What separates caste from other systems of social stratification are the aspects of purity and ascribed status. Upper-castes consider lower castes to be “impure” and have rigid rules about the kind of social interaction they can have with them. For example, upper castes will not accept food from those of a lower caste, while lower castes will accept food from those above...

Reflections / 20.12.2017

By Anjum Altaf [This is the text of the 16th Hamza Alavi Distinguished Lecture delivered in Karachi on December 16, 2017, under the auspices of the Irtiqa Institute for Social Sciences and the Hamza Alavi Foundation. The lecture was delivered in Urdu and does not follow the order of the formal written version. A video of the lecture is accessible at the Irtiqa Facebook page.] An important strand of Hamza Alavi’s work was about change and the agency for change as attested by the two well-known hypotheses associated with his name – those of the middle peasantry (1965) and of the salariat (1987). I intend to use these as the point of departure to offer some tentative reflections on the nature of change and on the scenarios facing us today in Pakistan and more generally across the world. Economics, the Importance of Rules, and Collective Agency My own academic...

Development / 05.11.2017

By Anjum Altaf Rather than asserting that the military and the judiciary could be criticized if criticism was merited, a distinguished minister has taken the position that parliament is just as sacrosanct and hence above being challenged. In anticipation of what is likely to follow, this being Pakistan, one cannot afford to lose any time taking to task another minister who has asked for the treatment. I am referring to a news item in which the Minister for Industries, Commerce and Investment has informed the Punjab Assembly that there would be “no tomato import despite mafia’s manoeuvring.” The minister is said to have elaborated that “now tomatoes from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were being sold at Rs. 70 per kilo in the city and would continue to be sold till prices get further stabilized with supplies from Sindh arriving in the local market.” The justification for the policy is contained...

Reflections / 02.09.2017

By Harbans Mukhia I was born in 1937 or 38, in a tiny village in the Gujrat district of what is now Pakistan. No one, even in Pakistan, seems to have heard of the village Allaha, though it is on my passport to this day. Our home was a nondescript one – a one-and-a-half room structure on one side of a dusty street; on the other side was a tall, white mansion-like habitat with a weather cock on top, which fascinated us kids for hours. We moved to Delhi before the Partition – perhaps sometime around 1941. My father responded to the Quit India call and was put in a Multan prison for six months. My mother passed away perhaps in 1943 or 44, leaving behind five young children. My eldest sister, then 12 or 13, was withdrawn from school to look after her siblings. She never...

Development / 30.07.2017

By Anjum Altaf Every so often someone promises to turn Pakistan into an Asian tiger. It is not a bad ambition but it hasn’t happened yet. Not just that, we don’t seem to be moving forward much. All the more reason for an honest examination because knowing where one is starting from is just as important as knowing where one wants to go. With help of some illustrative numbers one can establish three points. The Pakistani economy is existing at a low level; it is in relative decline; and too many of its citizens are struggling at or below subsistence level. Getting from here to Asian tiger status would require something beyond more of the same. First, the state of the economy. The Federal Bureau of Statistics website shows that in 2015 per capita income in current prices was Rs. 153,620 per year or about Rs....

Politics / 23.07.2017

By Anjum Altaf Pakistan wants to resume bilateral cricketing ties with India while India refuses to play ball. How would an alien from Mars, unaffected by nationalist biases, assess the situation? It would be hard to dismiss the Indian position outright. Think of it this way: If you live in a community and a neighbour throws his trash over your wall you would be justified in being annoyed. You might go over once for a friendly chat but if the dumping continues you would be well within your rights to protest and break off relations. The neighbour’s invitation to a friendly game of chess will clearly smack of hypocrisy in the circumstances. Extrapolate the analogy to India-Pakistan politics. There seems little doubt that Pakistan has been abetting incidents of terrorism in India - the 2008 attack in Mumbai was the most egregious and the most explicitly linked to...

History / 30.06.2017

By Ahmed Kamran Chapter Four: The Road to Pakistan – (Continued) Formation of the Communist Party of Pakistan The Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) was formally established in the Second Congress of the Communist Party of India (CPI) held in February-March 1948 in Calcutta It was in line with the decision taken in the central committee of the party in July 1947 when the policy switch took place between losing P.C. Joshi group and the rising B.T. Ranadive group in the party. Out of about 800 delegates to the Congress only three members represented the areas now forming Pakistan. These included Prof. Eric Cyprian from Punjab, Muhammad Hussain Ata from NWFP (now KPK), and Jamaluddin Bukhari from Sindh. Two other nominated delegates from Punjab, Mirza Muhammad Ibrahim and C.R. Aslam couldn’t attend the Congress as they were reportedly caught in the last moment organising a railway workers’ strike...