People Who Want to Impose Sharia Should Be Socially Isolated By Now

Source: Shahbaz Malik/Express Tribune

Are you not tired of hearing people screaming on TV talk shows that we have not learned our lessons in the war against terrorism? Hearing people ask why we need a military operation every one or two years.

One of the biggest reasons Pakistan has not been fully able to eradicate the tumor of terrorism, and probably never will, is because we speak from the both sides of our mouth. We probably never would be fully able to control the menace of Islamist terrorism because let’s face it, we actively support the ideals of the Taliban, whether good or bad, in Pakistan.

We speak of madrassah reform and guarding the Afghan border, but what do these abstractions really mean if you are silent about allies of terrorism within your borders? What are you going to do about people actively aligning themselves with the ideology of the terrorists?

Have we not implemented the Will and the Law of God by establishing the Objectives Resolution and declaring Pakistan an Islamic Republic? Since then, have we not established the Shariah Courts, as well as the Islamic Ideological Council?

So what is this “Sharia” that these people speak of? Surely, they are referring to the atrocious system that the Taliban have been imposing in Afghanistan and the Northwestern parts of the country, and currently practiced by the menacing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This system involves women locked inside their homes and not leaving them without an acquaintance and wrapped in face veils, as well as cruel and inhumane penalties such as stoning to death and public floggings.

Perhaps, you could argue that they are free to do so under their constitutional right of the freedom of association, if not out of pure religious obligation. If this is what freedom of religion is going to protect, then we should have nothing to do with that constitutional liberty.

But here is the question that we all must be asking. Why should such people be treated any less harshly than the way the Communist party workers were during the Cold War years? We had the luxury to malign them socially for allegedly being atheists, as many of them would have been. But how to counter the hardcore Islamist who thinks that the common Pakistani, always busy dodging the label of kafir, is an infidel?

The Pakistani military’s periodic and desperate outbursts against Islamist militants ironically branded by fancy Arabic names are not going to achieve anything lasting. Because probably they are scared enough to even address the Islamists within their own rank and file. It is because they are not even there yet to address the madrasahs at home, which are virtually sanctuaries for Islamism.

We live in a country where people get away with issuing amateur fatwas of death against just about anyone they please. Especially, when these legal opinions are considered established verdicts. Let that sink in. That is the state of morality of our nation at the moment. So, of course, we are not going to hear anyone challenge the authorities of the assets of Islamism in the country. Everyone is too scared.

Islamist terrorists around the world, from Al-Qaida and the Islamic State to Hezbollah and Muslim Brotherhood, are sadly united by one battle cry. Their local ally Jamaat-e-Islami is no exception. All of them are pan-Islamists at heart and support global domination of theocracy by belief and practice it under the guise of practicing their mystical version of “Sharia.” A doctrine that brutally destroys humanities, arts, and culture, whether secular or religious. Sometimes even taking refuge in democratic systems to drive their undemocratic totalitarian agenda.

The fact of the matter remains, and our civil and military leadership should realize it, that supporters of Taliban terrorists are present throughout the country. A suicide bomber does not reach Sehwan from the Afghan border in a day. Every single person who wants to “establish Sharia” despite living in an Islamic Republic happens to be one for starters. Because clearly, they have more sinister designs in mind which are threatening to the way of life of the cultures of the Indus.

Considering the latest in news, you can safely estimate that the security establishment is focusing its attention on, if not taking sadistic pleasure in, persecuting the perfectly wrong elements. Of course, this sort of behavior would be absolutely unacceptable in a parallel universe, but since we are condemned to be stuck in this one, let us hope that they amend their focus to the real threats faced by the nation.

However, it is important to get some perspective in order to achieve that. By the way, the imposition of Sharia as these people see it would not just be an ideological defeat to a handful of harmless secular bloggers isolated in their respective bubbles. It would be as great an inconvenience to the obscenely lavish and Westernized lifestyle of our honorable politicians, generals, and bureaucrats. A group of people who have colluded to force their subjects to live by very different rules.

As long as the state does not correct its focus, the pointless firefighting drills against the real enemies of the state would never end.

