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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The Minimum Responsibility

Source: ISPR

Pakistan is probably the only country in the world where coups are always unmistakably bloodless and unopposed.

But there is a slight problem with such carte blanche bloodless coups. It has become somewhat of an accepted practice, and one which is almost taken for granted. Just like how rapists are turned into grooms in a conservative society.

There has been recent news that the Pakistani government is to try General Pervez Musharraf for treason for abrogating the constitution. I think it is encouraging that finally the authorities are taking note of people abrogating the constitution. However, there is a problem with it.

First of all, I am, by no means, implying that such a trial should not be held and am surely not apologizing for the General. But I would only support it to be symbolic as long as the barbaric law of death for treason remains in effect. I would also like the prosecution to include other personnel to establish the minimum responsibility for the charge, of course with the degrees of responsibility and offense taken into consideration.  

While discussing the illegal and unconstitutional take over of the government by Musharraf, we must also try those who were directly responsible for preventing it. Now I am not saying that we should not hold people accountable for breaking the law, as some supporters of Musharraf would like to do, by demanding obstruction to a trial because a lot of other people were involved too. Especially when Article 6 of the constitution includes the clause of those aiding in the abrogation of the constitution. If the trial goes on at all, that is.

There is a reason why minimum responsibility should be established in this case and why it is not equivalent to inaction in other moral problems, because it has a legal basis. This is because army officers are responsible as per their oath to uphold the Constitution of Pakistan. This is why at least the Armed forces corps commanders should be responsible to stop the Army Chief from abrogating the constitution and taking over the country.

Arguably this should also be true for judges, civil servants and politicians, but given the precedence of military might in Pakistan in terms of politics, that is a relatively unrealistic demand, but a reasonable one and certainly not without basis in legal logic.

Furthermore, who are the only ones who have any real power to prevent someone from their ranks abusing the law and the constitution of the country? It is indeed none else but the army leadership. And to be more accurate with establishing the minimum responsibility, the corps commanders, probably.

Why it is that all the corps commanders apparently seem to be fine with the idea of their chief or even one of them arresting the Prime Minister and taking over the government? Why do they not defect from this defecting and technically treasonous faction of the state and prevent an action that is not only unlawful, but malicious to the Republic?

Why can the military not disobey all the unlawful commands of their corrupt superior and actually arrest the one person or a few who are actually the ones who need to be removed? It is only they who can prevent  this unconstitutional and dictatorial atrocity from occurring. After all, it is only they who have the necessary force to commit the crime in the first place.

But no, our military officers would be under the delusion of genuinely believing that the military rule is what the country really needed, believe it or not.

Or afterwards, when a democratic government is installed, they would justify their complicity by citing the blind military discipline to be the reason when they follow the unconstitutional and illegal commands of their superiors, such as arresting the elected Prime Minister and the cabinet.

What becomes of the blind military discipline when military commanders plan and act to stage coups? What becomes of the blind military discipline when the top military brass decides to supersede the authority of those who they are answerable to?

Army officers following unconstitutional and illegal orders from their superiors is neither discipline nor responsibility. It only makes them a party to a crime which is in clear violation of their oath, which also makes it a professional failure, surely a greater problem than jeopardizing democracy.

Let us establish at least the minimum reasonable responsibility for treason for the October 1999 coup, if we are to try for it at all.

Let us try all the corps commanders and commanding officers carrying out unconstitutional and authoritarian measures of force. And those who failed to prevent them. In that order and, if found guilty, penalizing with the respective degree.

But let us first remove the ridiculous penalty of death for the charge of treason.

On How To Treat Unvaccinated Children

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

Source: AFP/Express Tribune

The past day saw one of the most ridiculous government decrees that I have ever come across in my life. But of course where it could have taken place than in the domain of the most dynamic and dexterous ruler of the world, the Khadim-e-Aala, Mr. Shahbaz Sharif. As it could not have gone without his dreaded blessing.

