idea
Bracing for closure

For enduring peace between India and Pakistan, a Truth and
Reconciliation Commission should be set up to reconcile the Punjabis across the border
By Ali Usman Qasmi
Much has been written about the partition of India and the trauma of violence and displacement resulting from it. The worst affected region of British India in terms of human casualties was the Punjab. Not only was Punjab partitioned, it also suffered from mass exodus of Muslims from East Punjab and that of Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab. This suddenly ruptured the link of the people with a thousand year shared history and composite culture.  

Past Recast
Iqbal and the spirit of dynamism

By Tahir Kamran
Iqbal’s ubiquity in the intellectual milieu of contemporary Pakistan punctuates the collective thought process and finds articulation most prominently in public discourse, textbooks and media. Along with Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Iqbal is the person most commonly written about. Not only have some institutions been set up to foster research on various dimensions of his ‘multi-faceted personality and multi-layered thought’, but also a separate discipline by the name of Iqbaliat (Iqbal Studies) has been established in some of the country’s finest institutions.

policy
Energy mismanagement

Though blessed with plentiful of resources for obtaining
energy at affordable cost, Pakistan is still finding it hard to meet the ever-growing energy needs. Why?
By Alauddin Masod
Pakistan’s energy sector is in serious crisis, cautions the World Bank. Power shortages not only hurt the country’s industrial, commercial and human needs, these are also causing an estimated annual loss of Rs450 billion (around two per cent of GDP) to its economy.  

Forgotten promises
Only a political struggle having support of progressive forces, media and civil society can guarantee equitable distribution of wealth and resources as envisaged in the Constitution
By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq
“The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability to each according to his work”—Article 3, 1973 Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan
For the last three decades, the State has failed to fulfill a promise that is lying dormant — now almost deadwood — in the supreme law of the land. Tragically, all the economic policies, adopted by the military and civilian rules alike, since the insertion of this principle in the 1973 Constitution, have been diametrically opposite — promoting, protecting and cementing the interests of the exploitative classes.

war
Laws for lesser citizens

The recently promulgated ordinances to deal with terrorism may serve as a tool to steamroller movements of political and civil rights in the country
By Naseer Memon
The President of Pakistan has recently promulgated two Ordinances — Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2011” (ATA) and “Protection of Pakistan Ordinance 2013” (PPO). The official document purports the PPO as a law aimed “to provide for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan”.  

Women at work
Despite being a significant part of rural agriculture, women are deprived of
economic autonomy
By Altaf Hussain
Women are a significant part of the rural agriculture in the agrarian societies like Pakistan, particularly of Sindh where their role is stretched from cleaning seed, to cultivating field crops, harvesting, livestock rearing, home gardening, managing household responsibilities and looking after children. They are prime victim of societal-cum-cultural and political customs and taboos affecting their very wellbeing and the existence. They are also deprived of their due rights including economic autonomy or control over livelihood resources.  

Get online now
Lack of computer literacy among teachers is a reality. A multilateral initiative takes off in Pakistan to do the needful
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
With over 30 million Internet users and more than half of the Pakistani population covered by cellular networks and mobile phone connectivity, lack of Information Communications Technology (ICT) literacy amongst and school students and teachers is still a harsh reality.
A primary indicator of the state of computer literacy amongst school teachers in Pakistan is the condition of schools and the availability of learning tools, condition of computer labs and the skills of those operating them. This brings one to the issues of availability of both electricity and Internet connectivity. The discussion can further be divided between urban and rural or private and public sector schoolteachers.  

literacy
Yet to learn our lesson

A girl school in Fort Abbas, District Bahawalnagar, is a telltale of our poor
education policies
By Rasheed Ali
No headmistress for over a year, only one teacher for ninth and tenth classes, no clerical staff at all, no science laboratory or apparatus for science subjects practical examination preparation, and no clean drinking water facility: this is Government Girls High School, Chak No 330/HR, Marot, Tehsil Fort Abbas, District Bahawalnagar.

From theoretical to everyday
Language, Gender and Power is an important contribution not only to the field of linguistics, but also social theory, anthropology and public policy
By Yaqoob Khan Bangash
Language has long been recognised as an important part of identity, and its power has variously been seen in the several linguistic province movements in India, and in the Seraiki and Hindko province movements in Pakistan. However, its role in creating gendered notions, gender relations, and hegemony has seldom been the focus of academic research in Pakistan. It is here that Shahid Siddiqui’s recent work on the topic is very timely and useful. In a way, there is nothing ‘new’ in Professor Siddiqui’s book, but then that is its real strength. The book analyses our everyday life to show the ‘interrelationship of language, gender, and power and their impact on one another’ (p. Xvii), and how we are often oblivious of it. 


 

 


idea
Bracing for closure
For enduring peace between India and Pakistan, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission should be set up to reconcile the Punjabis across the border
By Ali Usman Qasmi

Much has been written about the partition of India and the trauma of violence and displacement resulting from it. The worst affected region of British India in terms of human casualties was the Punjab. Not only was Punjab partitioned, it also suffered from mass exodus of Muslims from East Punjab and that of Hindus and Sikhs from West Punjab. This suddenly ruptured the link of the people with a thousand year shared history and composite culture.

Despite such catastrophic developments, the Punjabis from both sides of the border do not seem to come forward and confront the violence episodic change which took place in 1947. There have now been numerous accounts of partition stories. These are individual accounts and reminiscences of the days gone by, nostalgic recounting of life in pre-partition Punjab and the violence which changed these individual and family lives.

What I propose in this article is the idea of setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Punjab. This idea is not a novel one — especially in the South Asian context. It has been proposed by proponents of peace between India and Pakistan. It has been suggested that both the countries should admit of their failures and atrocities of the past and work towards a lasting peace which can be beneficial for the entire region. My focus is a narrower one. I only propose such a commission for the Punjab.

This particular commission should be an informal one and serve as a reconciliatory forum for the Punjabis of India and Pakistan. It should provide a platform where Punjabis must confess to atrocities committed in 1947. There will be those who actually committed those atrocities and those who may not have had any direct role in those crimes but feel a moral obligation to atone for the sins and wrongs of the past. The governments would have nothing to do with it. In fact the modalities of such a commission can be worked out later by those who are better qualified to talk about such issues and arranging of platforms which focus on people to people contact.

It is, however, more important to justify the necessity of such a commission.

Is the memory of partition and its violence still relevant?

Many people believe that the ‘refugee experience’ has now become irrelevant.  The Punjabis affected by the partition have moved on. They have been absorbed within their host societies. They are no longer referred to as muhajir and sharnarthi. In the case of Punjab, the ‘absorption’ was easier because theirs was an internal migration from one part of Punjab to another. More importantly, it is believed that the bloodshed of partition and the trauma it caused does not reflect in the bitterness in interactions – limited as they may be – between Indian and Pakistani Punjabis. I would take a different position on this.

The Punjabis from the refugee families continue to be haunted by the memory of partition. I was once told by Dr Tahir Kamran – a noted historian – that on a visit to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to submit visa application, he came across an old man who was pleading to the visa officials to grant him visa for Indian Punjab. He, instead, had been given a visa to visit Delhi and Agra. The old man lambasted that he did not have any desire to see Taj Mahal; he only wanted to visit his ancestral village one last time before his death. I am sure that there are thousands of such individuals living in India as well who have to suffer in a similar fashion because of the trust deficit between the two governments.

