to wage war
RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S
Warriors off the field
Camel jockeys wait for their families to take them home from Child Protection Welfare Bureau
The thrill of big-time racing and an open-air life, the chance to become a wanted commodity that the owner can trust -- this euphoric feeling can be alluring for anyone. Similarly, for a sports buff like me, this phenomenon always excited me but one never reckon that behind all the glitz, the glamour, there is a grim reality.
In the same way, on my trip to the Child Protection Welfare Bureau (CPWB) I met some of the child camel jockeys whose lives took an unexpected turn for good I believe.
Can they ever forget their past? How have they succumbed to the glamorous life that they once enjoyed? Where will they go from here? These and many other queries occupied my mind.
"I used to get up at four in the morning and prepare the camel; I took care of its diet and we were strictly told that whatever happens you are not going to take the meal before the camel", tells 17 year old Tariq who came to Pakistan in the first batch in 2005.
"They treated us like animals. In fact sometimes I thought that they didn't even differentiate between them. Badou (Bedouin) adami ko kuch nai samjhta tha, adami say kaam aur ount ko aram," recalls Tariq who went to Dubai with agents posing to be his parents. He doesn't remember who his real parents are and where was his home in Pakistan.
"For eight years I stayed in Dubai. I worked as a jockey and a helper there. I had few friends from India and Bangladesh. We got along really well. That is the only thing that I miss, other than that I would never ever want to go back to that place," he says.
The problem of children being used as camel jockeys has been on the forefront for the last four to five years. In 1999, authorities rescued many children from the camel racing circuit, including one child who became a baby jockey after being smuggled from Pakistan as a 5-year-old. Finally, responding to intense international pressure, Dubai and the rest of the Emirates began clearing the camel-tracks of children, replacing them with robot jockeys.
In Pakistan the project was kicked off in June 2005 by Child Protection Welfare Bureau (CPWB) in collaboration with the government of UAE and the Overseas Pakistan Foundation (OPF). These self-repatriated jockeys have been brought back in batches. "In total 342 children have been recovered and 334 have gone back home. Eight children are left and we hope that their guardians would also show up some day," says Nabeel Malik Child Protection Officer, CPWB.
"All the boys had worked as camel jockeys in the Gulf with many being sold to agents who smuggled them out to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE or other Gulf states by middlemen. And the rest seem to be runaway children who had been kidnapped and taken away," tells Nabeel.
Sajjad with a spark in his eyes tells me, "I will be going home in a few days. They are coming from Dera Ghazi Khan."
There are still a few nitty-gritty matters that need to be sorted out before Sajjad goes because there isn't a smooth running in day-to-day affairs.
So it seems that poor Sajjad may have to wait a bit longer. The idea of going home brings a smile on his face and he tells his peers, "I will come to see you guys regularly, I promise."
A 17-year-old boy was trying to hide behind a 12-year-old Saeed. I call up this young boy named Johar who was shy to start with. "Of course he would never come to see us. He is only saying that in front of you," he says. Johar comes from Rahim Yar Khan. He was rescued back by CPWB three years ago, since then he has been passing his time between studies and sports.
"Mujhey cricket bohat pasand hai," (I like cricket very much) he tells me with action, lifting his right hand which was all bruised. One could guess that Johar would be a good athlete too.
"So you want to become a cricketer?" I ask.
"No, I see my future in tailoring," he replies.
Children at CPWB get special vocational training alongside. "The biggest challenge we faced was that none of the children had schooling history so we at CPWB thought that we should impart them with skill to enable them to earn bread and butter after they leave the CPWB," says Nabeel.
"I don't like staying here; I loved the thrill and excitement in camel-jockeying days. Over here it is quite boring. Wahan humko race jeetnay par paisa milta tha uskay baad hum khudh say shopping karnay jata tha, yahan kuch nai tu khel lu, bas," (There we would get money if we won the race. Then we went shopping. Here all we can do is play) he grumbles.
Tariq has a different view. "I understand Johar's position but I am sure that my parents (whoever they were) would have never wished that kind of life for me. Earning money? For whom? The way I was leading my life I'm sure I would have died on the track one day and no one would have recognised me. Here we live like a family, we play, we fight and that means a life to me."