And it is about time we reject and isolate those around us demanding “Sharia” ourselves because our leaders do not have the guts to take action.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.
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One Good Reason to Celebrate the Valentine’s Day

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

Many of us are cynical when it comes to the Valentine’s Day. And for a good reason too. The Western and probably overly commercialized holiday makes you cringe. And of course, you don’t even need to focus on the harassment that ensues.

But we have forgotten in our sharp criticism that somewhere people with sincere expressions of love are celebrating this holiday too.

I know many people respond that they don’t need a specific day to express their love, because they do so every day. But perhaps we do since we are so lost in our materialistic pursuits in a gesellschaft.

How many times do you speak to a particular friend in a year? Let alone a love interest. At least I don’t nearly as many times as someone would expect, if at all. But I should speak for myself only.

But if none of these arguments make any sense to you, which is perfectly fine, there is one good reason that would help you celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or at least realize that it should not be taken for granted.

Don’t forget that Sabeen fought for the freedom to celebrate the holiday. I don’t know about most of you, but to me, Valentine’s Day is a good occasion to respect the memory of Sabeen, a true Pakistani free speech hero.

Well, now you would hardly find a trace of photographic evidence of this episode online because our overly concerned media publications worried about the sensitivities of their audience too much. However, like the photographs from the campaign, the courage of Sabeen Mahmud in the face of religious authoritarianism must not be erased from our memory.

We know for a fact that the campaign at least jeopardized her life thanks to the instant fatwa machines in the Karachi madrassahs. However, you could speculate if that was the only motive of her killer, if any at all. But that’s what they tell us.

With every forgiven attack and every neglected bit of hate speech and death threats, we are condemned to desensitize ourselves from this moral abomination. However, we are also condemned to put up with it, until we are not. Because in a land where morality is enforced by threatening the life of its citizens, the only law is that of the sword, not of some high moral divinity.

In a society, such as this, celebrating the Valentine’s Day is an act of defiance in itself. Especially when our courts issue verdicts such as banning the holiday in public spaces that defy the standards of civil rights. In some cases, it is even an act of sheer mad bravery. Not very different to what Sabeen did during her campaign challenging religious authoritarianism.

I am not a fan of mingling political statements with holiday celebrations at all. But this is one exception that I would not mind. So, when you celebrate Valentine’s Day in Pakistan, do keep in mind that in such a society, the holiday is more than just vain indulgence.

Isn’t it a good reason to celebrate?

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Pakistani Free Speech Hero of the Year 2015: Sabeen Mahmud

Source: The News

Source: The News

There were quite a few Pakistanis braving their way through threats, intimidation, discrimination and hate, but who could equal the couragee that Sabeen Mahmud has inspired us with. She used to do things where others like me only talked from behind the closed doors of their comfortable lairs. She interacted with people and reached out instead of resorting to convenient misanthropy.

While most people thought she was targeted by people trying to silence, her fundamentalist killer confessed that he was offended by her Valentine’s Day movement, for which she was my hero in 2013. While some folks can still argue about what caused her untimely death, there is no argument over her brilliant resolve to say and fight for the right thing in an environment very hostile to free speech.

She is a free speech hero in the true sense of the word. Others can make claims, but she lived that and probably proved the point with her death-defying lifestyle. What makes her special was that she was a woman of action, not just words. Her death, by far the worst shock of this year, shook us to the core. But still, it is hard to express in words how proud I and many of my friends are of Sabeen. Long live her cause.

Source: Laal

Source: Laal

However, she is by far not the only free speech hero this year. In countries where curbs on free speech are a norm, there hardly ever is. Not unrelated to her accommodation of the talk about Baluch rights featuring Mama Qadeer at T2F in Karachi is Taimur Rehman of Laal, a professor of Political Science in the LUMS affiliated with the Communist Mazdoor Kisan Party. Taimur is known for speaking out about unpopular causes such as rights of minority religious groups and labor rights in a country very hostile to leftist parties.

What made matters even worse for Taimur Rehman was the smear campaign run against him by pro-establishment nationalists for speaking about Balochistan, particularly on mainstream media while he had no access to any such platform to clarify his views. The campaign largely condemnded him as a traitor and accused him of having links with Baluch nationalist separatists. It certainly takes courage to express political dissent as openly as Taimur does, but it goes to show how dangerous doing so still is in Pakistan, particularly with the history of bans on the Communist Party.