I am also one such ‘victim’. My family – both from my father and mother’s side – migrated from Amritsar. My father and mother were born in Amritsar and were infants at the time of partition and their migration from Amritsar to different parts of Western Punjab before settling down in Lahore. I was born and raised in Lahore. But being an Amritsari is still a very strong aspect of my family’s collective identity and memory.

I have grown up listening to my elders (includes my parents and my maternal and paternal aunts) talk about Amritsar. I have been told by my father that my grandmother (she died years before I was born) used to miss “the way it rained in Amritsar as it does not rain the same way here”. My maternal aunt told me about the marriage of my maternal grandparents which took place in Amritsar. At the time they were forced to leave, my maternal grandparents glanced one last time at the showcase with all the crockery and dinner set which had come as part of the dowry. Someone from the family suggested that this should be smashed into pieces so that the ‘Hindu and Sikh plunderers’ cannot use it. But my grandparents could not just do this!

Again, there must be plenty of even more heartrending stories from the other side of Punjab as well where Hindu and Sikh families would have passed on stories about how the fear of ‘Muslim plunderers’ deprived them of their cherished possessions and, may be, poignant memories associated with those possessions.

Apart from its relevance in individual lives, the experience of migration continues to be relevant in the political arena as well. Dr Elisabetta Iob’s doctoral dissertation on the rehabilitation of refugees looks at the continuity of partition experiences at different microcosmic social and political levels. The ‘refugee’ as a category ceased to exist in census figures from 1960 onwards. It was thought that General Azam Khan’s efforts at rehabilitating the refugees have been successful and that the ‘refugee problem’ has been solved.

While it is true that members of the erstwhile refugees no longer recognise or identify themselves as refugees anymore (or at least in the same way as it has become a loaded political term in the urban politics of Sindh), it does not mean that this term with its long history has slipped away completely. Part of Dr Iob’s work charts the relevance of ‘refugee identity’ in the contemporary politics of Punjab. It might come as a surprise for many that that the PML faction led by Nawaz Sharif – especially in central Punjab – largely comprises of leaders whose background is that of a refugee family. In this sense, he does not only represent and safeguard the interests of a Kashmiri Amritisari migrant community (in addition to trading interests) but migrants from East Punjab in general.

The emotional scars of the partition have not healed either. It can be argued that it is not just violence which begets violence but also the memory of violence. This  needs to be modified by using Elisabetta Iob’s words that it is not the memory of violence which generates violence; it is the practice of international relations at grassroots level which does that. So, for example, it is no coincidence that some of the most militant organisations in India and Pakistan are led by members of refugee families. Arundhati Roy once gave the example of A. K. Advani and Hafiz Asad Saeed — the former from Karachi and later from Simla. Similarly, leading members of Sipah Sahaba — such as Azam Tariq and Zia-ur-Rehman Faruqi — were from migrant families. It can — at least partially — be attributed to their upbringing in families which had experienced violence during the partition and had passed on these experiences and memories to their later generations.

But then, on the other hand, leading proponents of peace are from migrant families as well. The major breakthrough in India Pakistan relations was achieved when Nawaz Sharif and Indar Kumar Gujral were prime ministers. Again, in this case too it can be argued that the impulse for peace is partially derived from the experience of partition and the suffering it caused. I am sure the Sharifs have grown up listening to stories about their ancestral village of Jati Umrah and the deep longing their father must have had to visit it and, hence, realised the need for taking people out of such misery and facilitating their visits.

Whether it is in its manifestation in the form of militancy or drive for peace, the experience of partition has not wholly become irrelevant.

I am not trying to argue for a generally applicable theory. There are a host of factors which have shaped the emergence of different kinds of violence in South Asia and it will be naïve to singularly point out one particular aspect. But at the same time it will be equally naïve to suppose that the ‘refugee problem’ has ceased to exist. The ‘refugee problem’ was caused by many factors and it was reflected (and continues to be reflected) in many different ways.

Without any doubt the whole experience of witnessing mass murder – especially those of loved ones – abduction of women, loot and plunder of properties and forced evacuation under fearful circumstances left the most painful scars on the minds of successive generations. But there was, I believe, a deeper sense of disappointment and disillusionment as well. The Punjabis shared the same land and neighbourhood for many centuries; they shared the same cultural habitat and spoke the same language; they even celebrated the same religio-cultural festivals. And yet this was not enough to ensure a peaceful, harmonious co-existence or to allow for transfer of population to take place without such massive human suffering.

In oral narratives so assiduously collected by Ishtiaq Ahmed in ‘Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed’, one can clearly see the deep emotional link which the victims still feel with their erstwhile neighbours and friends. They have such strong bonds with them that despite all that has happened, they do not want to recognise or blame these old friends as the ones responsible for violence. In most of these accounts, the victims have reported that the killers or looters came from the outside and that the immediate neighbours were not involved in such acts.

I wonder if this is some way for the victims to cope with the barbarous acts of those who shared their language, culture and customs.

These lingering memories of violence, bloodshed, trauma and disappointment have been responsible for manipulation by rival states to use it for furthering enmity between the people. In order to take this away from them, there needs to be a closure. The truth and reconciliation commission will provide such a closure.

How would the commission work?

I want the Punjabis living on both sides (leave the governments aside) to form a commission and set it as a platform where people confess to their violent and shameful acts at the time of partition and apologise for it. The number of people who witnessed partition may not be numerous. Even lesser would be the number of people who actually committed such acts and are willing to come forward and confess. Part of the job will be to convince those involved that what they did could not be justified under the garb of retaliation or revenge killings.

Thanks to Ilyas Chattha’s excellent work, it has been possible to identify locations where most violent killings took place in Western Punjab. Chattha uncovered First Investigation Reports (FIRs) from different police stations in Lahore and Gujranwala. Chattha has particularly focused on the Lohar community of Gujranwala.

He, in fact, interviewed dozens of offenders a couple of years back and recorded their accounts. They admitted to various acts of loot and plunder. But interestingly no one confessed to any crime relating to rape or abduction of women. As pointed out by Andrew Whitehead in a recent lecture, one finds people admitting even to mass murder but not to sexual crimes for some reason. This evidence can be collected from the Indian Punjab as well.

There cannot be any sanction of international law for such a commission to be setup. The idea is not to penalise anyone. Only the literati tried to atone for these sins by penning short stories and poetry about this human catastrophe. But the common folk who suffered and who also carried out such brutal acts have kept quiet. It is time to rectify this. This initiative has to come from the people.

Without this healing process, I do not think there can be any enduring peace between India and Pakistan.

The Author teaches at LUMS and tweets @AU_Qasmi

 

 

 

 

Past Recast
Iqbal and the spirit of dynamism
By Tahir Kamran

Iqbal’s ubiquity in the intellectual milieu of contemporary Pakistan punctuates the collective thought process and finds articulation most prominently in public discourse, textbooks and media. Along with Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Iqbal is the person most commonly written about. Not only have some institutions been set up to foster research on various dimensions of his ‘multi-faceted personality and multi-layered thought’, but also a separate discipline by the name of Iqbaliat (Iqbal Studies) has been established in some of the country’s finest institutions.

Iqbal is indeed a towering figure and this hyper-real treatment has made him appear even bigger. The figures imbued with religious zeal as well as those privileging rationality over religion quote him with equal fervour and zest. Shaikh Muhammad Ikram, a renowned scholar of Muslim History in South Asia, underscores in his typical style: “Iqbal was a product of conflicting forces, and advanced Muslim socialists as well as reactionaries of the deepest dye can find verses in his works to support their conflicting ideologies”. This indeed reflects how divergent strands of thinking found confluence in Iqbal’s poetry and thought, making it incredibly rich and profound in its epistemic formulation.

