Friday, 28 August 2009

Issues with teaching sex education in schools in Pakistan

A private school in Pakistan is facing the wrath of parents, religious political parties and the education authorities for using books from GCSE biology curriculum in year 6 and 7 teaching reproduction among animals including humans. Other offences committed by the school include compulsory teaching of music to all students and a school uniform that does not have dupatta (shawl to cover their heads) as an integral part of it. Those protesting are after the head of UK trained CEO of the school who brought these changes.

On compulsory guitar lessons to for all students I believe that it is a case of head teacher gone mad - not every individual has an aptitude for playing the instrument - my bruised fingers from the days of guitar lessons are an evidence.

On the issue of teaching chapters on reproductive health from a book written for British schools, I must say that in my view we have lost a sense of balance in Pakistan. There is nothing wrong in teaching essentials in “biology”, reproductive health or sex education for that matter, for as long as it is targeted at the right age and done appropriately by “educators” who are qualified to be educators and are aware of local traditions and sensitivities. This is not the case in majority of Pakistani schools where teachers are untrained graduates who have never trained to be teachers, never wanted to be one and became one having failed to find any other job.

In Pakistan “educators” whose role it is to put the curriculum together are not doing their job - thus schools having to import books that have been written for an entirely different cultural context and are not appropriate for Pakistani audience. Reportedly the school was censoring the objectionable pages from the offending books by stapling them together - when did stapling pages stopped a young mind from finding out what’s behind the censored sections!

Even in the UK there is an ongoing debate as to what’s the appropriate age for youngsters to be introduced to “Sex education”. But at least there is a debate followed by action on curriculum development.

I have written earlier that a vast majority of female population in Pakistan is unaware of reproductive health issues and that there is a need for a sensitive awareness programme so that no woman has to endure that pain Ashrafi had to go through. Incidences like this school that happen due to mismanagement of teacher parent relationship and a lack of sensitivity on the part of school management do not help the cause of broader awareness among population of necessary health issues and twist these to become issues of morality.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Forgiveness is not yours to give, Prime Minister!

Prime Minister Gilani has stated that he forgave General Musharraf the day he became Prime Minister. Forgiveness is not yours to give, Mr. Prime Minister! Desecration of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and utter contempt for and attempts to destroy institutions of state are crimes committed by General Musharraf for which people of Pakistan are the aggrieved party. None of Musharraf's crimes were personal against president Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani or other members of the ruling elite for which they have any sort of moral or legal right to grant forgiveness.

And it is not personal against Mr. Musharraf as well. Musharraf is not an individual - he is the current representative of a chain of adventurers who have raped and pillaged the constitution a their whim. ‘Any person who abrogates or attempts or conspires to abrogate, subverts or attempts or conspires to subvert the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason’ - so states the Article 6 of the Constitution. Power hungry adventurers from General Iskandar Mirza, General Ayub Khan, General Zia-ul-Haq and General Musharraf have all trampled over the constitution and laws of the land for most of the 62 years of Pakistan's history. Using crooked judiciary to provide them the cover of doctrine of necessity and low cost feudal political leaders providing help with constitutional amendments these generals got away (blew away in case of General Zia) scot free.

With an independent judiciary that is earnestly trying to set its own house in order and a media supported and generally agitated civil society timing has never been more right to set up an example for future adventurers like Ayub, Zia or Musharraf by putting the living one in the dock.

Only obstacle I see in achieving this is a government and parliament that suffers from lack of confidence in its own powers. By not taking action against Musharraf It is leaving the door wide open for another adventurer to walk in and kick them out.

Dithering on this issue by the government is not helping its credibility as conspiracy theories about a safe exit deal between current government and Musharraf with guarantees from US and Pakistan army have taken ground. US government has already made its clear that they do not want to be involved in Musharraf's future - for them he is a used bullet. Image of Pakistan Army, as an institution, has suffered the most during Musharraf's term. In some parts of the country and some sectors of the society it is hated as an occupation force. Army is working hard on rehabilitation of its image that will take time. How strongly will it come out for Musharraf's defence and destroy any remaining credibility will be tested soon.

There have been talks of "truth and reconciliation" in Pakistan South Africa style. Fact is that to stop future adventurers like Musharraf, Pakistan requires trial and retribution.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Beginning of US occupation of Pakistan

Post 9/11 US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in a stated policy of pursuing the terrorists right into their hideouts (Afghanistan) and to find and destroy unconfirmed weapons of mass destruction (Iraq).