PervezRasheed-dawn-p-1

Source: Dawn

Another reminder why democracy is so important. Speaking of which, it is not everyday that a member of the government wins a nod in the Free Speech hero of the year post, but this year is an exception. Pervez Rasheed, the soft spoken but expressive Senator and Minister of Information from PML-N attracted the ire of the clerics and religious conservatives by his speech promoting rational education and condemning madrassahs or religious seminaries as “Universities of Ignorance.”  It’s a big deal coming from a government official of an Islamic Republic.

As expected, Pervez Rasheed was bombarded with condemnation, rather damnation of excommunication from the religious clerics, who bestowed all sorts of titles on him including Ahmedi, infidel, atheist and non-believer, not that anything is wrong with all that. However, that is a fundamentalist Muslim’s way of saying they hate you, and well killing you is alright.

This only goes to show that even government officials are not free from the attacks of religious conservatives for speech, that can potentially cost them their lives if not their positions. I am just glad that protests against him did not escalate as much as in the case of Pakistan’s first foreign minister Sir Zafrullah Khan for being Ahmedi. Because it very easily could have. The good news is that he is undeterred and still serving in the same position, and is a good example for the rest of the leaders in the government to follow for criticizing the role of religion in public life.

Read about the Pakistani Free Speech hero of the last year here.

The War Against Islamist Terrorism is Alive

Source: asiadespatch.org

Source: asiadespatch.org

Just when we started to forget the problem even existed, after a great period of silence from our passionate religious zealots, we finally saw an attack on a major government official.

Following threats to his life, Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzaada, along with several others, was killed in a suicide bomb in his native Attock village. The interior minister was a vocal critic of sectarian terrorism and had taken up the responsibility to take action against illegal seminaries, clerics guilty of free speech, and abuse of the “loudspeaker” for religious purposes. He was also undoubtedly a national hero.

This is a grim reminder that the enemy we are confronting is right here among us, instead of taking refuge across a distant border. It is also an absolute shame that we have the need to say these things over and over again, especially due to the fact that many people are simply not ready to accept that. Especially when you would find people who would even find an excuse for sectarian militancy and terrorism, such as the absence of enough religious laws.

The recent sad passing of Gen. Hameed Gul, only reminds people of his role during the regime of President Zia-ul-Haq, a man widely held responsible for the spread of Islamic militancy in the region to this degree. The problem is still very much alive after three decades. But is the problem really worsening?

We often complain about the lack of firmness from the law enforcement authorities, especially the political governments in order to combat Islamist extremism and sectarian terrorism.

With the likes of Shuja Khanzada, Salmaan Taseer, Mian Iftikhar, and Pervez Rasheed in our government bodies, and with the ongoing military operation against Islamist terrorists, there is always hope for improvement.

PML-N government has been consistently under fire for allegations of harboring sectarian extremists, especially those known to target the Shia community. It is commendable that the federal and provincial government tried to redeem itself of the allegations, whether mere partisan attacks or not, by taking steps to counter Islamist militancy and appointing the likes of Shuja Khanzada to take on such elements. The civil government and military desperately need to come together to keep up such measures.

Despite the forceful Zarb-e-Azab military operation, attacks such as the one on Khanzada are reflective of the fact that the enemy does not just reside in the tribal areas, or on the Afghan border. The enemy is not just the rebellious Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The Islamist parties with pervasive presence all over Pakistan, fighting for unchecked and unregulated madrassahs are the part of the problem. It is their defense of their dangerous ideology is what we need to fight at the same time.

It is not just one rebel group that we need to take out, but the adherents of the dangerous ideology of Islamism. It is time to start curbing this so-called religious freedom which is constantly at work to jeopardize the lives and liberty of the citizens of this country.

What we need right now is developing a national consensus to counter the underestimated and largely ignored risk of Islamist militancy, which cannot be separated from the madrassahs, whether we like to face it or not. Unless we do so, we cannot do justice to the sacrifices made by brave leaders such as Shuja Khanzada, Salman Taseer and Mian Iftikhar.

Our religious and nationalist conservatives can’t stop talking about the foreign hand behind the terrorism in the country. But watching the footage of the collapsed house of Shuja Khanzada, I could not help but wonder for a minute why someone in their right mind would do something like that. Blowing yourself up is not easy, if you come to think of it for a minute. Money simply does not explain it.

