Monday, December 19, 2016


Strikes and dharnas are passé in the country

Seeing that there are invariably two sides to a coin it might be a good idea to start off with the pros.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government has done well in some fields. Polio cases have been halved this year in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), down to seven cases from fourteen in 2015. Experts predict that if the province continues to do as well in coming years the KP will manage to become polio free. That will be a wonderful achievement. The other achievements are somewhat mixed.
In the field of education, the PTI’s reforms have been applauded by the Wilson Centre’s Asia Programme which says that initiatives taken by the PTI government have accelerated education reforms in the province.
Actions less deserving of applause in the field of education in the KP are mentioned later in this column.
It was good to see the KP’s stance where the Houbara bustard is concerned. Although it is against Pakistan’s laws to hunt this endangered bird, rich Arabs coming to Pakistan are issued hunting licenses in the rest of the provinces, but licenses to kill the Houbara bustard were not issued, even to bloodthirsty neighbours, in the KP. It was the one province to put its foot down in this matter.
There is nothing creditable about hijacking the capital territory making its citizens unable to go about their business. There is nothing creditable whatsoever in unleashing hooliganism and chaos in the country’s National Assembly. You wonder what is likely to happen in the country at large if this party were to come to power, and also whether the political party that instigates such behavior can be even aware of such a thing as procedure, and law and order. While it is good to know that the PTIs right to protest is not being curtailed, it is worth pointing out that time spent protesting by creating a furor in the National Assembly (and elsewhere) is the nation’s time and resources wasted. That should pose a problem for any country. For a poor country like Pakistan, anyone or any party causing such waste is the problem.
Perhaps the PTI thinks it must create chaos to bring the corruption within the ruling party to public attention. That is if its behavior is the result of any kind of considered plan, which, given the number of times it changes tack is almost certainly not the case. Besides, two wrongs cannot result in a right. The fact remains that if a government is not performing well or if its leadership is flawed, there are constitutional ways of dealing with such matters that do not require strikes, dharnas and disruption in the Assembly. Strikes and dharnas are passé in a country sixty years past its prime.
Is the PTI a rudderless organisation? Its leadership possesses a romantic affinity for dangerous institutions such as jirgas. The kind of inflammatory, emotional, invective laden rhetoric indulged in by its leaders points to this lack of direction, and is also responsible for irritated columns like this one. There are things which if they are addressed would go much further towards disposing the electorate towards the PTI, which once seemed to have something going for it.
Pakistan is lagging very far behind world standards in health and education (the above examples notwithstanding), in all aspects of prosperity and well-being of its people. If the standard for poverty is set very low thirty percent of Pakistan’s population falls below it. If it is raised a little more, fifty percent of Pakistan’s population falls below it. We need more efficient systems of taxation, social security, functioning labour laws, and a unified system of justice. At present the KP falls very far behind in the matter of justice with its dual legal systems, the jirga system in addition to the regular legal system of the country. It was a jirga that recently condemned a sixteen year old girl to death by burning in Abbottabad. It doesn’t matter for what crime. No crime warrants such horrific punishment. As it happens there was no crime.
The KP has a major problem with violent militants whose weapon of choice is the IED (Improvised Explosive Device), which is easily made, even at home. This year in 2016, more than two hundred and ten cases of IED blasts have been reported in the KP. Clearly something has to be done to counter militant indoctrination.
An editorial note in the Criterion Quarterly says that ‘many suicide bombers and those fighting non-Muslims, for whatever reason, are dropouts or graduates of secular institutions of learning. Those attending madrassas are almost all poor, and an estimated 1.5 million were enrolled in these institutions in Pakistan in 2005. If militancy is to be decreased, the government will have to take measures for equitable distribution of wealth and provide justice to the poorest who are compelled to send their children to madrassas. On a parallel track, the state must stop arming and training religious cadres to promote its security objectives.
Haroon Khalid says in the Huffington Post, the ‘Pakistani education system is increasingly producing students who are sympathetic to Islamic militants, who too espouse a puritanical version of Islam similar to what is taught to these students through their formal education.’
Clearly monitoring both mainstream schools and madrassahs is required.
In June this year the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly was informed by Shah Farman, a provincial Minister that a certain madrassah in Nowshera had been allocated Rs300 million in the 2016-17 budget. The madrassah is run by Maulana Sami ul Haq, chief of the Jamiat e Ulema e Islam, Sami group. Maulana Sami ul Haq has been dubbed ‘Father of the Taliban’ and has had closed ties with Mullah Omar, a leader of the Taliban.
With such a scenario does it matter what the government in the KP does or does not do with secular educational institutions, given the very large numbers of students attending these madrassahs?

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