Why did US not invade Pakistan who has a declared stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and is also the birth place of Taliban - traditional recruiting academy for global jihadis.

When lotacracy was at its height and being actively promoted by General Musharraf and his crony establishment, I believed that reason for US hesitation in attacking Pakistan is due to US confidence in saleability of Pakistani politicians. If you can occupy by proxy then why waste expensive military hardware. In my darkest hours this is how I would have read the script for a very easy US occupation of Pakistan:

  • a small contingent of US Marines (around 1000) are dropped by air into Islamabad to take control of the presidency/parliament etc. and Kahuta
  • Richard Holbrook would land at Chaklala airbase as the US appointed Lord Protector of Pakistan
  • overnight a group of like-minded politicians (read lotas) from Pakistan Muslim League and Pakistan Peoples Party would have formed forward blocs or a new political party named PML (Barrack Obama group)
  • This new political party will convene a session of parliament to invite and accept American occupation of Pakistan under the doctrine of necessity. A necessary 18th constitutional amendment would ensure that Holbrook's accession to power is legal and constitutional.
  • Political opinion in Pakistan would be divided with Jamat-e-Islami starting street protests and Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman joining the newly formed interim government as Minister of Petroleum
Only unknown in this equation has always been the Pakistan Army who on top of being the guardian of geographical borders of Pakistan have also stated responsibility, rightly or wrongly, for protection of its ideological boundaries. How would Pakistan Army react to this script? In my view lack of an answer to this question has kept the US invasion and occupation of Pakistan to be nothing more than a hypothesis. One might not agree with the political ambitions of some of our generals but there has never been any doubt on their loyalty to the state of Pakistan. Same can not be said about a whole bunch of characters on our political scene.

Recent reports of US investment of $112.5 billion in building of a Marine House in the heart of Islamabad to host 1000 US Marines raises the question whether some variation of the script has already been written and is being put in place. What is the purpose of stationing 1000 US marines in Islamabad? If they are there for protecting American "interests" Surely Pakistan Army that has for quite sometime provided protection to friendly Arab capitals can protect any diplomatic "interests" in its own capital.

Given our general mistrust in capability of our political masters in assessing and planning for the long term I wouldn't be surprised that this has tacit approval from the current political masters. The unknown still is the level of agreement General Kiyani and army leadership have given to such a move. I fail to understand why you would let a sizeable contingent of worlds most sophisticated military with potentially aggressive designs to be stationed in your capital. Unlike Baghdad, Islamabad doesn't need a Green Zone.

I believe that an answer is due, General Kiyani!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Do Pakistanis really hate America!

Now Barry Rubin is taunting the Americans that despite huge financial and military aid to Pakistan we still hate USA.

He argues that even with the arrival of President Obama into the White House and massive military and economic support to Pakistan government Pakistanis (according to a recently carried out poll) still hate America and consider it to be an enemy. "Here's the most devastating finding of all: 64 percent of Pakistanis regard the United States as an enemy. Just 9 percent say it’s a friend" Barry Rubin states.

"Why is this?" Barry Rubin asks, and then answers himself "Well, America is not Muslim, is culturally different, and they are being taught for decades--by clerics and others if not by their political rulers--that America is bad. That also goes for the years when George W. Bush wasn't president!". Barry comes up with a simplistic reasoning.

He is absolutely right on one point "The United States could stand on its head, dole out billions of dollars, talk until its green in the face about how much it respects Islam [or Pakistan for that matter], and it won’t make much of a difference".

Why, because making hollow policy statements and pouring billions of American dollars into government coffers and military ammunition does not have an impact on the common man in Pakistan. Carry out the same survey with President, Prime Minister and the army of Pakistani government ministers and you will find that hundred percent among them are head over heals in love with America. A common man cannot see any benefits of American military aid that is used to buy American military hardware. They do not see any evidence of pro-Pakistan or pro-Islam action on American government's part for the last 62 years of Pakistan's existence.

If you seriously want to explore real views of an average Pakistani on the street offer him a Green Card with an invitation to go and live in the land of vice, as promoted by hard core religious extremist. I bet 99 percent of Pakistanis will take you up on that offer. If they really hated America they wouldn't be in love with the idea of making a life or money living there. I will raise my stakes and ask you to make the same offer to Taliban leadership and they will oblige as well. My point being that even the hard core religious fanatics do not hate America - the state, the country, the people, and the values its stands for - the hatred is for American government, its policies, its double standards.