The answer is clear. It is the death cult of Islamism which is brainwashing young and old to act this way, all in hope for redemption in the afterlife. It is ironic that the fear of death drives these lunatics to death itself. But while the foot soldiers of Islamism keep on getting wasted, it sadly only fuels the fervor of many more potential recruits looking to rid themselves of the worldly body of filth and to embrace an afterlife of pleasures.

Islamist terrorism is still strong, make no mistake about it. It will remain to be, unless this dangerous and cancerous ideology is not countered, because they are simply not giving up. It is just not an option for them, and frankly countering it should not be one for us. We need to recognize that it is the greatest threat to freedom and the civilized way of life in Pakistan, and around the world.

It is time we stop underestimating this threat.

It is time we support the government and the military to fight it, for the war against Islamist terrorism is still alive.

The suicide attack on Shuja Khanzada is a reminder that Islamist terrorists follow up on their threats.

It is time that we follow up on ours.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Dangerous Estimations

Source: The Nation

Source: The Nation

A lot of people are shocked at the suspects captured for the murder of Sabeen Mahmud and the Ismaili community bus attack. Though there are many others who are not, whether any links are found with foreign intelligence agencies or not.

Many people are dumbfounded by the idea that graduates of the most prestigious secular educational institutes could be involved in such mindless, fanatic violence. A lot of apologists for religious seminaries are rather delighted that the fingers are being pointed toward students of schools and colleges. What they are completely ignoring is how comprehensively the effects of the teachings of their beloved seminaries and pulpits are engulfing the society. Actually, they should be proud of the results.

If these suspects did indeed commit these crimes, as at least one of them with a relatively “sinful”, affluent background has reportedly confessed, that alone is not evidence of the possibility of fundamentalist indoctrination of college students in our society. We know for a fact that there is a pattern. People living our educational institutions experience it firsthand every day.

The misconception that higher education completely turns you into a rational person that is peaceful in all respects is simply wishful thinking. This only goes to show how vulnerable our youth are to religious indoctrination. And if that is not a problem, they are certainly prone to fall for more stupid ideas at least. For example, killing people for “celebrating Valentine’s Day”, or because they happen to have a different religious sect or leader.

The biggest reason to that is that there is nothing about the technical scientific, though secular, education that shuts down the religious indoctrination on the side. As a matter of fact, technical education such as electrical and chemical engineering can only equip them with the necessary knowledge of executing their terrorist missions. Perhaps it would be realistic to expect college graduates to not to turn to religious fundamentalism, had critical reasoning been a mandatory course, just like Islamic Studies and Pakistan Studies are in the junior grades.

Even that is not a guarantee that people would not fall for religious fundamentalism because you always have the option of not applying what you are studying. An option which can be as effectively exercised as shrugging off evidence that disturbs your worldview.

So when people are making assumptions such as these, they are making two critical errors. They are overestimating the structure of the secular education, which does not necessarily promise strict indoctrination, if any at all, of a system of morality. They are also underestimating the effects of religious indoctrination dedicated to the very goal, and the fears and desires of the human nature that it addresses.

We make such mistakes not only in commenting on certain tragedies and acts of terrorism, but even when we vote. And it is probably the same mistake when we apologize for the acts and beliefs of the more radical of the religious fundamentalists across the globe.

Of course, what is the harm in voting for a religious party? It is not like they are going to bring about a Khomeniesque revolution overnight, are they?

However, reducing the problem of religious fundamentalism among college students to the lack of rational application only undermines the problem. Approaching religious fundamentalism at college should also be seen as a political movement, not too different to any other college union, just like the leftists or right nationalists.

You can adhere to the idea that Sharia, or say Marxism, should be enforced in the country without giving a second thought to what the doctrine actually is. You don’t need to know what the ramifications would be anyway. If you do and still want it, even better. Makes you a better foot soldier for the cause.

Besides, it must be harmless if it is a divinely sanctioned code of governance and lifestyle. We’ll change.

A version of this post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Day 3: Kissa Khwani by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan – “Evolution of Cities”

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

Source: Kuch Khaas/Muhammad Waheed Photography

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan, a platform dedicated to documenting oral history, organized a three day event called “Kissa Khwani” in Islamabad, named after the famous Kissa Khwani Bazaar in Peshawar, which was meant to promote the tradition of preserving oral historical accounts and storytelling. On June 22, 2013, the third and final episode of the three day event, “Evolution of Cities” was held in Islamabad.