The DCO Lahore announced that any child that goes without a necessary vaccination will not be issued a birth certificate and will not be granted admission to a school. I have never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. It’s just amazing the things they are coming up with these days.

I don’t know who really came up with this fantastic idea in the first place. I actually find it more bannable than any blasphemous novel or a video sharing website.

Depriving unvaccinated children of school admission is just like denying a starving child a meal just because their parents didn’t feed them. Actually, you can’t even explain it with analogies. It’s so plain ridiculous, it probably has no equal. It’s simply brilliant.

I mean, are they really serious? While a part of me does not even take this order seriously, are they really going to treat children who are not given a vaccination in that manner? Are they really going to keep them out of schools? And not issue birth certificates? They didn’t even know anything such as vaccines existed when they were babies. It’s the parents’ fault, if at all.

Furthermore, while there is no doubt that children must be vaccinated unless there is a valid scientific reason not to such as allergies, not every unvaccinated child is infected. Also, being unvaccinated does not make you infectious, just less vulnerable to virus attacks. Correct me if I am wrong please. Some people are under the impression that unvaccinated children can infect their children. Well, it depends.

If a child does survive skipping vaccinations somehow, then I guess improving access to healthcare is the best way to move forward, instead of adding to the country’s already apalling rate of literacy. Again, I am not really taking their “threat” too seriously, but you never know with people like these at the helm.

They can spend billions of rupees on fly-overs and unnecessary road reconstruction, but would not spend even half that money on the hospitals of the province. The budget for healthcare is simply not a priority for the government. Despite the repeated protests from an association of doctors employed in the government hospitals. It’s not that building roads is not important, but other things are too.

But what kind of regulations are these, and someone running the government should know better than to allow their enforcement. How infinitely stupid some of our civil servants are, especially with their licenses to fuck the lives of people beyond redemption. They look down upon people and consider themselves demigods of intelligence, but I can tell you, you can’t serve people like that.

But since they are so disconnected with reality that they don’t even seem to have common sense, you can hardly expect anything but such nonsense from them. It really should not be surprising.

River Ravi - Source: Express Tribune

River Ravi – Source: Express Tribune

Let us just hope the unvaccinated children do not get thrown in the river Ravi in the years to come. However, it sounds an apt way to dispose them off since they don’t deserve birth certificates and school anyway.

It could even prove to be a blessing in disguise, as it could be the first real step towards resolving the overpopulation crisis in Pakistan.

No Place for Human Rights in Politics

Source: Alt-market.com/ © 1957 AB Svensk Filmindustri

There is no place for human rights in politics.

You may consider this statement insensitive and absurd, but it pretty much is the harsh reality. I would like to think otherwise as well.

A conclusion that you can reach after carefully analyzing the events of history, both near and distant. The examples are simply so many that it almost seems futile to waste your time and energy on that. Take all the wars of the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries as an example. For some, the post will simply be a case of stating the obvious and something as obvious as a straightforward mathematical equation. For others, it will be something terribly unacceptable since quite a few politicians are genuinely sincere about human rights. But it needs to be shamelessly stated over and over again, without whining about it, if you would like to see it that way.

Sometimes it seems so absurd to complain to governments about human rights because that is simply not a priority to them, unless if it is a project that aligns with their interests. States are concerned about their survival, as individuals are, but they are far more powerful and have much greater control over the lives of individuals for their decisions to not to affect them. This is why in their bid of survival, growth and glory, a lot of bad things happen to the individuals who either work to make it happen or stand in their way.

However, saying that does not mean that you should not have a regard for human rights as a human being neither does that imply that politics should not have a place for human rights. Apparently, politics does have a place for human rights. Everyone talks about it as long as they do not feel threatened. Because guess what, politicians talk about human rights all the time. And that really makes an observer sick up to the stomach. Not all politicians are alike and not all are as deceptive and corrupt as others. Some may even be genuinely honest. But most of the time, you would find such politicians with the weakest of control and influence.