Barry complains that Pakistanis believe that America favours India - "The actual numbers are shocking: 54 percent see America as pro-India; only 4 percent as pro-Pakistan." Do I need to provide a list of how different the American policy has been in relation to these two countries over the last 62 years starting from Kashmir to the civilian nuclear technology! Barry, mate do not rant about the dollars handed over to Musharraf and now to Zardari and his cronies. These have been provided to receive specific services from Pakistan army. Cost of actual work on the ground benefiting the common man that is delivered through USAID is comparatively peanuts.

I agree, though, with him that "conflicts are based on real collisions of interest, deeply differing ways of thinking about the world, widely distinct societies and histories. They are not easily bridged..."

In my view Barry represents a school of thought among "intellectuals" who would equate disagreement with American policies with hating USA or disagreement with Israeli government as anti-Semitism . Reading him I could see similarities in strength of views expressed by him and those of Abu Hamza the notorious hook handed cleric of Finsbury Park mosque in London. Difference is that they are talking from two different ends of political spectrum.

I must thank Barry for his closing remarks that were so patronising and pompous that since I come "from a place like Pakistan" I would like you to enjoy it to the fullest. Barry believes that "Ultimately, it is not America or globalization, not India or Israel, or George Bush who is responsible for the dislike emanating from places like Pakistan; and the material enmity coming from places like Pakistan; and the instability, terror attacks, or suffering arising within places like Pakistan. No, it is what people think, do, and how the society works, and what the goals are in places like Pakistan." Sounds more like an angry mother-in-law's rant than an intellectual discourse to me.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Swat Charity Iftar dinner in Cheshire

While I look for inspiration for my next blog post I am reproducing a message from Dr. Aamir Hannan from Cheshire who along with a group of other caring citizens are trying to ensure that the plight of Swat IDPs is not forgotten and that there is still a lot more we can do.


In just over 2 weeks time, we have arranged a Swat Charity Iftar at Davenport Green Hall, Hale Barns. We hope to raise much needed funds for the people who have been displaced as a result of the conflict in Swat where the people have been “almost forgotten”. There are 3 main ways we will enable money raised to reach the people on the ground there – Muslim Hands who already have a large presence there, the International Foundation for Mothers and Children Health [IFMCH] and Allama Mashriqi who are a new movement in Pakistan looking to help provide employment for the poor and better justice for all. There will be brief presentations from them explaining who they are and what they hope to achieve with the money raised. All profits from the event will go to support the people of Swat.

A number of items have been donated for the cause to be auctioned on the night including a signed Manchester United T-shirt and (hopefully!) a cricket bat signed by members of the Pakistan cricket team. There will be some beautiful Islamic art too. We will also be producing a booklet for you to take home with the details of kind sponsors as well without whom this event could not have taken place. I also understand the BBC are planning to come and record the event. We are also hoping to have a Muslim TV channel record the event so that it can be beamed over to Pakistan too. We have also invited the local priest and rabbi and others so that they may also join us in helping the people in Swat. There will also be a 3 course Indian meal with full waiter service for your total comfort.

Tickets cost £25 for adults, £10 for children and under 7s free.

If you know anybody that may wish to be a sponsor for the event or you would like to promote your business in the booklet then please ask them to contact me – an advert costs £250 or for £500 you get a table with 10 places as well as a table to promote your activities on the night as well as an advert.

The evening starts promptly at 7pm (please arrive before then!). Insha’Allah we hope the speeches and auction will be completed by 8pm at the latest.


Please forward this e-mail to any friends, colleagues or any other people that you think may be interested in coming. I would be very grateful if you could also personally contact 5 other people asking them if they would like to come too whether you can come or not. Activities such as this can be successful if we all do our part and support each other.

07977503548 "

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Murder and blame it on the Quran

An annual salary review conflict between the management and labour union of a local factory in a small industrial town near Lahore turned nasty yesterday. The "Muslim" labour leaders in cohorts with the Administration Officer of the factory decided to teach the "Muslim" factory owner a lesson by claiming that he desecrated a "wall calendar" (took it off the wall and threw it on the desk) that had verses from the holy Quran written on it. Labourers immediately took to streets in neighbouring villages and using the same three decades old script that I described in my last post gathered a small jihadi mob that attacked the factory and murdered the owner and his body guard.

