access
The bases for defence

In the initial stages of the war on terror, Pakistan allowed the US some military bases. These once-secret deals are now being questioned vociferously
By Wajid Ali Syed
In his 2006 autobiography ‘In the Line of Fire’, then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf explained how the shotgun marriage between the US and Pakistan came about — on September 12, 2001, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell placed an urgent call to Gen Musharraf and put America’s expectations in stark terms: “You are either with us or against us.”

Truckloads of suffering
Taking supplies to the US-led forces in Afghanistan was always a dangerous game. More so now
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
The November 26 Nato attack on the Pakistan army posts in Mohmand tribal region and Pakistan’s subsequent suspension of the Nato supplies have brought numerous hardships for the transporters involved in this otherwise dangerous business.

Yeh Woh
Chasing 
Nasir Jahan

By Masud Alam
Muharram means different things to different people. It is the first month in the Islamic calendar and makes up for a really halal new year. It is the month during which the epic battle of Karbala was fought which is remembered in minute detail every year in the first ten days of the month. It comes with a two-day holiday, that can sometimes coincide with weekend — as it happened this time round — and results in mass exodus of students and young professionals from large cities to their home towns. And it is also the month that prompts the electronic media regulator, Pemra, to issue directives on how TV channels are supposed to behave during Muharram.

interview
A sharp eye on education 
By Ather Naqvi 
Aamir Riaz has closely watched the state of education in Pakistan especially since 2006, when the government was doing a mid-term review of the education policy of 1998 under a federal commission and he was tasked to do a comparative analysis of the 12 education policies announced by then, including the one in 1998. The white paper of the work was published in 2007 and he plans to publish the findings of the study in a book form soon.
He has recently — in August 2011 — completed a research study in Urdu titled ‘Hum Apnay Bachon Ko Kiya Parha Rahey Hain? Punjab Textbook Board ki Nisaabi Kutb Barey ik Jaeyza’, with support from Actionaid and Jaag.

Manufacturing crisis
Where else in the world would a medical condition translate into an in-house change?
By Aoun Sahi
President Asif Zardari’s recent trip to Dubai, which his spokesperson has termed a routine medical check-up, is being connected with the memogate scandal that has gripped the Pakistani politics for the last few weeks. Speculations are rife in Islamabad that the scandal could topple the government. The president’s trip abroad only aggravated the already tense political situation. 

 

 

 

 

 

access
The bases for defence
In the initial stages of the war on terror, Pakistan allowed the US some military bases. These once-secret deals are now being questioned vociferously

By Wajid Ali Syed

In his 2006 autobiography ‘In the Line of Fire’, then military ruler General Pervez Musharraf explained how the shotgun marriage between the US and Pakistan came about — on September 12, 2001, then US Secretary of State Colin Powell placed an urgent call to Gen Musharraf and put America’s expectations in stark terms: “You are either with us or against us.”

The following day, the head of the ISI briefed Musharraf about a meeting in Washington with Powell’s most-trusted deputy Richard Armitage. According to Gen Musharraf, this time the demand came with a threat: “Armitage told... the Director General not only that we had to decide whether we were with America or the terrorists, but that if we chose the terrorists, then we should be prepared to be bombed back to the Stone Age.”

Reinforcing the point, then US ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain brought a set of seven demands to Gen Musharraf. The demands, according to the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), included “blanket overflight landing rights, use of Pakistan’s naval ports and access to strategic locations on borders”.

During the early stages of the war on terror, Pakistan was asked to provide airbases or airfields to meet the requirements of US/Coalition forces. It provided five airbases, and permission to land planes anywhere in Pakistan in case of emergency. On average 0.4 million litres of fuel per day was provided to the US forces. CENTCOM says a total of 57,800 sorties were generated from Pakistan’s air space/soil.

In order to facilitate launching of air operations into Afghanistan, Pakistan also provided two thirds of its air space as air corridor to the US/Coalition Forces. By so doing, Pakistan had to reschedule or redirect many of the commercial flights. Pakistan Navy provided landing facility to the US/Coalition ships at Pasni.