Hence, Iqbal is relevant even today beyond the national border of Pakistan. Javed Majeed points to his popularity in Iran where the spiritual leader Khamenai has made Iqbal’s poem compulsory for young students. Similarly, Iqbal’s contributions as a Muslim thinker have made his thoughts and poetry a favoured subject of scholarly inquiry in France. All this attention is because in his thought, ideas from west and east are synthesised in such a way that one still feels in them a strong ring of originality.

Despite the many different phases in his evolution as a poet and a thinker, Iqbal spurned tassawwuf (mysticism) as he failed to find any solid historical foundation in original Islam. His long Persian poem ‘Israr-i-Khudi’ (Secrets of the Self), published in 1915, condemned tasawwuf as effete and enervating.

He, nevertheless, drew heavily on Fakharuddin Iraqi and Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi to build his own edifice of thought which featured quite prominently in his poetry as well as his prose.

One wonders, however, without tassawwuf, any worthwhile poetic expression is at all possible?

As a result of Lahore Mushairas (1874), organised by Muhammad Hussain Azad and Col. Holroyd, the era of Nazm (poem) was ushered in — in antagonism to the more traditional form of poetry epitomised by the genre of Ghazal. Nazm was subsequently perfected, particularly as a form of poetry deployed most effectively as a protest against political and social injustice. Thus Iqbal was amenable to the modernist trends in poetry and prose.

At the outset, he composed poems for the literary magazine Makhzan, which he occasionally read at the annual gatherings of Anjuman-i-Himayat-i-Islam — an influential Lahore-based organisation which aimed, among other things, to spread modern education among Muslims. In the first phase of his poetry, he composed such poems as ‘Taswir-i-Dard’ (Picture of Grief), ‘Naya Shiwala’ (The New Temple) and ‘Tarana-i-Hindi’ (The Indian Anthem), the titles of which are suggestive of Iqbal’s infatuation with nationalism and pantheism which lasted until 1905 when he left to study at Cambridge.

Iqbal’s life, thought and work was continually evolving and did not stagnate. Dynamism, therefore, is the central postulate of his thought — something that we need to practically adopt as a nation.

Evolution in thought is the only recipe for sustenance and growth in the contemporary world, which is fast changing. And that is exactly what Iqbal emphasised forcefully in ‘Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’, in a chapter titled, ‘The Spirit of Muslim Culture’.

S.M. Ikram alludes to this aspect of Iqbal by stating that “his was a vigorous mind, untrammelled by convention, and facing forwards rather than backwards”. He refers to a “fundamental fact” that had not been taken into account by many of “his so-called admirers”, which was his conception of Islam as “dynamic rather than static.”

Iqbal claimed quite decisively: “it would not be Islam if the truths it enunciated were not ‘living’ enough to be capable of adjustment to varying circumstances”. That probably was the reason Maulvi Deedar Ali Alori, the Khatib of Masjid Wazir Khan, Lahore and the founder of Markazi Anjuman-i-Hizb-i-Ahnaf issued a fatwa whereby he was denunciated as kafir.

Iqbal, in his thoughts, had tried with scholarly zeal to strike a balance between the traditional Islam advocated by Deoband, Darul-uloom Nadwatul Ulama and suchlike, and the Modernist Islam epitomised and projected by the Aligarh Movement of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The careful perusal of ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’ which, according to Iqbal’s son Dr Javed Iqbal, is a far more important source for the study on Iqbal’s thoughts than his poetry, reveals not only the very strong imprints of Pan-Islamism but also a rigorous rationalist streak.

In his analysis of Muslim decline, Iqbal invoked the thoughts of Al Iraqi, Rumi and other luminaries of medieval Perso-Arabic background to underpin his own scholastic thoughts and then weld them together with Western philosophical traditions.

Apart from the rationality that he employed to appraise the state of contemporary Muslims, Iqbal did not overlook Jamaluddin Afghani. On the one hand, he lamented the deplorable plight of the Indian Muslims, on the other the whole Muslim community (umma) was his reference point, thus partaking in the Pan-Islamism of Afghani.

With the aid of modernist analytical tools, he aimed to understand those values of ‘tradition’ that did not correspond with the reigning political and social dispensation, with the primary aim of rejuvenating them. That probably is the reason that Ali Abbas Jalalpuri, in his book ‘Iqbal ka Ilm-i-Kalam’, calls him a mutakallim (scholar) rather than a philosopher, which runs contrary to his presentation as a poet-philosopher by the Pakistani state.

Irrespective of how Iqbal is perceived, the fact is he stands out in solitary splendour vis-à-vis his predecessors and contemporaries alike because he employed a modern philosophical idiom and problematised the condition of Muslims in the light of Whitehead, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche.

Thus Iqbal, with his unflinching belief in dynamism, was a progressive and forward-looking luminary. Remorsefully, he and his ideas, and particularly his poetry, have been taken hostage by the agents of regression, which is the most unfortunate thing that could ever happen to the legacy of Iqbal and his multi-faceted genius.

The writer is a noted Pakistani historian, currently the Iqbal Fellow at the University of Cambridge as professor in the Centre of South Asian Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

policy
Energy mismanagement
Though blessed with plentiful of resources for obtaining
energy at affordable cost, Pakistan is still finding it hard to meet the ever-growing energy needs. Why?
By Alauddin Masod

Pakistan’s energy sector is in serious crisis, cautions the World Bank. Power shortages not only hurt the country’s industrial, commercial and human needs, these are also causing an estimated annual loss of Rs450 billion (around two per cent of GDP) to its economy.

Talking of power sector’s incompetence, in its October report, the World Bank said: Twelve per cent of electricity bills, involving nearly US$1 billion (Rs105 billion), is not collected. The haunting phenomenon of circular debt would re-emerge if the underlying cause of inefficient system is not resolved. Key challenges in the power sector include: large and growing energy shortages, high energy costs and inefficiencies that prevent it from financing all of its costs. Not only there is a growing mismatch between production and demand which causes huge loss to the economy, the cost of generating energy has also risen due to changes in the supply mix. In the 1990s, energy generation was a mix of two-thirds hydro and one-third thermal. Today, the mix is only 30 per cent hydro and 70 per cent thermal.”

There cannot be two opinions that energy deficit, in particular electricity and gas load-shedding, figures high amongst major challenges haunting Pakistan, bringing to the fore the dire need to tackle this issue on a war footing. When the issue of energy shortage cropped up in late 1990s, the State minions tried to resolve it by opting for furnace oil/gas fired thermal power units because these required less time for commissioning as compared to hydro, nuclear or other sources of cheap energy.

As electricity from furnace oil is costly, continuous reliance on this source has created a host of problems, negatively impacting the national economy due to heavy drain on foreign exchange, ever-swelling circular debt and constant increase in electricity tariff, making the country’s products uncompetitive in the global market. Thus, the need for producing power through affordable sources, like coal (whether imported or indigenous), hydro, solar, wind, nuclear, bio-fuels, etc.

The nature has blessed Pakistan with plentiful of resources for obtaining energy at affordable cost but, unfortunately, we have not been able to exploit them adequately for meeting our ever-growing energy needs. Though coal, gold, copper and stone deposits were discovered decades ago, Pakistan’s mining and quarrying sector continues to depict a dismal growth due to lack of dedicated and focused approach.