The panelists of the Islamabad event included columnist Ishrat Hyatt, renowned award winning photgrapher Syed Javed Kazi, Shafiq Siddiqui, urban town planner and senior director of CDA and Fauzia Minallah, nature conservation and peace activist and founder of Funkor Child Art Foundation. The event was moderated by Parveen Malik, the President of Asian Study Group.

I am sure a lot more significant sister event was held in Lahore with the same topic, where panelists included one of my favorite speakers and writers about history, travel and archeology, Salman Rashid. The Lahore event also included urban town planning expert Imrana Tiwana, artist and preservationist Dr. Ajaz Anwer, journalist Nusrat Jamil and architect Nayyar Ali Dada.

The event started with the moderator Parveen Malik recalling her early days in the twin cities when she moved in here with her husband in the ’60s. She talked about hanging out at the Shezan Restaurant, at the London Book Store and spending New Year eves at the famous Flashmann’s Hotel. She also talked about the covered market in Islamabad, which was sold off to everyone’s shock, apart from one of the Nafdec theatres in Islamabad, which was temporarily closed after a bureaucrat’s wife was bitten there by a rat.

She also mentioned a discotheque, aptly named “Disaster”, in the early days of the Islamabad Club where families used to hang out and dance. The discotheque was shut down after one Saturday night, a couple of MNAs demanded entry into the club and jumped into the swimming pool after stripping when denied. The membership fee was a few hundred rupees in those days, which is now up in hundred thousands.

Ishrat Hyatt talked about the peaceful environment in Rawalpindi and Islamabad in the 60s. She recalled how parents had complete faith that their children would return home safely each time they went out. She mentioned the unforgettable sight of fireflies in Rawalpindi, which gradually disappeared as the city expanded. She mourned the loss of a bunch of beautiful cottages that made way for the construction of a cricket stadium.

Photographer Javed Kazi painted a picture of his pleasant walks across Rawalpindi, from the Charing Cross all the way up to Topi Rakh, the location of the Ayub National Park. Kazi observed that the natural beauty of the city offered numerous photo opportunities. Structures such as Flashmann’s Hotel and the 1907 built St. Paul’s Church are located on the same road, known as the Mall. A 30 feet high statue of Queen Victoria also stood at the square by the St. Paul’s Church, which was later uprooted.

According to Kazi, one of the most remarkable structures in Rawalpindi from the colonial times is the Rawalpindi Cathedral, which was built around 1852. Another significant building of the period was the Presidency, which was actually the palace of Sikhs related to the legendary Sujan Singh of Rawalpindi. The building now serves as the campus of Fatima Jinnah Women’s University.

Other structures by the Mall Road included the Odeon and the Plaza theatres, which were surrounded by gardens at the time. Freemason’s Hall was one of the little known structures of the city on the way to Florence Road. Rawalpindi also housed religious structures of Hindu and Sikh communities. There used to be a major Hindu temple in Bagh Sardaraan, while there was a Gurdwara of Narankari Sikhs in the Narankari Bazaar located in Rawalpindi city center.

Shafik Siddiqui of CDA commenced a long account laying out the history of the creation of Islamabad with the mention of the formulation of the Federal Capital Commission under President Ayub Khan. The commission selected a territory of approximately 350 square miles spanning an area from Kohala to Hassan Abdal and from Rawat to the location of Khanpur Dam, beyond the Margallas. The commission ruled out the idea of moving the federal capital to East Pakistan.

The Greek architects of Islamabad, Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, chose to plan the city in a grid iron pattern. This was a feat in its own right, since the grid pattern is suited for planes, instead of plateaus and hills that make up the territory of Islamabad. To the astonishment of the audiences, he mentioned that the notorious Nullah Lai, used to be a source of fresh water supply for the residents of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, which was discontinued after an epidemic broke out in the 1990s. The rest is history.

He also mentioned that four major highways were planned to be built around the city, namely, the Kashmir Highway, Islamabad Highway, Capital Highway and finally the never-built Sawan Highway, which was meant to replace the GT Road. He observed that the CDA plans to remove encroachments around the city were badly affected by corruption and lack of law and order, apart from fear of certain religious groups.