At sea, Pakistan Navy operations and trainings were curtailed in order to accommodate and facilitate the operations of the US/Coalition Naval Forces. According to the US Marine Corps Gazette of June 2002, the Coalition Naval Operations at Pasni were the largest amphibious operations in size, duration and depth that the Marine Corps had conducted since the Korean War. In all, 8,000 Marines, 330 vehicles and over 1,350 tonnes of equipment/logistic were off loaded at the beach and later flown to Kandahar from Pasni.

But, in almost every single visit to the United States, General Musharraf rejected allegations that he had made any such arrangements with the Bush administration during his regime. He maintained that Pakistan had only provided logistical support for unarmed drones. According to the former president’s accounts he “offered only a narrow flight corridor that was far from any sensitive areas”. He never elaborated the arrangements with the US, but resultantly both countries became partners against terrorism.

Such deals are usually high profile, said Jorge Benitez, who served as Assistant for Alliance Issues to the Director of NATO Affairs in the office of the Secretary of Defence. He told TNS that such deals depend on the US Army’s requirements and vary from country to country. Benitez is currently a senior fellow in the International Security Program and keeps a close watch on the Nato activities. He said that Nato usually has a Standardization Agreement, abbreviated as STANAG, with other countries, especially where the American Army has its permanent presence.

But what if a host country is a non-Nato ally, and closer to a country where a combat operation is required? Benitez explained, “In non-combat situations the US forces do not enter another nation without a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) or Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA). The US military presence in Pakistan will include one or more of these.”

However, in the initial stages of the war, Pakistan demonstrated its support by providing logistical support without any of the formal agreements or user fees that are normally required. It allowed the US access to numerous military bases and helped establish a number of facilities including intermediate Staging Bases at Jacobabad, Pasni, Dalbandin and Shamsi. Pakistan provided fuel to aircraft, averaging 100,000 gallons per day, initially without any established repayment mechanism, says Christine Fair, an assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, in one of her papers in 2008 on the US diplomacy with Pakistan.

In return, the US not only lifted the sanctions that had been imposed against Pakistan under the Pressler, Glenn and Symington Amendments and the Foreign Assistance Act, but also started providing economic and military aid. Besides monetary help, it also extended training to military personnel, equipment update etc.

The US phased out of other bases except Shahbaz and Shamsi, both of which created problems and brought embarrassment to the US and Pakistan. By March 2004 there were reports of increased US operations in Pakistan. These bases were the focus of extensive movements to provide logistical support for special forces and intelligence operations. Shahbaz airbase, located at Jacobabad in Sindh, appeared to be key to the US’s spring offensive. C-17 transports were reportedly involved in daily deliveries of supplies.

Similarly, in 2009, London’s The Times published a report claiming that Shamsi airbase has been in control of the US. The report also carried pictures of drone planes parked openly at the base. These pictures were taken through a satellite and obtained via Google Earth.

“The images in Google Earth show the drones parked were captured in 2006 and then in 2007, we don’t see anymore drones but we see additional hangers. So the question is have they been clever to keep their drones out of sight of the satellites or is it that they just built additional hanger space or they are not using it at all… we don’t know,” said Tim Brown while browsing through the archive pictures of the Shamsi base on Google Earth. Tim Brown, who is an expert in Google Earth technology, says, “before 9/11 this airbase was almost abandoned, and the US forces rebuilt that.”

The US built portable hangers one after another until 2010, even though officially they were not being used. Probably the base was used to keep an eye on some areas of Iran as well, since, as Brown puts it, “the bases were established in Kandahar and Khost areas of Afghanistan which are closer to the tribal areas, besides Bagram.”

Once the two Pakistani bases and the activities there went public in the media, it became harder and harder for both the countries to keep the missions secret. Under public pressure, the government of Pakistan asked the US to immediately leave the bases, but apparently the United States kept rebuilding on the property. By 2010, only Shamsi was being used by the US for emergency landings, refuelling and repair of technical problems. “Shamsi base was important for a couple of reasons. One of them was that it demonstrated Pakistani support for the American military effort in the region. Another one is that it was a convenient location — relatively close to target areas. The third advantage is that it was out of the way, so you aren’t going to have a bunch of curiosity seekers watching activities all the time. So it was politically convenient for the Americans,” says John Pike, director of Global Securities, a think-tank that works in the defence field.