Furthermore, Pakistan figures amongst those energy deficit countries which have the potential to augment their indigenous production of oil and gas, but whose energy resources remain inadequately tapped for want of commitment, planning and resources to undertake this vital task. According to experts, Pakistan has gas reserves of 32 trillion cubic feet but, till recently, these were not being fully exploited due to ill-planning and muddle-headed approach of the concerned agencies.

Presently, Pakistan is producing 87,000 barrels of oil and 3,950 million cubic feet of gas per day against the country’s daily requirement of about 450,000 barrels of oil and 5,900 million cubic feet of gas. In other words, currently, the country is facing a daily shortfall of about 360,000 barrels of oil and 1,950 million cubic feet of gas. The shortfall of gas is projected to increase to four billion cubic feet per day by 2025, if new gas fields are not discovered and added to the national network.

The authorities have not been able to make any alternate arrangements for meeting the gas shortfall. Their apathy is causing tremendous losses to the nation and the country. According to Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Pakistan suffers a mammoth $2 billion loss every year due to its failure to import liquefied natural gas (LNG). Probably, the loss would be higher if it was calculated in terms of taxation and impact on the business due to the non-availability of gas, he added. The government is now reportedly planning to drill 110 wells, during the current fiscal year, to increase the indigenous production of gas.

With a total coal reserves at 195 billion tons, Pakistan is the sixth largest coal rich country in the world. The aggregate energy potential of Pakistan’s coal reserves is stated to be more than the combined energy potential of the resources that Saudi Arabia and Iran possess. And yet, we spend about US$ 16 billion on oil imports. The estimated value of Thar coal deposits, according to Engineering Development Board’s monthly magazine “Industrial Bulletin” (June 2008) is “$ 8 trillion and if converted into energy its value comes to $ 25 trillion. It has the potential to generate 100,000 MW of electricity for 300 years.” In addition to Thar, the country possesses some 20 billion tons of coal reserves in other regions of the country as well.

Globally, coal is providing 26 per cent primary energy and over 40 per cent electricity; while the share of gas, hydro, nuclear, oil and renewable sources is 21 per cent, 16 per cent, 13 per cent, five per cent and three per cent respectively. On the contrary, Pakistan produces 36 per cent of its electricity from oil (one of the most expensive sources), 29 per cent from gas and 29 per cent from hydro. Coal has gained special importance due to the growing concerns for energy security prompted by apprehensions about fast depletion of the known resources of energy.

Currently, South Africa is the world’s largest producer of electricity from coal, accounting for 93 per cent of its total energy requirement. Other top producers of electricity from coal include: Poland 87 per cent, China 79 per cent, Australia 78 per cent, Kazakhstan 75 per cent, India 68 per cent, USA 60 per cent, Israel 58 per cent, Greece 54 per cent, Czech Republic 51 per cent, Morocco 51 per cent and Germany 41 per cent.

Though already meeting most of its energy requirement from coal, China is now turning its vast coal reserves into barrels of oil at Erdos (Inner Mongolia) where it has set up the biggest coal-to-liquid (CTL) plant outside South Africa. This plant has the capacity to convert 3.5 million tons of coal into one million tons of oil products, like diesel, per year, for use in automobiles. The production of the plant, in other words, would be equivalent to about 20,000 barrels per day of oil. By 2020, China plans to raise its CTL capacity to 50 million tons or 286,000 barrels a day.

Developed about 100 years ago, the fuel produced through CTL technology has a shelf life of 15 years. But, it has been little used, except in Nazi Germany and the apartheid South Africa, which had difficulty in getting oil supplies. Now, apprehensions about depletion of known energy resources and rise in oil prices have revived interest of coal-rich countries in CTL technology. Realising the importance of coal in development, many countries are now switching over to coal to meet their energy requirements. Indonesia and UK are among those countries that have already set up coal-based power plants.

Though found in abundance in most parts of the world, the use of coal as an alternate source of energy in the developing countries has been downplayed by powerful lobbies who do not wish to see coal as a substitute of oil that their principals sell. Resultantly, the share of coal in the energy mix of many developing countries remains very low.

In view of the uncertainty surrounding the price of oil and the tremendous amounts of foreign exchange involved in the import of oil, the authorities need to engage in serious efforts to make optimum use of coal as an alternate source of fuel because it offers a great potential for producing electricity and diesel and thus turning the wheel of economy.

Jatropha plant, according to the Renewable and Alternative Energy Association of Pakistan (REAP), also provides a cheap solution to the energy challenges faced by the country. REAP’s Bio-Diesel Coordinator, Tauseef Iqbal, says that cultivation of Jatropha on one acre of land could produce over 2,000-2,500 litre bio-diesel besides value-added products like methane gas, glycerine and natural fertilizer. Over 100 countries, including USA, Brazil, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, India and China have been cultivating jatropha plant. Even some airlines, it is claimed, have conducted successful experiments of flying aeroplanes with the diesel produced from the jatropha seeds. Pakistan Agricultural Research Council and Pakistan Council for Scientific Research need to study the feasibility of adopting this plant for mass production of bio-diesel.

The writer is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad:alauddinmasood@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten promises
Only a political struggle having support of progressive forces, media and civil society can guarantee equitable distribution of wealth and resources as envisaged in the Constitution
By Huzaima Bukhari & Dr. Ikramul Haq

“The State shall ensure the elimination of all forms of exploitation and the gradual fulfilment of the fundamental principle, from each according to his ability to each according to his work”—Article 3, 1973 Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan

For the last three decades, the State has failed to fulfill a promise that is lying dormant — now almost deadwood — in the supreme law of the land. Tragically, all the economic policies, adopted by the military and civilian rules alike, since the insertion of this principle in the 1973 Constitution, have been diametrically opposite — promoting, protecting and cementing the interests of the exploitative classes.

This Land of the Pure has, undoubtedly, nurtured an extremely exploitative socio-economic system, which has gained strength with the passage of time. Adding insult to injury, the apex court in 1990 held that land reforms were “un-Islamic”. Various kinds of repressions, coupled with cruelest means of economic exploitation by the ruling elites, are in vogue in Pakistan, denying citizens their right to a decent life.

The motto ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,’ though has its roots in the New Testament [4:32-35: The Believers Share Their Possessions], was popularised by Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Programme. The phrase enunciates the principles that, under an ideal system, every person should contribute to society to the best of his or her ability and consume from society in proportion to his or her needs. Fusing this Marxist ideology into ‘Islamic Socialism’, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the early part of his politics — later he became an instrument in the hands of ruling classes — promised in the Constitution, “from each according to his ability to each according to his work.” In fact, he followed the USSR (now erstwhile) where the ruling communist party claimed that at a lower stage of communism (socialism) in line with Marx’s arguments, it should be “From each according to his ability, to each according to his work (labour/investment).”

Obviously, Karl Marx had specific conditions in mind for such a creed to work —a society where technology and social organisation had substantially eliminated the need for physical labour in the production of things, where “labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want.” Marx explained his belief that, in such a society, each person would be motivated to work for the good of society despite the absence of a social mechanism compelling them to work, because work would have become a pleasurable and creative activity. Marx intended the initial part of his slogan, “from each according to his ability” to suggest not merely that each person should work as hard as they can, but that each person should best develop his particular talents.

Many students ask us: “Is the Constitutional command of gradual elimination of all forms of exploitation legally enforceable”? Many naively believe that a petition should be filed in Supreme Court asking the government to act upon it. Those who are realists remind them that the apex court has even failed to get its decisions on price-hikes implemented and that the independence of judiciary is just a myth. Pakistan is ruled by a trio — militro-judicial-civil complex, businessmen-turned-politicians and landed aristocracy.