Fauzia Minallah began her account by expressing her attachment to the natural beauty of Islamabad. She recalled that she instantly fell in love with the place when she moved there. She passionately talked about the pleasures of exploring the Margallas and the Saidpur village. She spoke fondly of her experience of interacting with the natives of the village and especially with the village potter Rahim Dad, who had a pottery workshop in the village.

She mourned the loss of tolerance in the society, apart from the gradually diminishing natural beauty. She told the story of the chopping down of the “Buddhist Tree” in the E7 sector at the hands of religious fundamentalists for being sacreligious, where her Japanese friend Tajima Shinji used to meditate. I found this rather ironical because I once tweeted that maybe the only way people in our culture could preserve trees was declaring them sacred.

She also noted that Saidpur used to be a pilgrimage site for Hindus but they cannot dare visit the place anymore out of fear of extremists. She observed that the fundamentalist Muslims were narrowing down the living space for people from other communities, giving them an impression that they are not welcome here. Perhaps it was her, or Parveen Malik, who mentioned that the very name of the city, Islamabad, was like a warning to people following other faiths.

She also attacked people who called Islamabad a “dead city” due to the lack of social activities. She said that Islamabad was never a dead city to her because of its immense natural beauty and for being very habitable. She said that people should understand that every city has its own mood and this is how Islamabad is meant to be. It is not supposed to look like a city with high rise buildings.

According to Minallah, the construction of high rise buildings in Islamabad has been disastrous to its appearance and environment. She warned that unusually high structures are not meant to be built in Islamabad due to its high earthquake risk for being located on a fault line. She also criticized the “so-called developmental projects” from the CDA which were a threat to the trees of the city and which polluted the then pristine fresh water streams of Saidpur village. The stream now pretty much looks like an open sewer.

Minallah mourned the insensitivity of the town planners regarding ancient and heritage structures, as well as precious trees. She mentioned that most of the urban development of the city was misguided. She insisted that people would rather have cinemas instead of shopping malls. Answering one question she rejected the notion that people do not have a good sense of their connection with nature and their heritage. She insisted that the results of the 2013 elections confirmed that the people of Pakistan were aware.

On my question about the pathetic transport system in Islamabad, which was particularly unfriendly to anyone who dared to commute to the Capital from Rawalpindi, Mr. Siddiki admitted that it has been a problem area. He said that much had been planned to develop the transportation system of the twin cities, but out of lack of funds and sincere will,  no such projects materialized the way they should have. He also blamed the local tranporter’s unions for the problem.

Siddiki also mentioned that religious extremism and blackmailing have been on the rise in Islamabad for years and it has been a major hurdle for the CDA to carry out disciplinary measures. Parveen Malik noted that mosques in Islamabad were not allowed to build madrassahs, but just about every mosque had been violating the law, without attracting the attention of the CDA. She mentioned that President Musharraf wanted to take action against the madrassahs but Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman intervened and convinced him not to.

The panelists and participants seemed to agree that the newly constructed high rise buildings looked ugly and out of the place in Islamabad. Many raised the point that the rusty water supply pipes in the city should be fixed, which were getting mixed up with sewage at places.

But as a citizen of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the cause that appealed to me the most was the preservation of trees. Fauzia Minallah deserves applause for raising the issue. I wish there were ways we could help people who stand up for nature for a change.

In the end, I found the Kissa Khwani event a very fulfilling experience as far as interacting people was concerned. I congratulate the Citizens Archive of Pakistan for organizing the event.

I really hope this town sees another one of these events.

Note: This is not a paid post.

The Hypocrisy Must Come to an End: Education in Pakistan

While it is safe to say that the human race itself is not immune to hypocrisy in one form or another, but of course,  some lines must be drawn to maintain enough sanity which could prove that we are intelligent beings.

This is why I will never go too far in criticizing any particular people’s extent of hypocrisy. But I would take the audacity to briefly comment on certain hypocritical behavior of the society in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, which can adversely affect the lives of the people.

Of course, no one minds the fact that Thomas Jefferson used to dislike comedy as a genre, while having Don Quixote as one of his favorite books, quoting the Millennium issue of the TIME magazine, but you would surely object to contradictions which become a hurdle to justice and to conduct with the public instead of this innocuous personal habit. In fact, contradictions occur naturally at times, but sometimes they are deliberate, and that is when they are the most malignant.