In late 2010, Pakistan again asked the US to evacuate the Shamsi base after a Nato strike killed three Pakistani soldiers. A little over a year later, following yet another cross-border attack by Nato that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead, Pakistan put its foot down and notified the American officials that the US leave the base within two weeks. “This is one more indicator of the clamps of the partnership between Pakistan and the United States,” John Pike says, adding that now there are other bases in the region that could help the US operate its drones without any problem, primarily because of the dramatic advances in drone technology. However, Pike adds that the US clearly needs Pakistan’s logistical support.

When the US announced it would indeed evacuate its last airbase in Pakistan, some in Washington argued that the decision would not impact America at all, however, it would affect the relationship with Pakistan. Since the base was being used as a back-up for the combat mission in Afghanistan, it had no other significance except to portray Pakistan’s support in the war on terror. “We do have bases and carriers in Afghanistan, and with this decision the Pakistanis are shooting themselves in the foot. How do they gain by undercutting a military operation that continues to bring stability in Afghanistan? Any decline in stability can only contribute to the extremist challenges or threats operating in Afghanistan,” says Ian Brzezinski, former deputy assistant secretary of Defence.

Brzezinski believes Pakistanis are acting this way because they think the US is withdrawing from the region, a claim he contests. “Combat forces would be returning, but other than that the US military and its presence would remain in Afghanistan,” he concludes.

 

The writer is Jang/Geo correspondent in Washington.

   

 

 

 

Truckloads of suffering
Taking supplies to the US-led forces in Afghanistan was always a dangerous game. More so now

By Mushtaq Yusufzai

The November 26 Nato attack on the Pakistan army posts in Mohmand tribal region and Pakistan’s subsequent suspension of the Nato supplies have brought numerous hardships for the transporters involved in this otherwise dangerous business.

Taking supplies to the US-led occupying forces engaged in combat against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has always been a dangerous game, and the recent developments, particularly the Afghanistan-based Nato forces attacks on Pakistani security forces along the Afghan border, have made this business more risky for the transporters and those associated with it.

The drivers, mostly Pakhtuns hailing from the troubled tribal areas, are associated with the business of taking all type of supplies across the border in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s recent decision to suspend Nato supplies via Torkham in the volatile Khyber tribal region and Chaman border in Balochistan has set a new record of blockade of supplies to the foreign forces in the war-torn Afghanistan.

Previously when the Nato choppers intruded into Pakistan’s Kurram tribal region in September 2010 and attacked a border security post killing two paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers, Pakistan for the first time suspended Nato supplies via Torkham and Chaman borders. On that occasion, supplies to the Nato forces remained suspended for 10 days, and had given tough time to the foreign forces in Afghanistan, prompting senior US administration officials to publicly apologise over the killing. Before the US apology and resumption of Nato supplies via Pakistan, the transporters carrying fuel, military vehicles and food items for the foreign troops in Afghanistan had suffered heavy losses as they had parked their vehicles at roadsides in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. Militants targeted and set ablaze these oil-tankers and containers quite easily as there was no one to protect these poor drivers and their vehicles.

Shakir Afridi, president of All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association, recalled that since 2001 as many as 1,750 oil-tankers and 300 containers have been burnt down in attacks by militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Talking to The News on Sunday (TNS), he says 200 Pakistani transporters have so far lost their lives in attacks on their vehicles in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He claims that 180 Pakistani transporters have either lost their eyes, legs, arms or other body parts during attacks on their vehicles.

Shakir Afridi says that around 3000 oil-tankers and 3500 containers are involved in the business, saying presently up to 900 oil-tankers and more than 800 loaded containers are stuck up at various points on the way from the Karachi seaport to the Afghan border. He says when the government suspended the Nato supplies almost all the loaded oil-tankers were taken to Mehmood Kot, the hub of fuel supplies in Pakistan near Multan, to avoid any mishap.

Similarly, he says that many other oil-tankers and containers are still waiting in Karachi while several others are parked at roadside hotels and terminals at different places in Sindh, Karachi and Balochistan.