There is Tariq who is their cricket team captain. Tariq adores Shahid Afridi and Johar is an all-time Shoaib Akhtar fan (now we know from where did this liking for thrill comes from).
Both Tariq and Johar may disagree on this but they are together in pursuing a future in tailoring and more than that both hope that someday they would also go back home.
The contribution of CPWB is remarkable -- it has more than 8000 beneficiaries in Punjab and a 24-hour help-line 1121.
We hope the CPWB will soon get a chance to give its presentation to the chief minister who is receiving presentations from different departments. The major donor of this project is the government of Punjab itself. We hope that the government will facilitate the CPWB to carry on the noble work that they are doing, rising above political differences.
The chairperson CPWB Dr Faiza Asghar has resigned from her post, though her resignation has not been accepted so we hope she comes back because it was she who got passed the Child Protection Act 2004 by the assembly. Without political will, backing and support of the government machinery, particularly the administrative department, it becomes very difficult to continue this noble work.
Workers and activists land up in the lock-up for demanding minimum salaries
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
Aren't we fed up with government statements saying it's all powerful and has the muscle to enforce all the orders it passes? Every time it vows to bring violators to book the violations becomes more prominent. Whether it be matter of fixation of food prices, provision of health services to people in hospitals or redressal of public complaints in police stations, little or no heed is paid to the directives issued by those in power.
The state of affairs becomes even worse when the victims instead of oppressors are made to face the long arm of law. This is something that happened last Thursday outside a textile factory on Raiwind Road, Lahore. In a show of immense abuse of power, Chung police attacked a peaceful gathering of workers outside Naveena Textile Mills and arrested some of them for trying to disturb the law and order situation.
These workers were not the only ones herded into police vans and taken to the police station. Fortunately for them, they had the company of members of the Communist Mazdoor Kissan Party (CMKP) and an office-bearer of All Pakistan Trade Unions Federation (APTUF) in the lockup. Members of both the organisations had gathered there to support the factory workers who were demanding minimum salaries and gratuity.
Umer Chaudhry, a CMPK member who escaped arrest, tells The News on Sunday (TNS) that the protest was peaceful and there was no show of aggression at all on part of the protestors. "We had a detailed discussion with the factory administration and reached a decision acceptable to both the parties to the dispute," he says.
It was exactly when the protestors were waiting for the clearance date to be announced by the factory administration that the police raided, Umer adds. He says the police took some of them to the police station and registered an FIR against them on false charges of beating policemen. Those arrested included Taimur Rahman and Muhammad Ali Jan of CMPK, Muhammad Ilyas of APTUF and factory workers Azam Naqvi and Bilal.
Umar says the police made CMPK members sit in the police station for six hours and allowed them to go home on commitment to turn up in the police station the next morning. When they did they were handcuffed as if they had committed a heinous crime and produced in the court for bail. Though the factory administration had apparently sent two lawyers to oppose the bail application it was granted, Umar adds.
The police clerk at Chung Police Station tells TNS that the protestors were arrested only when they ambushed the police force sent there to disperse them. He says though he was not present on the occasion he firmly believes that the contents of the FIR are true.
A difficult ordeal
By Ahmad Kamal
In the past when you wanted the society to look upon you as an adult, you had to pass a test or a series of tests as your 'right of passage' into adulthood. Now these could include anything from killing a slave, were you in ancient Sparta to having your body mutilated through scarification and tattooing amongst present day African pagan tribes, the aborigines of Australia and the Maoris of New Zealand. But thank the Maker that we (or at least some of us) have the benefit of growing up in societies where such rites have been discarded, assuaged in severity or have been forgotten altogether. I have grown up in such a society and here, like much of the rest of the world, our transit to adulthood is through standing in the impossibly long line outside the I.D-card office and getting that one piece of paper which say: 'finally you're an adult now'.