While I do not want to ruin the point this post is making by offering specific examples that will influence you in a partisan manner, you can pretty much find a number of examples in today’s world and in ancient history. There is a saying from the great Biblical wisdom, try discarding this one if you will, that nothing has changed under the sun and that is pretty much true for politics if not for anything else. The only difference is that individual lives has become more secure in some parts of the world, though there are people out there who even doubt that seriously.

Warfare has not changed much and invading armies treat the people as brutally as they ever did. No matter who the offender is and no matter what part of the world it is. But I have already mentioned in quite a few of my posts earlier that politics has a discriminatory and insincere approach towards human rights and you feel almost hypocritical talking about human rights when you are defending a state at the same time. It’s not the people’s fault though. That is what they are supposed to believe. That their states support human rights. Of all the states active in geopolitics, I cannot think of one which does and of all the other states, their silence makes them as guilty perhaps. Or maybe they are better off that way.

You need to be very good at handling cognitive dissonance to be able to promote human rights while defending states, or you either need a very short memory or a very religious devotion to whatever party you are supporting. To the thinking brain, this can very much mean disgust and contempt for everything related to human morality in whatever form it exists on the planet. Therefore, it is good if you do not take any sides at all but not necessarily bad if you do take sides with whatever entity you follow. Anyone with a political motivation seems to be up for something evil and if you do not participate in it and do not kill your competition first, you will be killed anyway.

As the politically active mind of Plato said,

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

                                                                                 – Plato (428 – 347 BCE)

Integrate that to petty domestic politics if you will, but I am concerned about a much broader perspective over here. Surely nothing in the world can stop you from being robbed by your local powerhouses, no matter which side you vote for, but how about politics on a broader canvas? But even on the domestic level, not sure if the people you consider your inferiors are really the way you perceive them. Surely you are inferior if you are not in power even though you perceive them inferior to you intellectually. But if you are able to survive and do not consider power important, then surely you are better off. But that’s relative.

In the world we live in, abstract intellectualism is not really a standard for superiority. It is power and pragmatic tact. In our world, there is a huge difference between how things should be and how they actually are. The world of politics is as deceptive and human relations as complicated. If you remember that, the words you have just read have not just gone wasted. It will not help you to gain power niether will it allow you to clinch glory. But it could save you from disappointment and delusions and may even save you from a rock rolling down the hill. You know, staying out of harm’s way.

Whoever is in power is your enemy.

There are No Lies in the Battlefield

Courtesy: James Montgomery, acclaimimages.com

What is it about wars that thrill us? What is it that makes us feel so good, so proud, as if we have accomplished something. Is it the bravery, the chivalry, the defiance to death that men can display, or simply because it makes great stories to tell? It does not matter, because in our world it is a glorious thing to go to wars.

But war is an intellectual concept nevertheless. I have to acknowledge that fact. It is as intellectual as it is stupid and nonsense. This is why it is fought by people far away from action in the battlefield. You know, far away from those mindless soldiers, who are brainwashed the moment they land into Boot Camp. They are fed lies, and they are fed truths. But one thing is for sure. They take away from them a part of humanity and they get to earn a part of it that no one else would ever know about.

But even more cruel are the ones who do not even set foot on the battlefield and expect others to sacrifice themselves for them. The one who dodges the bullet, the one who bears the wounds and the one who witnesses the horrors of war can only know what war is like and how vain national glory means when you only have your life to lose, unless they are hardened by war and it becomes their way of living. Some do it by choice and suffer, others are forced into it and made to suffer.

You would have heard about, if not watched, All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), based on the novel of the same title by German veteran Erich Maria Remarque. It is just a movie, maybe a touch too exaggerating and maybe overdone for some, but it tells the story of men who lived through World War I, an overdone war after all,  if it is not too much to say. The film emphasizes this very idea more explicitly and deliberately than most of the others about the war that you would come across.

The film talks about sending the youth to the front lines for glory and their subsequent discovery of what war really is. The film was banned in the Nazi Germany for its anti-war content, which for no surprise was taken to be an attack on German nationalism. Rats were used to disperse audiences during the initial screening of the film in theaters. But let’s not take any sides here. To my mind, the American filmmakers have emphasized the human side of the war by choosing to tell the story of a non-allied nation.