The privileged classes protect and perpetuate exploitation of the poor. Judiciary in Pakistan has been playing in the hands of mighty classes. In the case of Qazalbash Waqf v. Chief Land Commissioner, Punjab and others (PLD 1990 SC 99), the Shariat Appellate Bench of Supreme Court confirmed the decision of Shariat Court, established by Ziaul Haq, quashing the progressive land reforms laws as repugnant to the Quran and Sunnah. Presently, a nine-member bench of the apex court is hearing a review petition, filed by Workers’ Party, National Party, Kissan Committee and others, against the said decision. As expected, the regressive ruling party (PML-N) through Advocate General of Punjab has opposed the review petition. From the side of landowners, head of their organisation Shah Mahmood Qureshi, leader of so-called party of change (sic) PTI, has hired an expensive lawyer, who claims to be amongst the framers of 1973 Constitution!

Progressive forces, many critics say, have a wishful thinking that in the review petition to be heard on November 12, 2013, the Supreme Court may undo its earlier judgement in Qazalbash Waqf case. If it happens, it would be a great victory for progressive forces and landless tillers — the outgoing Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, would then become a true hero of the downtrodden. But Marx observes that all State organs protect the interests of the ruling classes and judiciary is no exception.

The Anglo-Saxon law that our judiciary practices and protects guarantees private property and exploitation of the have-nots. Judiciary is not a revolutionary party; it is nothing but a product of the existing socio-economic system. Hence, it would be unfair to demand from this organ of the State, any revolutionary decision. They played the most undesirable role of undoing progressive lands reforms confirming that political struggle by a revolutionary mass-based party alone can implement Article 3 of the Constitution.

Pakistan needs a grand alliance of progressive parties and groups that wins the mandate of masses to change the present economic system, which is highly unjust and oppressive. It protects establishment and exploitative classes that have monopoly over economic resources. The present parties are not even sincere with democracy as they lack the will to tax privileged classes. The poor are paying exorbitant indirect taxes even on essential commodities of everyday use, but the mighty sections of society — big absentee landowners, industrialists, generals and bureaucrats — are paying no wealth tax/income tax on their colossal assets/incomes.

The gigantic and useless government apparatus — doing nothing for public welfare — is also busy in looting the wealth of the nation and wasting whatever taxes are collected. The army of ministers, state ministers, advisers, consultants, high-ranking government servants (sic) is not willing to give up unprecedented perquisites and privileges. They are not ready to live like common men by surrendering the luxury they are enjoying at the cost of taxpayers’ money.

The mighty sections of society defy Article 3 of the Constitution with impunity. An unholy anti-people alliance of trio of indomitable civil-military bureaucrats, corrupt and inefficient politicians and greedy businessmen, controlling and enjoying at least 90 per cent of the State resources is contributing less than 2 per cent in national revenue collection. It will be living in fool’s paradise to expect them to implement Article 3 of Constitution. Making Pakistan a State in consonance with the principle embodied in Article 3 requires political struggle under a mass-based front having support of progressive forces, media and civil society. Such campaign alone can guarantee equitable distribution of wealth and resources as envisaged in the Constitution.

The writers, lawyers, are Visiting Professors at Lahore University of Management Sciences

 

 

 

 

 

war
Laws for lesser citizens
The recently promulgated ordinances to deal with terrorism may serve as a tool to steamroller movements of political and civil rights in the country
By Naseer Memon

The President of Pakistan has recently promulgated two Ordinances — Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2011” (ATA) and “Protection of Pakistan Ordinance 2013” (PPO). The official document purports the PPO as a law aimed “to provide for protection against waging of war against Pakistan and the prevention of acts threatening the security of Pakistan”.

Both these laws prescribe ruthless measures to prevent terrorism in the country. It vests almost unbridled powers in the law enforcement apparatus ostensibly to curb terrorism by all means. A cursory look at these laws reveals several common provisions rendering them redundant for either one of the two. Delving deeper in the contents of the two laws reflect the lack of altruism on part of the proponents of such draconian laws.

Some of the provisions are reminiscent of colonial era legal instruments of brinkmanship to subdue the subjects. These laws also transgress international commitments of the State e.g. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In a country boasting to be a democratic state, it is absolutely imperative to guarantee all possible safeguards for human rights.

Already owning a blemished record of disrespect for human rights, the country can ill afford such perverted legislative course. PPO provides that “it shall be lawful for any such officer after forming reasonable apprehension that death, grievous hurt or destruction of property may be caused by such act, to fire, or order the firing upon any person or persons against whom he is authorised to use force in terms hereof”. Similarly, law enforcement personnel are exempted from need of warrants to search any premises or arrest any person. PPO also bestows authority to police and civil and armed forces to arrest and purport persons whose identity is “unascertainable” as “enemy aliens” and presume that they are waging war or insurrection against Pakistan.

Section 14 of the PPO further presumes guilt of a scheduled offence and the burden is on the accused to establish non-involvement on war or insurrection against Pakistan. Preventive detention for up to ninety-day is also authorized for those within the purview of 5(5), including those whose identity is unascertainable.

Such provisions will legalise pervasive blatant violations of human rights being committed by law enforcement agencies. Supreme Court of Pakistan has also charged law enforcement agencies in unequivocal terms with forced disappearances and dumping of mutilated bodies. The apprehensions gather further legitimacy in absence of an independent watch guard authority to monitor human rights violations. A toothless Human Rights Ministry also lost its sheen after being subsumed into the Ministry of Law and Justice.

There is no dichotomy of views that the terrorism should be eradicated. However, such a gigantic task requires the State to demonstrate an all encompassing commitment and determination against all forms of terrorism. Terrorism cannot be compartmentalised as good and bad terrorism. The prevalent ambivalence for terrorist groups has confounded citizens and the international community.

The government is brimming with eagerness to talk to the forces who embraced terrorism in the cloak of Jihad. These groups have unleashed a spate of malevolent terror over the past decade that has rendered society and the state institutions paraplegic. They publically claim responsibility of grisly pogroms, abduction and execution of senior army officials, targeting religious and sectarian minorities and homicide of innocent citizens. These laws have been promulgated at the time when negotiations with such groups are being pronounced and passionately pursued. One wonders where this law will be actualized.

It is a serious misperception that the current spell of terrorism originated in the wake of 9/11 incident. In fact, the very incident was a bitter harvest of decades-long investment in promoting and nurturing terrorism in this region. Global powers promoted religiosity in this country to sedate their paranoia of communism. Pakistan’s flawed foreign policy bereft of political prescience never adopted a course to serve genuine interests of its citizens. Over the period, religious extremism was made a lynchpin of foreign policy without realising its grave repercussions.

Pakistan evolved as a security state right from its inception. Religious sentiment was dexterously exploited to emblazon foreign policy with faith-dictums. It subsequently compelled Ayub and Bhutto to succumb to pressure of religious elements and reinforce their supremacy in the state affairs. Afghan jihad of 80s institutionalised religiosity and it became an integral part of Pakistani society under the umbrella of official patronisation.

Indoctrination was so intense and ubiquitous that it has now become next to impossible to extricate religion from state affairs and social fabric of the country. Regrettably, this religious sentiment does not revolve around any spiritual or a value-based transformation of the society; it is rather an aggressive mania that aims at conquering rest of the world to spread Islam. Aggression and violence perpetrated over the past decades has always been condoned and relished as Jihad by the state and non-state actors.