Now to get this piece of paper, in Pakistan, you have to go to your nearest Nadra office which by the way isn't that near. In fact the closest one to me and coincidentally the only one I knew of, was about a 30 minute drive from my place in Model Town to somewhere beyond Township. And if you've had the misfortune of going to the Nadra office uninformed and at a difficult time -- so to speak anywhere between 9am and 9pm, then you very well know the lengthy and tiresome queues that they sport. I was unfortunate enough to go there at this time and God, it was stifling hot; in fact let your imagination grasp, if it can -- a hot sunny day, with no breeze-heck, not even a timid little gush of air and a queue which starts all the way from the counters and goes on to the road, occupying half of it. This coupled with the asphyxiation one would feel, and one does feel, lined up with men -- where you and they, all, are sweating profusely and the only sample of air, the sporadic gush of wind brings your way, is reeking with the stench from the nearby 'Nala' (an open sewage) is, should I say it, hell on earth. And yet the story doesn't end there, because the time it takes for each man get his token from the counter can be hours (it took me 2). Now if you survive that, then you really have become a man for the worst has been weathered and now comes the fun part; you get your picture taken, your thumb and finger impressions taken, your details filled out, your signatures and then a receipt which says come back in 15 or 30 days, depending on your token.
A word to the wise, a word that I've learnt the hard way -- 'catechize', oh! Yes inquire, by calling up Nadra, 2 days before the due date, on the day or 2 days after it, before going to their office. And when you finally get it, your medal of manhood or womanhood, be an impish child for one day for it may be your last shot at mischievousness for a long, long time.
• Exhibition: An exhibition of seven Artists exploring the medium of print. Work of printmaking, digital graphic art and photography at Alhamra, The Mall till Thursday, August 7. The exhibition remains open from 9am to 6pm. Participants are Mohsin Shafi, Sarah Zahid, Saba Raza, Saba Manzoor, Bushra Obaid, Aun Raza, Waqas Amjad.
• Contemporary Miniature Group Show 'Four Sides' at Nairang Gallery till Tuesday, August 5. The gallery remains open from 11am-11pm. The artists are Fatima Gufran, Irfan Gull, Rabia Ahmed and Akbar Ali.
• Film: Autumn Sonata (1978) at Punjab Lok Rahs today at 6pm. Starring: Ingrid Bergman. The film is an Academy Award nominee.
• Pakistani film is shown at Alhamra, Hall III, The Mall every Thursday at 8pm.
• Puppet Show at Alhamra, The Mall every Sunday at 11am.
• Talent Hunt Show (singing) every Saturday at 7pm at Alhamra, The Mall.
• Panjabi Sangat is a weekly gathering every Friday and Sunday at Najam Hussain Sayed's house at 7pm where Punjabi classical poetry is read, interpreted and sung. The Sangat has been going on for the last 30-40 years. Any person who chooses to visit the Sangat can freely and actively participate in the above mentioned activities.
The four year itch
The system cannot change by extending the time period. The content and teachers need to be improved in the first place
By Amara Ahmad
For the first fifty plus years of its history Pakistan offered a Bachelors degree that required two years to be cleared, except for engineering, law, medicine and a few other degrees. A Bachelor's pass would have had fourteen years of education in total, unlike the rest of the world where a student would have sixteen years of education. Now the degree is four year long, has semesters and credits (number of hours spent on each subject).
This change is constructive from certain aspects -- the primary rationale being that now the Pakistani higher education system is in accord with the international standards. This has opened doors for several scholarships, admissions and credit transfers abroad.
Yet this is not enough to upgrade the Pakistani higher education. In fact the four year course has actually spelled a debacle for many Pakistani youngsters who are now either reduced to an inter-pass, done with their 2 years bachelors privately or else are trying to clear the courses that they have failed in the last few years.
Simply increasing the time limit is not enough. Most international universities have quality standards as well.
Some require that the total credits of the degree be a certain number. The total number of credits done varies among Pakistani universities. If you have a 120 credit degree and the masters in your subject requires 130 -- good luck. Two extra subjects in your masters can cost you thousands of dollars. Plus if your prospective university asks for American history, Mathematics, Calculus or Statistics as compulsory in Bachelors -- more good luck.