A noticeable, but rarely noted act of hypocrisy prevalent in Pakistan, as I have discussed with a couple of friends, and it is thanks to them that I am writing these lines I must say, is the occurrence of three parallel education systems in Pakistan. These systems are the English language medium based on the Cambridge system or even if we include the matriculation system in it, the Urdu language medium and the Madrassah or Traditional Islamic schooling system.

First of all, let it be clear that none of these systems are inappropriate for any reasons and that all of them hold an equal value. But the reason why they can complicate the lives of the students is that they find it hard to switch from one system or medium of education to the other, and unfortunately, when students reach the level of higher education, then they are forced to make the ultimate shift to the English language medium of study.

This may sound easy to some, but it is not to millions of children in Pakistan who study in the Urdu language medium and the Madrassah system. Since those studying in the Madrassah system are doing so due to the stubbornness of their parents, so there is not much use into going into that dimension of this discussion. However, as for the Urdu language medium education, the irony is that it is offered by a great majority of government schools, if not almost all of them.

There is nothing wrong with studying in the Urdu language medium. It is the national language, and probably that is the reason why it has been used in government schools for years, which are the only affordable option for a great majority of masses. A seemingly noble step, but having no connection with the ground realities. From the very inception of the state, English language has been the prerequisite of most of the higher education and employment opportunities.

Even if you want to join government service, and want to take the civil service examination, your proficiency over English is mandatory for you to pass it and to even be considered for selection. This demand of the government’s recruiting institution FPSC and its provincial equivalents seem to be quite unreasonable given the education language medium provided by the government itself in its schools.

I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but from the way the education systems have been set up in Pakistan, it seems that it is a deliberate effort to prevent a large segment of population from exploiting more educational and professional opportunities. Although higher education is expensive all over the world, except for in some liberal countries, but consider that most of the masses will be handicapped for an altogether different reason.

This point could be proven wrong through a number of instances in which students from the Urdu language medium schooling have been able to settle well in the English language medium of study and have excelled in jobs in both government and private sectors. I accept that before any one points it out. But to be honest, those are exceptional individual cases and no one really expects  all the students to accomplish that.

But that is not the point anyway. The point to consider is the difficulty that millions of students face in Pakistan to settle to different language media and education systems. I personally know of students who had studied in the Urdu language medium schools and had to learn English from scratch when they reached college. May not happen in the large cities, but it does happen to the students living in the rural areas. Believe me, it is not easy to do so.

The point which appeals to the common sense is that when they ultimately have to make a shift towards English, given our socioeconomic setup, then why not introduce English as a compulsory subject from the very start, and hire quality teachers for teaching them in government schools. I know it is easier said than done, but at least we can make a start. We just need determination, resolution and a sincere intention to do so, more than money and manpower.

We have all the resources we need. And while the bureaucracy, politicians and feudals, who have an obscurantist record anyway, are largely responsible for this mess (along with the people themselves), but they could take the masses out of it if they sincerely wanted to. Provide quality education with an equal opportunity to all and nothing can prevent a nation from progressing. But what to do when some parts of the population are not having access to even a basic education.

Furthermore, as a matter of principle, there should be unity of education systems in the country, with every student having the same opportunity and the same access to an indiscriminating and single education system, meant for every citizen of Pakistan. And that should be made possible practically, not just in word.

The Madrassah education should carry on as they will, since they always will operate as a separate entity due to the religious element, and maybe it’s a good thing. But they should also be required to strictly adhere to certain requirements which the government education authorities should instruct them to follow, which could help the students to remain in touch with all the fields of life.

The fact that the government does not have enough funds to run a well-organized education system, while offering decent wages for teachers and furnishing the school with quality equipment is immaterial here. They could have at least made their efforts in the right direction in the first place. But it is never too late to start, and yes, we have all the resources we need. Better start working instead of whining.

And besides, we, as a nation, have a lot of funds for defense and for a lot of unnecessary expenses, such as those incurred ever passing hour in the Prime Minister House, the President House and for the expenses at the disposal of the minsters, but we do not have a paisa to spare for providing the masses with quality education. What a shame!

America, IMF or even Allah would not help us if we don’t help ourselves.