How many politically motivated artists talk about the human side of the enemy soldier? Most of the war movies even have no faces for them, just silhouettes. The silhouette of the enemy.  There is no enemy soldier, just humans who agree to kill each other over something they are not even aware of. The film applies as much to France as it does to Germany. It applies as much to Britain, or any other allied nation. It applies to each and every nation of the world. It applies to humanity. The blood-thirsty humanity.

A Few Important Excerpts 

(Note: Right now, the complete movie is available on YouTube. However, I have only posted the excerpts in context of the post. It may or may not be accessible from different parts of the world.)

For those familiar with the history of World War I and Trench Warfare in the Western Front, are also familiar with the toll it took on men.  This film, also the novel, is about how a war changes a man, how a war destroys a man and how they are sent by civilization to die to lift their spirits. A remarkable motion picture for its time, it effectively portrays what a soldier goes through before, during and after war, whether an exaggerated portrayal or not. I think it really is a lot worse than this.

What I learned from this film and what shook me the most is this.

There are no Lies in the Battlefield.

But have we learned the lesson?

That’s why we are an intelligent species.

The Independence Day Post

So, we have completed 63 years, and what have we done?

Was this the dream? What have we become?

Although things may not look good, for we’ve lost a lot on the way.

But we must not give up, to rise and fight another day.

We had gained independence from the Imperial rule in 1947, but the question to ask ourselves is whether we are still independent or not? As in the lives of individuals, the independence of states comes with their financial power and freedom, and unfortunately, this has been an area in which we have been doing poorly. Currently, Pakistan is in a gross external debt of more than $42 billion offered by institutions such as the World Bank & the IMF. No wonder why Pakistan has largely been an instrument in the hands of the world powers.

This means that not only Pakistan needs to follow the instructions of the international financial body, but also is unable to maintain its assertiveness as a state due to its financial weakness. While Pakistan struggles to repay the IMF debt and debt to many other donor countries, we need to ask ourselves what are we doing to improve financially. Unless, Pakistan becomes economically strong, it will not be able to make a meaningful impact diplomatically as well.

The events in the recent years have been nothing short of a disaster. Probably the worst power crisis in the history of the country has paralyzed the remnants of manufacturing industry in Pakistan. One of my friends and ex-colleagues, Umer Farooq, had once pointed out to me how Pakistanis are neglecting the importance of manufacturing industries, and how the recent economic policies have only been focused on developing the service sector, that too, under foreign investment.

It is nothing else but the power of manufacturing industries, which has made China a global economic power, and which is why it is dominating international markets, including the Pakistani consumer market. Unfortunately, Pakistan is even losing grip on its existing strengths in the manufacturing industry, such as textile. Unless we are able to produce things we are able to sell, we will never be able to add to our income as a nation.

At the same time, we also need to check our lifestyle as a country under debt, under a financial crisis and as a nation struggling to maintain its position among the international community. While the war against terrorists  have been a hindrance to progress for Pakistan, our attitude has been an even greater one. We need to check the way we our running statecraft and ask questions of our priorities.

Millions of rupees are spent every month on the expenses incurred for the maintenance of the Prime Minister House and the President House. Similarly, millions have been incurred on the expenses of the serving ministers and parliamentarians, who whine all the time and demand for more raises in benefits. How much of this money could have been spent on other areas, which desperately need the attention of the government.

The ruling elite lives in comfort in Islamabad, while their supposed “employers”, which are the People of Pakistan, are suffering every day of their lives. A person in a rural area may face a power outage of 18 hours straight and may not even have access to clean drinking water, education and medical facilities, while the rulers of the country roam around in the most sophisticated and expensive motorcades.

The purpose of this post is not to bring a bad image to the name of Pakistan, but is just to point out that we need a reality check on the completion of yet another year of the country’s independence. That we need to realize what problems are we encountering and how can we work towards a solution. Even if we are able to change our approach in a matter such as curbing expense, which is totally in our control, we can make significant progress.