The qualitative standards have to be met as well. For example in the last semester we did a course on Environmental Bio-Technology. The course outline was simple because many in our class lacked a scientific background.
We had neither access to lab nor the technology required to study it. The major focus was on bacteria, its life and structure till the course end. Sorry to announce but this is not what biotechnology is -- no international university would accept it.
Credit transfer and semester exchanges have opened new doors for many. While the latter is okay, there are serious issues with the former.
To transfer credits many universities abroad do an analysis of what has been studied in each subject and might ask for the course outlines. Since most teachers and professors are not foreign qualified, don't update their courses regularly or match their courses -- the credits for such courses are not transferred.
Then again, if a course has two, one or more then four credits, the prospective university might not transfer it or might reduce it to three. Another absurdity is that some Pakistani colleges, despite the credit system, have not adopted the semester system. So you cannot apply in the middle of the year, you have to wait for the final exams.
Another issue is the course combination for which most universities give you no choice. This can mean weird things -- like a Psychology major studying French compulsory and Islamic studies students studying Journalism compulsory. This means a lot of frustration and failed subjects.
You might be thinking that the university administration must be smarter than me, then why don't they take care of it? The ground reality is different.
Most professors and teachers in Pakistan, even the most prestigious and experienced ones, have never studied abroad and did all their degrees under the annual system. They do not know how to make course outlines, upgrade them, and develop concepts in a very short period of time from scratch -- preventing informational vomit on the faces of baffled students. Even where professors have studied abroad, in many if not most cases, they don't seem totally committed to their educational vocation -- it seems as if they're only in the profession for personal gains, students and their future mean little or nothing to them. Many of them are on full-time faculty of one renowned institution, but are rarely available beyond their fixed class schedules; they're all taking heaps of other classes, as 'visiting' faculty members in numerous private institutions, making millions. No one has any interest in curriculum review and development on an evolutionary basis, at all.
The HEC does not only need to focus on teacher training, research and specialisation of teachers; it also has to recognise merit and try to develop some sort of positive spirit, some sense of responsibility, in existing faculties.
Again, some departments have two or three professors/teachers, the courses to be offered are thirty or so, all professional and new -- can the same teachers offer them? Why should someone with masters in English Literature teach Business Communication, an M. Phil in Sustainable Development be forced to teach several courses to the entire Environmental Science department?
Another major concern is the so-called 'honors degrees system. Abroad, 'honors programmes' are not compulsory, it is actually an honour allowed to some exceptional students who have research potential or very good grades.
Why call it honors? Because at the end of it there is a thesis involved -- which in itself is an ordeal because research is the last thing a Pakistani student is trained for. Neither does the country have enough research supervisors, in different disciplines, who are qualified and/or able to take on the full-time responsibility of supervising theses/dissertations.
In fact several months are wasted by the students in contemplating on what to do next. The result is -- many theses get rejected and a lot of time is wasted as they cannot get admitted into Masters or find a job.
The new Honors system is also very hectic. The exams are due within weeks of the semester's start. Four or five tests, midterms, presentation and of course, a lot of understanding and attendance.
Despite all the above workload, most courses are apparently legwork for the students and offer no scholarly growth. The assignments are also too many in number and seldom enhance learning. Imagine a topic like 'War of Independence' or 'Atomic fission'. What do you write on it that has not been written before?
With the advent of the WorldWide Web -- very few assignments escape plagiarism in Pakistan. Rather than promoting copy-pasting culture, the schools need to promote critical thinking and research. Even on a topic like 'War of Independence' -- the teachers can help formulate original and new opinions among students.