This time, fortunately, no Christians or other minorities were involved or harmed. But the objectives were the same - to teach someone with whom you have a business conflict a lesson and make them pay with their life. And the modus operandi was the same: get a mob together and fuel the fire of emotions. Get your puppets do the killing.

Those of us not on the ground will blame it on religious extremism, reverence to the Quran, passion for the religion. Over the last three decades there have been countless episodes like this that more than often get bracketed as inter-communal or inter-sect strife. I beleive that a major factor is the absence of rule of law. Perpetrators always get away unscathed. Over 200 people have been nominated in the police report for this murder. Knowing the way police operates in Pakistan no one will be convicted. A businessman lost his life. The factory will, for sure, never open its gates again leaving hundreds of labourers out of job and ready to go on another rampage when the cleric calls.

Unless those who use religion to incite hatred and committ murder are made an example through a just judicial process, crimes likes these will carry on happening. Untill such time we should not blame rest of the world for calling us a religious extremest nation.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Gojra: bow your heads in shame

Killing of seven men, woman and children belonging to Christian faith and burning of a residential colony in Gojra is not the first incidence of its kind and will not be the last in Pakistan. Story line is all too familiar and has been used by the perpetrators with precision every time it happens.

This is how the script is reported:
  1. An individual or a group of people belonging to Christian faith are reported to have desecrated pieces of paper with Quranic verses on them
  2. A "God" fearing Muslim reports the incident to the cleric of the local mosque
  3. Cleric announces a call for all "God" fearing Muslims to get together and teach the Christian "infidels" a lesson
  4. An angry mob continuously urged by the Cleric attacks the whole community where the offending "infidels" live
  5. Properties of the offenders and their neighbourhood are torched and some innocent bystanders killed
  6. The offenders are either killed on the spot, or are taken into "protective custody" to be tried in a court of law
  7. Both communities get back to their day to day business
This is how it really happens:
  1. Two ordinary people from different faiths have a business conflict (normally something to do with alcohol) or a normal teenage or neighbourly scuffle
  2. The accidental Muslim among the two decides to teach the other one a lesson and tells the local cleric that the Christian has desecrated the holy Quran
  3. Using the mosque loud speakers the Cleric begins to gather troops (usually economically under privileged or job less who have got nothing else to do)
  4. A mob gets together with only one objective - burn and kill
  5. Police and other law enforcement authorities even with knowledge of what is brewing (they can hear the loudspeakers like any one else) decide to perform a disappearing act (something that they have turned into an art form)
  6. Cleric urges on, the mob burns and kills
  7. The Christian who is the target is either killed or arrested
  8. The court convicts the offenders and they rot in Jail, or the case is thrown out for lack of evidence
  9. In both cases, when released and returning to their homes, they are killed by pious henchmen of the cleric who started this in the first place
  10. Christians have been collectively taught a lesson to be submit
Issue of Blasphemy is not a new one but the script that I wrote above was given state approval during the reign of military dictator General Zia. This has been used against Christians and Muslims belonging to minority faiths, and in some cases against Muslims who dare teach liberal views (a Muslim lecturer at the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad fell victim to a similar plot for opposing a group of students belong to a political party with certain religious leaning).

I must underline that whole issue of blasphemy is a complex and multi-faceted one and should not be looked at as such. But one this is for sure that the Villain-in-Chief in this story and others is primarily the local cleric who incites religious hatred, holds the key to getting violent zealots together and in the end blesses the cold blooded murderers as the warriors of Islam. The person who holds central responsibility for the deaths and destruction these conflicts cause is the Cleric who always slips away in the aftermath.

Name of the character who holds responsibility for Gojra has been reported to be one Qari Latif, local Cleric who incited the mob and led the attacks. For as long as these Qari Latif's are allowed to get away unscathed more Gojras will happen. Now that the senior officials in Punjab government have acknowledged that the desecration incidence never happened lets make sure that Qari Latif is arrested, charged and punished in accordance with laws and made an example for others likes him.

Islam guarantees equal human rights to the minorities living under its protections. Lets stop Qari Latifs of this world from maligning my religion for their personal gains.