Acts of violence and terrorism have thus been cloaked in the sacred garb of crusade. Although a section of state actors belatedly tried to rein the Frankenstein created by the state itself but it was too late by that time. This explains the reasons for an unfathomable confusion in the official ranks about the religious elements when infamous terrorists are canonized by highly responsible officials in public speeches.

Citizens and civil society, against this backdrop, have serious concerns over potential abuse of such laws. Civil rights campaigners, especially in Balochistan and Sindh, consider these ominous laws as a tool to steamroller movements of political and civil rights in these provinces. Forced disappearances, subjecting captives to torture and dumping their lacerated and mutilated corpses has became a routine in Balochistan. Sindh has also witnessed a surge in replication of same tactics in recent months.

Nationalist parties and civil society activists in these two provinces are rabidly opposing such legislation. Human rights activists express a concern that if government has already knelt before the terrorist groups then who will be the target of these laws? A country with a tainted profile and a trail of flagrant violations of human rights, would find it hard to justify such initiatives before the international community and civil society. Political prudence demands a firm commitment and evidence if the government and security agencies are genuinely committed to purge itself of terrorist outfits. This requires a paradigm shift in the approach of managing internal and external affairs.

Employing draconian laws will only exacerbate the complex situation. The State has to revisit its policies towards citizens and redefine its priorities. Without respecting historic rights of federating units and allowing unadulterated democratic dispensation to function and flourish in the country, dream of peace will never be realised. An all encompassing agenda of democratic reforms can bring sustained solution that may rid the country of terrorism. An empowered and accountable parliament, aware and informed citizenry and a vibrant civil society can address the issue of terrorism through larger public participation. Strengthening them will be more rewarding than manufacturing laws for lesser citizens.

The author is a civil society activist; nmemon2004@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

Women at work
Despite being a significant part of rural agriculture, women are deprived of
economic autonomy
By Altaf Hussain

Women are a significant part of the rural agriculture in the agrarian societies like Pakistan, particularly of Sindh where their role is stretched from cleaning seed, to cultivating field crops, harvesting, livestock rearing, home gardening, managing household responsibilities and looking after children. They are prime victim of societal-cum-cultural and political customs and taboos affecting their very wellbeing and the existence. They are also deprived of their due rights including economic autonomy or control over livelihood resources.

According to some estimates, women produce between 60 and 80 per cent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production. Yet their key role as food producers and providers, and their critical contribution to household food security and control over resources, is yet to be acknowledged.

In Sindh, though women have a major share in the agriculture and food production, they are the most vulnerable, marginalised, illiterate and politically excluded section of the society. Women’s limited access to resources and their insufficient purchasing power are products of a series of inter-related social, economic and cultural factors that force them into a subordinate role, to even their own development and that of society as a whole.

About 70 per cent population derives its livelihoods from agriculture as a sole source in Sindh; women constitute quite a significant proportion of that population but continue to be deprived of basic rights at societal as well as household level. According to Labour Force Survey of Pakistan 2010-11, “Rural women’s share in rural labour force of Sindh is 16.9 per cent.” However, it is important to note here that a large number of women, who are unpaid family workers, are not listed or counted in the labour force surveys or statistics.

According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), while women in agriculture-based countries are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture, the farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence, they have more difficulties than men in gaining access to resources such as land, credit and productivity-enhancing inputs and services.

Looking at the predicament of rural women in Sindh, it is imperative that the reasons behind women’s social, political and economic exclusion be explained. Lack of control over livelihood resources steams out of significant void created between men and women where males dominate social, political, cultural and financial matters at household level. Such type of domination has given birth to restrictions on women’s mobility, right to utilise money both given and earned, and right to education. A woman has to seek husband’s permission in most of the cases, even if she has to seek treatment for health.

Even the persistent efforts by the planners, social welfare agencies and women’s organisations have failed to provide them their rightful place in the society. There are many interrelated factors including biological, socio-cultural, psycho-social, economic and the prevalent work preferences which have prevented women from attaining their due place in the society.

Likewise, the human development indicators vis-à-vis women in Sindh are not encouraging. Education is directly proportional to the access to skills and knowledge.

Lack of access to education has correlation with under-development, social and political exclusion of marginalised communities, particularly women. According to Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (2010-11), only 22 per cent rural female in Sindh have ever attended schools, while only 16 per cent rural female have completed primary education. Net enrollment at primary level for the girls is considerably low at 39 per cent.

Suleman G. Abro, Head of Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation (SAFWCO), laments over the precarious situation of women and their lack of control over resources, saying “it is extremely important that women are given the place they deserve as equal citizens.” He says that unfortunately women in rural areas have never been given social-political and economic autonomy.

However, Abro notes that feudal system in Sindh has been the main reason behind women’s marginalisation. For sustainable livelihood, it is important that women have equal access to livelihood assets. This notion includes women’s access to education, health, skills and opportunities so that they can be brought at par with the males as enshrined in the constitution.

 

 

 

 

 

Get online now
Lack of computer literacy among teachers is a reality. A multilateral initiative takes off in Pakistan to do the needful
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

With over 30 million Internet users and more than half of the Pakistani population covered by cellular networks and mobile phone connectivity, lack of Information Communications Technology (ICT) literacy amongst and school students and teachers is still a harsh reality.

A primary indicator of the state of computer literacy amongst school teachers in Pakistan is the condition of schools and the availability of learning tools, condition of computer labs and the skills of those operating them. This brings one to the issues of availability of both electricity and Internet connectivity. The discussion can further be divided between urban and rural or private and public sector schoolteachers.

Private sector schools in urban settings in Pakistan have more ICT literate schoolteachers and certain schools have integrated personal computing and Internet learning into the school learning. More expensive private sector educators have integrated smart learning and robotics introduction for students and thus the ICT literacy skills of teachers have also been upgraded.

Since personal and mobile computing tools like personal computers, laptops, smart phones and tablets are widely available at affordable prices in cities and larger towns, schoolteachers may have access to these devices both at their schools and at homes.

However, the situation in public sector schools is a bit different. In urban areas, they may have computer labs and Internet connectivity but there is no credible data on the usage rate and skill levels of computer literacy of both schoolchildren and schoolteachers. The rural area public schools on the other hand may have a lesser probability of receiving both electricity and Internet connectivity. Besides, availability of computer hardware labs and the security of the equipment may remain a very big challenge for them.

The above-stated situation calls for proper integration of ICT in early education and equipping teachers with modern pedagogical skills. The need for benefiting from the credible information available on the Internet was not as pressing as it is in the competitive world of today.

Educationists agree on the point that making students learn by rot and stick to one textbook, are outdated techniques of learning. They propose education model that promotes critical thinking, inquisitiveness and ability to find solutions by accessing multiple sources of information. What better source than Internet can one have to develop these skills?

The answer obviously is: none. The importance of ICT in improving quality of education can be gauged from the fact that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Intel Pakistan to enable social change and build human capital in underserved communities in Pakistan through digital literacy and education interventions. Under the terms of this LOI, Unesco Islamabad will utilise Intel education content for pilot e-learning material used in schools; conduct pilot professional development courses for teachers which would be based on Intel Teach Program and so on.

Though this is not first such programme launched in Pakistan, it is unique in a sense that organisations like Unesco and Intel — a global leader in ICT systems — are partners in it. So what are these organisations aiming to achieve?

The answer comes from Intel Pakistan Country Manager Naveed Siraj. He tells TNS they want to improve public access to education and raise literacy levels through the innovative use of technology. He says Intel Teach Program offers K-12 (grade 1 to grade 12) teachers a curriculum designed specifically for their needs. Teachers learn how, when, and where to incorporate technology tools and resources into their teaching.