Even if we compare ourselves to India, despite the fact that India is a continent of a country, with far greater resources, their leaders have not resorted to the kind of lavishness that has been enjoyed by the rulers of Pakistan in its 63 year history, probably with the exception of  Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Khawaja Nazim-ud-din and a few others who were in office in the early days. At least, they are not as ostentatious.

All the three ruling elements, the bureaucracy, the military and the politicians, including the feudals, have been responsible for the development of this culture of extravagance. When an organization is not able to generate additional sources of income, they consider cutting down expenses to maximize their profitability under given resources. This is what Pakistan needs to do.

However, in the case of Pakistan, we are asking for more IMF debt to maintain the lavish expenditure incurred on the ruling class. It is an ironical situation really. The servants of the people of Pakistan are enjoying a lavish lifestyle bought by the tax Rupees of the Pakistani people, who themselves are deprived of even the basic necessities at some places. How can such a nation ever achieve financial independence?

This elitist culture needs to be changed. We need to change the mindset that the bureaucrats, the military and the politicians are superior to the people of Pakistan. They were chosen from the masses themselves. Anyone who thinks in such a manner does not deserve a position in any of the state institutions. The way the civil servants are trained needs to be changed.

Anyone acquiring a position as a civil servant assumes that he or she has transcended the level of being an ordinary Pakistani citizen and  has entered an elite club. Of course, it is true that they work hard for getting their positions, but they must not forget that they are nothing more than paid servants of the Pakistani people.

To me, a tax-paying vendor is the employer of even the highest-level serving bureaucrat or Army officer. Unless this approach is developed, Pakistan may never achieve what its people aspire for. Unless we work to eliminate the moral corruption plaguing us as a nation, we can never attain the discipline necessary to achieve true independence.

Pakistan must work to rely on its own resources to progress. Unless this approach is adopted, it can never escape the vicious cycle of debt servicing. We need to cut down our military expenditure and stop the race of arms with India. We need to concentrate on strengthening the people by offering them easy access to education, so that manpower, which is one of the most important and abundant resource at our disposal, does not go to waste.

On August 14, 2010, Pakistan probably faces the most asking of all the challenges that it has ever encountered. Pakistan is fighting the worst natural disaster in a century, and right now apparently lacks the resources  to build the lost infrastructure as a result of the monstrous flooding that has currently brought a fifth of the country’s area under water.

With about 1,600 deaths and 20 million people left homeless, Pakistan needs to fight this disaster and must work harder than ever before to restore the lost infrastructure and to help out the affected people. While the international community is helping us out to overcome the challenge, for which we should be grateful to them, we need to develop our own resources as a nation as well.

This independence day is not a time for celebration at all, but one of contemplation and self-evaluation.

But the bottom line is clear. The bottom line is that we must work hard, especially even harder on this hour of crisis, to raise to the level of true independence and glory which is worthy of great nations, before thinking about celebrations and making false claims of pride. Pakistan is a nuclear power with one of the strongest military forces in the world, but none of that is helping us right now.

It is true that Pakistan needs to spend on its security to ensure its existence, but we need to shift our focus from military expenditure to improving the living standards of the people and to offer them education and medical facilities in a better way. We should also develop our focus to strengthen the manufacturing sector of the economy, even if we have to resort to drastic measures for doing so.

Why cannot we produce things as trivial as locks and umbrellas in the country, and why each and every single object we use needs to be “Made in China”? Are we so incompetent and resourceless as a nation? Or have we descended to a state of decadence in which we cannot differentiate wrong from right? But I am aware that a lot of other nations are facing this situation as well.

Never expect change unless you act for the change.

I’m concluding the post with the quotes of two of the fathers of the struggle for freedom for the Indian subcontinent from the Raj, and God knows we need to act on this advice more than ever before.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, there is nothing worthwhile that you cannot achieve. Work, work and work harder.” – Muhammad Ali Jinnah

If you want independence, you have to earn it.

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.