The curious case of KP text books

Recently, some ‘objectionable’ text has been omitted from the curriculum of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by the Provincial Government , succumbing to pressure of their major alliance, Jamaat-i-Islami.

Four chapters on Holy Prophet and his wives have been omitted from one of the text books, to replace them with some new chapters, namely one on Raja Ranjeet Singh and others. Some concepts like Christmas cake and the Holy Cross were introduced to kids at different places.

20% of this countries’ population consist of various minority groups. However, our text books seem to cater to the needs of Muslim students mostly. Despite a sizable population of minorities, majority of our students are not acquainted with understanding of religious rights and norms of minorities. In most of the schools, non-Muslim students have to study compulsory subject of ‘Islamiyat.’ No wonder, why are we witnessing a drastic increase in religious violence, mob attacks on minorities and forced conversions of non-Muslims. Polemic arguments with non-Muslims are common practices, at most of the workplaces and education institutions. 

With a compulsory subject of Islamiyat, can’t we not use the space in other text books to introduce some non-Muslim heroes? Or get our children acquainted with some non-Muslim practices? So that our next generation doesn’t look their non-Muslim Pakistani brothers with contempt, and are able to respect them as any citizen of Pakistan should be respected - with equal rights to practice their religious norms and take pride in them.

The second thing, that I found quite shocking, was the omission of pictures of minor girls without head scarves from text books. Do we need to remind these maulvis that head scarves are not compulsory in Islam for minor girls? Which version of Islam are they following really? For they seem more to resonate with centuries’ old ‘pashtoonwali’ and conservatism of FATA region, instead of religion. 

How can a political party, that doesn’t even enjoy the full mandate of Pashtuns of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, enforce their self righteous, conservative traditions on the other less conservative sections of society?

2245 hours
Saturday 27 September

The cost of containers

As some Federal Ministers and media are repeatedly reinforcing that the country economy has suffered a loss of over 550 billion because of ongoing sit-ins. While KSE-100 index isn’t doing too bad, crossing 30,000-benchmark this Friday, the dollar appreciated to 103 in Pakistan. This is a great loss, a poor economy like Pakistan surely can't afford that. 

But what is costing that much to economy? Is it really the security measures and related hindrances to business as usual caused by a gathering of 10,000 to 15,000 at nights, confined to the red zone only, which reduces to only a few hundreds in the daylight?

Obviously, there is more to it! The sheer inefficiency of the present government to deal with the current crises.

The cost of security forces called in to the capital alone had been estimated at over PKR 350 million by the start of this month. One may ask why they need to deploy a police force of 30,000-40,000 to keep a mob of 10,000-15,000 under control. In case of clashes, we have seen how the police force, despite being outnumbered and equipped with shells and rubber bullets, fails to control the mob. While Army had to be called in when the mob occupy PTV building, and a handful of army personnels easily (and more efficiently) get the building evacuated within minutes.  

Schools are now reopened, but they remained shut for a couple weeks with children losing valuable learning time. The reason behind shutting schools, wasn't security concerns, I fear. The police forces called in from Punjab and AJK have been using the government schools’ premises for accommodation, as we learnt. 

We saw some offices and businesses being closed for several days, again on the grounds of security concerns. The Interior Minister repeatedly quoted serious terrorists threats, specifically intelligence of an explosives-loaded vehicle likely to enter the city. Therefore, as Chaudhry Nisar said, the entry points to Islamabad and red zone are sealed and narrowed with containers to make thorough checks of vehicle entering in. 

I happen to work in one of the offices inside red zone. It’s pretty difficult to see the containers narrowing the roads and making sense of the reasoning behind this move. 

Thousands of cars queue up every morning to pass among these containers, while most of them stand unguarded. Even if one or two police officers happen to stand at the check posts at these containers, they don't check vehicles, or even looking at them as they pass by.  What are these containers doing on the roads then?

I fear there must be more to this story.   

It’s easier to hide behind the political turmoil, to put out of sight the present government’s inefficiency on the economic front. The government has set ambitious economic targets for the current financial year and many of these cannot be achieved.

IMF and other international financial institutions that were somehow ready to deal with the government have, for the time being, taken a back seat and are waiting for a resolution of the dispute. 

Protesters seem to have given them a good excuse.

2322 hours
Saturday 13 September 2014