This time when the federal government suspended the Nato supplies via Pakistan, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government immediately ordered the concerned law-enforcement agencies to expel all the oil-tankers and containers involved in the business from KPK premises to avoid any law and order situation. The decision of the KPK government of not allowing oil-tankers and containers in the province has brought tremendous hardships for the poor drivers and cleaners.

There is no end to the suffering of poor drivers such as Mazrin Shinwari and his dozens of colleagues. Mazrin had taken chickens to Afghanistan and was on his way back to Pakistan when the government announced blockade of the Nato supplies. He says the Pakistani border officials refused to let him enter into Pakistan at Torkham border.

“Since I have been travelling on this route for years, I knew what they were expecting from me. I gave them money and they allowed me to proceed towards Peshawar. But when I arrived in Peshawar, it seemed as if I had killed Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, or if I had attacked the Pakistan army posts in Mohmand Agency as the police were very cruel to me. Everyone wanted to fleece me,” Mazrin, a visibly exhausted driver dressed in his dirty clothes, recalled.

The police neither allowed to park his vehicle at the terminal on Peshawar’s Ring Road, where he used to park it before, nor allowed him to bring his long-wheeler to the road. “I have had several friends during good days. Now even the contractors whose good we transport to Afghanistan are reluctant to provide us stay for a night at their terminals,” the driver complained.

Mazrin says he is paid Rs350,000 per trip from Karachi to Afghanistan, but he saves only Rs60,000 for his family, and the remaining amount goes to various Pakistani officials, right from Karachi to the Torkham border, and fuel cost.

“Every day 3000 vehicles pass through the Khyber tribal region to enter Afghanistan and every vehicle is required to pay Rs10,000 on every checkpoint manned by the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and Khasaddar force or tribal police and there are numerous checkpoints. On Torkham border, however, the fee is Rs20,000, but there is no documented evidence of whatever is collected from vehicles as they do not give us any paper after payment,” the driver alleged.

Another driver, Sharafatullah Afridi, says suspension of the Nato supplies has rendered thousands of people jobless. He says the drivers waiting with their vehicles on roadside along the border are running out of cash and other essential supplies and there seems no end to their sufferings. Afridi says their family members are depending on them and their vehicles, but now when there is no business for the past two weeks, they are seriously concerned about the future of their families.

Their leader Shakir Afridi, however, claims he and most of other transporters are happy that Pakistan had banned the Nato supplies as the business had become dangerous and less profitable. He says that anyone with other means is pulling out and trying to start other less risky and more profitable transportation business.

Shakir Afridi is, however, satisfied with the security situation, saying that there has been not a single attack for the last two weeks on any oil-tanker or container anywhere in Pakistan. “I hope there will be no such incident in future as well as transporters have already parked their vehicles at safe places.”The November 26 Nato attack on the Pakistan army posts in Mohmand tribal region and Pakistan’s subsequent suspension of the Nato supplies have brought numerous hardships for the transporters involved in this otherwise dangerous business.

Taking supplies to the US-led occupying forces engaged in combat against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has always been a dangerous game, and the recent developments, particularly the Afghanistan-based Nato forces attacks on Pakistani security forces along the Afghan border, have made this business more risky for the transporters and those associated with it.

The drivers, mostly Pakhtuns hailing from the troubled tribal areas, are associated with the business of taking all type of supplies across the border in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s recent decision to suspend Nato supplies via Torkham in the volatile Khyber tribal region and Chaman border in Balochistan has set a new record of blockade of supplies to the foreign forces in the war-torn Afghanistan.

Previously when the Nato choppers intruded into Pakistan’s Kurram tribal region in September 2010 and attacked a border security post killing two paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers, Pakistan for the first time suspended Nato supplies via Torkham and Chaman borders. On that occasion, supplies to the Nato forces remained suspended for 10 days, and had given tough time to the foreign forces in Afghanistan, prompting senior US administration officials to publicly apologise over the killing. Before the US apology and resumption of Nato supplies via Pakistan, the transporters carrying fuel, military vehicles and food items for the foreign troops in Afghanistan had suffered heavy losses as they had parked their vehicles at roadsides in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. Militants targeted and set ablaze these oil-tankers and containers quite easily as there was no one to protect these poor drivers and their vehicles.