Another dilemma is the 'notes culture' in Pakistan where teachers give you slides, book photocopies or hand-written notes rather then reference books (which most of the time would be unavailable in the libraries and markets). At the end of each semester, one has hundreds of pages of such handouts. Even worse, is the system of 'guides' and 'keys', which seem to proliferate in places like Urdu Bazar, and similar low-grade markets/publishing centers, it is shocking that most of these guides/keys are recommended by teachers to students, even uptil MA/MS level, and one cannot seem to be able to pass courses without these 'invaluable' aids. Fact is, most of them are actually written/produced by these 'teachers' themselves, usually under fictitious names, and they share profits with the unscrupulous publishers. Exam questions and information is expected to be reproduced from these third-rate publications and woe to you if you haven't bought the 'latest' guide/key. What is needed is that more and more original, quality textbooks by genuine scholars are published by the HEC and university presses, and these should be well-remunerated, so that this guide culture can be discouraged. I believe the HEC has started some sort of scheme in this regard, but how many real books/monographs etc, has it published so far? And in what areas/fields? There should be a target of at least 4-5 hundred publications per annum, in all disciplines/areas of study, not just in a few, like sciences, engineering and economics. In the same way, how many books are published by any of the public sector university presses, in all disciplines each year? The situation is truly appalling.
Notes and guides are easy for the teacher -- once made they can be given to students forever, and easier for students because they help spoon feed, though in the process prevent any deeper understanding of the subject. The teacher has to explain less, rather than read original texts and research.
Then the new tradition that an honors pass gets admitted in M Phil. Firstly this doesn't happen in any part of the World unless the student gets exceptional grades. Secondly, M Phil is a level below PhD, many people cannot clear it. Why impose it on the masses who want to attain higher education?
Some positive aspects of the new system: (a) It has successfully targeted the bunking culture in Pakistan. You can always bunk but you face the consequences too. (b) Class Presentations give the students ample public speaking exposure. Though mostly an undue hassle, since 80% of the world's population suffers from stage fright, it is almost unfair that they be made to follow this regimen and be marked for it.
Another setback is for the girl students who by the time they are twenty, have entered the huge force of would-be brides, leaving all transcripts behind, anytime. There are many cases in our college when a girl had just one semester left, but married and left school due to her in-laws, some are forced to take a year or semester off, others coming back years later to finish their bachelors. Plus the level of ambition and career priorities of these ladies are not in accordance with the degree. The two year Bachelors was in harmony with this marriage custom.
Some girls do the two year Bachelors privately but in most universities, this is not allowed, most remain an inter-pass. Another tragedy is for the students coming from local matriculating system, who find it difficult to cope with this novel system. One can offer Ivy League standard education in Pakistan but the question is -- can the students cope? They neither have the standard of English, money for notes and time for they need to end up in the job market soon.
Is it not unfair for a young man from a poor village to be tested by international standards? The upgradation should be at the grassroots level; otherwise it will lead to chaos.
This is not a recommendation to revert to the two year Bachelors. It is an outline of some problems and a plea for HEC to help students. So that the four year experience becomes intellectually enriching and academics flourish rather then a parade in and out of courses and a fruitless marathon of tests, exams and grades, resulting in a pointless degree.
In the last two years I must have visited the Shahi Qila at least four times, the most recent being last week. I can only remember one time when I found the place totally clean and that was during the renovation process of the Shish Mahal two years ago. During the recent visit I was very happy to see that the attempts at conserving the building is being extended to other areas of the fort as well but I was horrified to see that some of the visitors had once again scratched out their names and engraved lettering on the newly painted walls.
In response to my questions, the guard at the site said that the local visitors, mostly groups of boys, were the ones to be blamed for the damage to the building. He showed his own exasperation at people's insolence and disregard for protection of their own national heritage.
Nine million dollars were given in aid by the Norwegian government through Unesco for the development and restoration of our cultural heritage. The work had begun because in 2000 the Government of Pakistan had requested action from the World Heritage Committee for assistance as the Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens were nominated on the list of World Heritage in danger.
Two years after, the work has been completed, the fort looks as if in the next five years it will be added to that list once again. It is such a shame that the people of this country do not know how to thank their foreign supporters and to prove to the world that ours is a country worth visiting and worth conserving.
-- Minhal Saba Khan
How to cope with increasing petrol prices
1. Use a bicycle
3. Move to village
4. Car pool with neighbours
5. Drive slow
6. Keep your car well-tuned
7. Maintain adequate air
pressure in tyres
8. Avoid socialising
9. Plan and organise
10. Stay indoors
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