The history of Intel Teach Program in Pakistan dates back to 2001 when 350 teachers were trained in Punjab in a pilot project. To date, Intel has trained 330,000 teachers in ICT skills and most of them are from the public sector. The trainings, he says, are purely for teachers’ professional development and are done in collaboration with partners such as the Ministry of Education or provincial education departments.

He stresses the importance of ICT integration in education system, saying it can solve perennial issues right away. For example, online content delivery can rid people of issues related to late publishing and delivery of textbooks in different parts of the country. “Just imagine how digital textbooks could be sent anywhere in a split second and how easy it would to be make amendments if needed,” he adds.

ICT sector expert and global internet governance adviser, Fouad Bajwa, appreciates the initiative and calls for a National Education Policy to advise stakeholders. The policy, he says, should instruct provinces to incorporate ICT literacy in all public sector schools at any cost? In the private sector, ICT literacy is a matter of widespread common practice whereas within the public sector schools, ICT literacy has to be promoted by initiatives taken purely by the government or through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).

This PPP model is followed by Intel Pakistan which provides trainers for schools free of cost, says Naveed. The content is also designed by Intel according to the modern day needs. It enables teachers to prepare lessons using ICT and Internet and interact with students through online tools. Imparting of these skills is crucial at this point as students learn to form online peer groups and develop collective study habits.

However, Fouad wants policymakers to be very specific and calls for a single course of action all over the country. His point is that the students should know how to operate personal computers, laptops and smart phones for that matter. He says teachers should be able to connect and browse the Internet, write emails, use Voip based services like skype and social media networking tools like facebook. They should be able to browse educational resources like open access knowledge and information or simply wikipedia and be able to operate office productivity programmes. If these skills are known to them, they can impart them to their students as well, he adds.

A positive development in this context is that Unesco Pakistan has decided to share Intel’s Easy Steps course on its website as well. The course offers content on how to create a simple website, conduct an Internet search, create a basic skype account, create an address book, create an email account, download files from the Internet, create a logo, how to use the help guide, manage your files and folders, create a presentation, create a resume, process digital images, use an external storage device, use mobile phone as a modem, search or surf the Internet, send an E-card, use a printer, use skype to make calls and share documents, use a scanner or use a webcam and perform other similar tasks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

literacy
Yet to learn our lesson
A girl school in Fort Abbas, District Bahawalnagar, is a telltale of our poor
education policies
By Rasheed Ali

No headmistress for over a year, only one teacher for ninth and tenth classes, no clerical staff at all, no science laboratory or apparatus for science subjects practical examination preparation, and no clean drinking water facility: this is Government Girls High School, Chak No 330/HR, Marot, Tehsil Fort Abbas, District Bahawalnagar.

Nyla Rasheed, the teacher in-charge at the school, has a long list of complaints to relate if you ask her about the on-ground situation. The school caters for girl students coming from at least seven nearby villages, situated at the brink of Cholistan desert. But the educational facility is facing so many problems for long that it has almost failed to retain its students, says Ms Nyla.

“During the last one year, we invited the community leaders, made all-out efforts and admitted almost 20 students to ninth class,” says Nyla, but regrets that almost half of them left the school due to various reasons including non-availability of science teachers and laboratory facility.

Only six teachers are serving at the high school currently and there is no math teacher at all for the secondary section. “In the absence of a headmistress, I have to work as the head teacher and manage the school affairs. And as there is not a single clerk in the school, I have to dispose of all clerical tasks after the school time, though I feel really exhausted after taking eight periods daily,” complains the young teacher.

This school must have much more number of students compared with its current strength of about 300. But sometimes parents and mostly students themselves prefer going to the Girls High School, Marot — the biggest town in the area, situated about 13 kilometres away — due to non-availability of science teachers in the Chak No 330/HR high school.

Amna Ishtiaq, a dropout, endorses Ms Nyla Rasheed’s assertions. She had to leave her education after she failed her eighth class examination.

“I never liked mathematics as a subject,” says Amna. “I always found it difficult to grasp this subject fully even when a teacher was available in lower classes,” she adds. “And in 8th class, unluckily we did not have teachers to teach us mathematics and English subjects, so I failed my exam,” explains Amna sadly.

“My father had already told me that whenever I will fail my exam, he will withdraw me from school and marry me off. Now, I don’t go to school though I want to, and get education at least to college level.” And thus Amna met the fate of hundreds of thousands of girls of her kind.

However, Bahawalnagar District Education Officer (DEO) Iqbal Ahmad offers a remedy to avoid such situations in the future.

Admitting that a number of schools, especially girl schools, in the entire region are short of teachers, he reveals that the Education Department has evolved a strategy to solve the problem. There are some schools in the district which have more teachers than the prescribed teacher-student ratio. And in some schools, the situation is vice versa, he tells TNS by telephone.

“After completion of a survey, all ‘additional’ teachers will be transferred to those schools where they are needed more due to larger number of students,” Iqbal Ahmad discloses the government plan. “The process will be completed in 10 to 15 days,” promises the DEO, though teachers at the 330/HR girl high school are not ready to buy the claim, as they have been hearing about it for months with no solution as yet.

The officer, nevertheless, fails to give any assurance about posting a clerk to Nyla Rasheed’s school or providing any equipment for science subjects practicals, as no strategy has been evolved in this regard so far.

However, Chaudhry Irshad Ali, former naib nazim of the area, is unable to understand the novel strategy. “It is totally non-sense,” he says bitterly. “Instead of bringing more girl students to schools, they are going totally in the opposite direction. They should have invited and involved the village elders to help convince all parents to send their children to schools instead of transferring teachers,” the Chaudhry of Chak No 338/HR makes a point.

He says that parents of his area villages are already in a fix as sending their daughters to a high school about 15 kilometres away is not possible for them, especially while no proper transport means are available in the area.

There is no public or private transport system throughout the area. Whosoever wants his daughter to get proper education in a high school, has to give her the pick-and-drop facility on his own, explains Ch Irshad. And it is a pity that over 90 per cent parents are too poor to afford the pick-and-drop facility, financially and practically, adds the ex-naib nazim.

However, there is nothing new in the above mentioned situation as far as the conditions of schools in Pakistan are concerned, particularly those situated in rural areas. According to a research report, Alarming Situation of Girls Education in Pakistan, the national literacy rate is 46 per cent, and the literacy rate for girls is 26 per cent and for women 12 per cent, though this figure includes those people also who can write their own names only. In the two regions, hit hardest by militancy and extremism — Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — the female literacy rate is between 3 and 8 per cent.

According to statistics given in the World Bank 2008 report, Pakistan enrolled 83 girls for every 103 boys in primary schools. The primary completion rate for girls was only 58 per cent as compared to 70 per cent for boys. Of the 6.8 million currently estimated out-of-school children in Pakistan, at least 4.2 million are girls. Only 35 per cent of rural women above the age of 10 had completed primary education (PLSM, 2008).

Another report revealed that the literacy rate in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is in very deplorable condition, with 29.5 per cent males and three per cent females being literate.

According to statistics, released in 2010 by the Federal Education Ministry, the total number of primary schools in Pakistan is 146,691. Of these, 43.8 per cent schools are for boys, 31.5 per cent for girls and the remaining 24.7 per cent schools provide mixed enrolment for both boys and girls. At the secondary level, there are 14,000 lower secondary schools, with 5,000 for girls, and 10,000 upper secondary schools, with only 3,000 for girls.