Shakir Afridi, president of All Pakistan Oil Tankers Association, recalled that since 2001 as many as 1,750 oil-tankers and 300 containers have been burnt down in attacks by militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Talking to The News on Sunday (TNS), he says 200 Pakistani transporters have so far lost their lives in attacks on their vehicles in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He claims that 180 Pakistani transporters have either lost their eyes, legs, arms or other body parts during attacks on their vehicles.

Shakir Afridi says that around 3000 oil-tankers and 3500 containers are involved in the business, saying presently up to 900 oil-tankers and more than 800 loaded containers are stuck up at various points on the way from the Karachi seaport to the Afghan border. He says when the government suspended the Nato supplies almost all the loaded oil-tankers were taken to Mehmood Kot, the hub of fuel supplies in Pakistan near Multan, to avoid any mishap.

Similarly, he says that many other oil-tankers and containers are still waiting in Karachi while several others are parked at roadside hotels and terminals at different places in Sindh, Karachi and Balochistan.

This time when the federal government suspended the Nato supplies via Pakistan, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government immediately ordered the concerned law-enforcement agencies to expel all the oil-tankers and containers involved in the business from KPK premises to avoid any law and order situation. The decision of the KPK government of not allowing oil-tankers and containers in the province has brought tremendous hardships for the poor drivers and cleaners.

There is no end to the suffering of poor drivers such as Mazrin Shinwari and his dozens of colleagues. Mazrin had taken chickens to Afghanistan and was on his way back to Pakistan when the government announced blockade of the Nato supplies. He says the Pakistani border officials refused to let him enter into Pakistan at Torkham border.

“Since I have been travelling on this route for years, I knew what they were expecting from me. I gave them money and they allowed me to proceed towards Peshawar. But when I arrived in Peshawar, it seemed as if I had killed Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, or if I had attacked the Pakistan army posts in Mohmand Agency as the police were very cruel to me. Everyone wanted to fleece me,” Mazrin, a visibly exhausted driver dressed in his dirty clothes, recalled.

The police neither allowed to park his vehicle at the terminal on Peshawar’s Ring Road, where he used to park it before, nor allowed him to bring his long-wheeler to the road. “I have had several friends during good days. Now even the contractors whose good we transport to Afghanistan are reluctant to provide us stay for a night at their terminals,” the driver complained.

Mazrin says he is paid Rs350,000 per trip from Karachi to Afghanistan, but he saves only Rs60,000 for his family, and the remaining amount goes to various Pakistani officials, right from Karachi to the Torkham border, and fuel cost.

“Every day 3000 vehicles pass through the Khyber tribal region to enter Afghanistan and every vehicle is required to pay Rs10,000 on every checkpoint manned by the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) and Khasaddar force or tribal police and there are numerous checkpoints. On Torkham border, however, the fee is Rs20,000, but there is no documented evidence of whatever is collected from vehicles as they do not give us any paper after payment,” the driver alleged.

Another driver, Sharafatullah Afridi, says suspension of the Nato supplies has rendered thousands of people jobless. He says the drivers waiting with their vehicles on roadside along the border are running out of cash and other essential supplies and there seems no end to their sufferings. Afridi says their family members are depending on them and their vehicles, but now when there is no business for the past two weeks, they are seriously concerned about the future of their families.

Their leader Shakir Afridi, however, claims he and most of other transporters are happy that Pakistan had banned the Nato supplies as the business had become dangerous and less profitable. He says that anyone with other means is pulling out and trying to start other less risky and more profitable transportation business.

Shakir Afridi is, however, satisfied with the security situation, saying that there has been not a single attack for the last two weeks on any oil-tanker or container anywhere in Pakistan. “I hope there will be no such incident in future as well as transporters have already parked their vehicles at safe places.”

 

 

 

 

Yeh Woh
Chasing 
Nasir Jahan
By Masud Alam

Muharram means different things to different people. It is the first month in the Islamic calendar and makes up for a really halal new year. It is the month during which the epic battle of Karbala was fought which is remembered in minute detail every year in the first ten days of the month. It comes with a two-day holiday, that can sometimes coincide with weekend — as it happened this time round — and results in mass exodus of students and young professionals from large cities to their home towns. And it is also the month that prompts the electronic media regulator, Pemra, to issue directives on how TV channels are supposed to behave during Muharram.

Not that the privately owned media needs a reminder. It has been doing exactly the same programming that was designed by PTV when it used to be the only one to occupy the airwaves. No entertainment in the first ten days. A couple of discussion programmes, lyrical tributes to the martyrs of Karbala, and a majlis in the evening. On the night of the tenth, the special transmission ends with two additional elements — the noha and salam e aakhir — both rendered by Nasir Jahan — the man with the most haunting voice this side of Arabian Sea. For decades, TV viewers have watched Nasir Jahan sitting on a pulpit with nothing else around it, on a dimly lit set, present the same two pieces in his mesmerising style that needs no musical accompaniment. His death went largely unnoticed because he is there with his magical performance every tenth of Muharram, thanks to the PTV archives.

On last Tuesday Nasir Jahan was still on my mind when I had a ten-hour road trip to make from Bahawalpur to Islamabad. The plan was to reach home in time for the sham e ghareeban telecast. There was this third ODI being played between Pakistan and Bangladesh on that day, but I wasn’t too worried about missing it. I set off early after declining my host’s offer to accompany him to the family graveyard — a Muharram tradition I realised later, that is close to the heart of south Punjabis.

The roads were deserted and the graveyards on our way were bustling with activity. Graves are freshly plastered with mud, rose petals and aromatic twigs are sprinkled generously, and prayers are offered for the dear departed. In central Punjab, the graves of family members are usually tended and decorated before Eidul Fitr. Personally, I feel brothers in the south have a better sense of timing for this activity. Eid is not much of a happy occasion anyways, but visiting graveyard first thing in the morning definitely makes it anything but happy.

After crossing Kabeerwala, we hit the first Muharram procession. Tall black screens held up by young men and boys blocked the road in front of us. It was a women’s procession and the screens in front of and behind the procession were meant to serve as purdah. I asked a policeman there if it was legal to block an inter-city road, even for a religious procession? Without speaking a word he pointed to an uneven path passing through a bunch of houses as a befitting reply to my query and turned his attention back to his cigarette. We took the bumpy detour and were back on the road after a while.

We were stopped at a hurriedly set up checkpost before entering Jhang and asked to take another detour. ‘But the road is clear,’ I tried to argue with police. ‘Shots are being fired a little ahead, as we speak. You want to go and see it for yourself?’ He replied sarcastically. I couldn’t hear any gunshots in the distance but that doesn’t prove the policeman wrong. Nothing does. I obeyed the order and drove around Jhang city looking for the road that’ll take me to Faisalabad. Majority of exit and entry points are closed. I’m sent this way and that.

Finally, I found the road and drove the last uncertain stretch before getting on to the Motorway — the only road in this country where traffic laws exist and where keeping the traffic flowing is considered a priority.

I was late for PTV’s sham e ghareeban. The private channels had their own special programmes for the occasion but no sign of Nasir Jahan. Flipping the channels I came across the familiar voice and an unfamiliar face. It was Asad Jahan, the son, who has inherited part of his father’s magic. We are assured another couple of decades of a younger, mellower Nasir Jahan’s sham e ghareeban.

 

[email protected]

    

The writer is a Lahore based political analyst and lawyer.

 

 

 

 

 

interview
A sharp eye on education 

By Ather Naqvi 

Aamir Riaz has closely watched the state of education in Pakistan especially since 2006, when the government was doing a mid-term review of the education policy of 1998 under a federal commission and he was tasked to do a comparative analysis of the 12 education policies announced by then, including the one in 1998. The white paper of the work was published in 2007 and he plans to publish the findings of the study in a book form soon.

He has recently — in August 2011 — completed a research study in Urdu titled ‘Hum Apnay Bachon Ko Kiya Parha Rahey Hain? Punjab Textbook Board ki Nisaabi Kutb Barey ik Jaeyza’, with support from Actionaid and Jaag. As part of the study, he took 34 books, approved by the government and published by the Punjab Textbook Board in 2010, from four subjects (Urdu, English, Islamiyat/Ethics and Pakistan Studies/Social Studies) from Class I to Class X and analysed them in the light of around “45 questions”.