Thus, Pakistan has fewer schools for girls than for boys. At the provincial or country level, there are also more boys’ schools than girls’ schools. This disparity is more pronounced in rural areas, as is evident from the above mentioned example of Tehsil Fort Abbas of the Punjab.

Prof Ghulam Shabir wonders how come an educated and developed society can be established if we keep depriving half of our population of its right to education? Every year, a number of educational schemes and projects are announced in the annual budget, but they fail to bring about any visible change, says the chairman of Media Studies, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur. It seems most of these schemes and projects fail to see the light of the day, otherwise all Amnas of the country should have availed an opportunity until now to get education in their own locality schools, equipped with all facilities and trained teachers of all subjects, of course.

 

 

From theoretical to everyday
Language, Gender and Power is an important contribution not only to the field of linguistics, but also social theory, anthropology and public policy
By Yaqoob Khan Bangash

Language has long been recognised as an important part of identity, and its power has variously been seen in the several linguistic province movements in India, and in the Seraiki and Hindko province movements in Pakistan. However, its role in creating gendered notions, gender relations, and hegemony has seldom been the focus of academic research in Pakistan. It is here that Shahid Siddiqui’s recent work on the topic is very timely and useful. In a way, there is nothing ‘new’ in Professor Siddiqui’s book, but then that is its real strength. The book analyses our everyday life to show the ‘interrelationship of language, gender, and power and their impact on one another’ (p. Xvii), and how we are often oblivious of it.

Written in a clear and lucid style, the book is divided into six sections, ranging from the theoretical to the everyday, further exhibiting how pervasive this relationship is. The first part, Language, Representation and Hegemony, is a theoretical and literature review of the subject, and highlights how the non-linguistic aspects of language have often been ignored in South Asia. In fact, in the context of Pakistan, except for Tariq Rahman and Sabiha Mansoor, hardly anyone has written on the relationship of language with power, and almost no one has related it with both gender and power. Using examples from several theorists like Gramsci, Foucault, Chomsky, Siddiqui argues that language plays a ‘powerful role...in [the] construction of social reality and representation of certain “facts” with vested biases’ (p. 24). The example of the ‘War’ Department changing its name to the more acceptable ‘Defence Department’ but with the same purpose, as pointed out by Chomsky, is a case in point.

In the second part, Siddiqui explores the social construction of gender. Using different attributes and categorisations relating to women, Dr Siddiqui shows how women are mostly represented as weak and negative. The tables on page 33 clearly show how such a social construction of the ‘woman’ is undertaken through language. Further, he argues that ‘in contemporary technologically advanced communication systems, the process of stereotyping has gained tremendous speed and impact’ (p. 36). Chapter 5, in this part, highlights how this process of stereotyping begins, in some cases, even before birth and has economic, cultural and familial aspects.

After the theoretical parts, the third section of the books delves into the issue of Language, Gender and Society. It is here that Siddiqui brings his theoretical framework to the South Asian context and assess the issues at hand through an analysis of literature on women and written by women, proverbs and sayings, jokes and matrimonial advertisements. In this section, Siddiqui shows how in South Asian literature the voice of women has consistently been silenced. He notes ‘the social pressure of mainstream society was such that some women had to write with male pseudonyms’ (p. 66), for example Akbari Begum (already a masculine name) published her first story, Guldasta-e-Muhabat in 1903 under the name Abbas Murtaza. He also gives examples of how the premier work on women’s behaviour written by Mualana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Behishti Zevar, further restricted the life and movement of people.

Shahid Siddiqui further notes how proverbs ‘act as a tool to hegemonise groups, especially women, in South Asian society’ (p. 79). Giving a long list of proverbs and their literal and connotative meaning, he argues that ‘being part of folk wisdom, these sayings and proverbs establish and widen the gender gap every time they are used. Being an important source of social knowledge, these stereotypes affect each segment of society...The social knowledge perpetuated by the proverbs is also internalised by women’ (p. 83). These examples from everyday certainly make the reader aware of the pervasiveness and longevity of such stereotypes.

In chapter 9, Professor Siddiqui analyses gender biases in jokes. He notes ‘most such jokes lead to laughter at the cost of hurting the marginalized groups. Stereotypes, in the form of jokes, gain their strength through their repeated use by the masses and by the legitimizing effect of social institutions in general and media in particular. A woman is turned into an object of laughter, as she is judged by the standards and norms set by men’ (p. 86). Here Siddiqui not only gives examples of several jokes from the Western content, but also from Pakistan and the wider South Asian world.

Chapter 10 then shows how gendered matrimonial advertisements are in South Asia. Marriage is a very important social institution in South Asia and finding a partner is one of the most critical life decisions in the life of a South Asian. Here Dr Siddiqui notes how different attributes are important in advertisements for men and women. He notes that for men profession is one of the most important attributes whereas for women ‘looks’ are important (p. 110). Therefore, Siddiqui concludes ‘the study of these ads on the one hand shows how societal stereotypes are reflected in these ads, and on the other hand suggest that such widely circulated articles are in fact further perpetuating the gendered expectations of society’ (p. 114).

In the next part, Shahid Siddiqui analyses how nursery rhymes and fairly tales also reflect gender stereotypes. He notes ‘gender stereotypes are engraved into children’s minds at an early age through nursery rhymes and fairly tales’ (p. 125). In terms of fairy tales for example, ‘the problem is ultimately resolved by a saviour, who usually happens to be a kind, good looking, cooperative, skilful, and brave male character’ (p. 139). This section is good except that most of the examples used are from the West, whereas similar stereotypes are also present in South Asian tales. Some local examples would have made this section even stronger.

Chapters 15-18 deal with the portrayal of women in the media — advertisements, television plays, songs and films. Here Siddiqui argues that such media ‘being persuasive and pervasive in nature, act as potentially powerful texts that impact people of all ages’ (p. 163). The focus on women being ‘slim,’ as an object of display, the ever present ‘beauty’ creams (i.e., whitening creams), and other similar portrayals of women create an idealistic and unrealistic image of women, which most women can only aspire to. Here the author again delves into the vernacular literature and exhibits the ubiquitousness of such notions.

For example, in Ashfaq Ahmed’s series, Aik Mohabar Sau Afsane, and other dramas, women are portrayed in a stereotypical imagine, ‘where male characters occupied the central place and female characters were mere objects of love’ (p. 170). Siddiqui also points out that even most women writers accept this position and take ‘inspiration from the positional superiority of men’ (p. 171).

The final part six of the book is policy relevant in that it calls for a radical rethink in the way we view language. Professor Siddiqui argues that not only should we stop using gendered language, and promote the use of neutral language, the marginalised should challenge the hegemony of dominant groups through the discourse of language. He also focuses on how educational institutions can be used as tool to empower students, especially women in challenging ‘the gendered stereotypes in the shape of sayings, proverbs jokes, and songs etc... ‘ (p. 205).

This book is a very important contribution not only to the field of linguistics, but also social theory, anthropology and public policy. Its multi and inter-disciplinary approach is one of the great strengths of this book. The book covers a lot of ground and throws out a number of questions, so I hope that this work serves the purpose of being the first of many which articulate the very important relationship between language, gender and power in our society.

The writer is the Chairperson of the Department of History, Forman Christian College, and tweets at @BangashYK. He can be contacted at: yaqoob.bangash@gmail.com.

Language, Gender, & Power: The Politics of Representation and Hegemony in South Asia

Author: Shahid Siddiqui

Publisher: Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Pages: 220

Price: 995

 

 

 

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