Of all the 871 lessons that he analysed in these 34 books, the conclusions that he has drawn are astounding, to say the least. The lessons are biased, distorted, factually incorrect, gender insensitive and lack on a number of counts.

TNS sat with him in his office behind the Readings bookstore in Lahore where he is currently working as general manager of Ilqa Publications to discuss the findings of the report. 

The News on Sunday: What is the underlying message of the report?

Aamir Riaz: The thrust of the report is that despite adhering to religious beliefs and nationalism, one could still allow some room for peace and tolerance. The problem is that our education policies are not inclusive. For example, instead of formulating a syllabus of Islamiat which would take into account sensibilities of various sects, we published a separate book for the Shia sect during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government in the 1970s. This was contrary to the Sharif Commission formed in 1959 that suggested that syllabus for religious education shall not contain material unacceptable to any sect living in the country.

This aspect has been rather reluctantly stated in the Education Policy of 2009 as well. But the problem of a textbook writer is that he can not do anything except follow the guidelines of the state policy.

Then another important issue is: what to teach our children. In the reports preceding the one in 1969, it was clearly stated that all non-Muslims would be imparted education keeping in view their religious beliefs and sentiments. This statement was removed from the 1969 report and reappeared years later in the education policy of 2009.

We do not give a correct version of history of Punjab in the Punjab textbooks. Same is the case with the history books of Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. The message of this report is that we should accept various types of diversities in our society and reflect them in our textbooks.

TNS: What method of research did you employ for the report?

AR: I framed 45 questions in all, covering the relevant and important aspects of the research, such as religion, nationalism, modernity, gender and rural and urban bias, etc, and divided them into five sections each. We looked for answers to these questions in the textbooks. The textbooks were our respondents.

This does not mean that the textbooks in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are free of errors. But we gave greater importance to the Punjab because about 56 per cent of the total population of the country lives here.

I had access to some education documents of the federal government but they were insufficient. So, I had to meet people from various sections of society and connect the dots.

An important fact we discovered during the research was that according to the government’s latest data, about 40 million boys and girls are studying in class I to X, and out of these, 13 million go to private schools and a few thousands go to madrassahs. That means more than 60 per cent students still go to schools in the public sector. Therefore, we are imparting a biased education to a majority of our schoolchildren.

TNS: How do you compare the Punjab Textbook Board’s books with those used in private schools?

AR: I have seen some textbooks of private schools and they too are not satisfactory. The content has no social, ethical or religious affinity to our land. They seem to be preparing a lot that would end up in the Western countries.

TNS: So who do you hold responsible for this mess?

AR: The civilian governments had hardly any time or space to formulate an education policy responsive to our needs. It is very difficult for them to correct the historic wrongs. For instance, interestingly, there is no mention of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in the chapter on Second Islamic Conference. In the same way, Nawaz Sharif is not mentioned in the chapter on atomic explosions conducted by Pakistan in 1998.

We started deviating from the path of liberalism and tolerance after the education policy of 1969. This policy was blatantly anti-India, among other things. The four education policies before that clearly showed we were trying to strike a balance between religion and modernity. The element of extremism had not found its place yet. There was nationalism but there was also clear space for languages such as Bengali as one of the national languages. Same was the case with other local languages such as Sindhi, etc. In contrast we had the education policy of 1959, also known as the Sharif Commission Report. Mr Sharif was a professor at the Government College, Lahore and there was no bureaucrat from the civilian or military setup in the 12-member policy formulating team, other than the secretary education. It also had Dr Abdus Salam as one of its advisers.

While comparing the education policies, I found out that while some work is being done on the policy level, there is little attention being paid to what we are actually teaching the students.

TNS: Do we have other instances of content analyses of textbooks?

AR: There is not a single comprehensive content analysis of our education policies so far. The ones that have been undertaken relate to specific areas such as minorities, women, etc. One does not get the whole picture reading those reports. And unless you get the whole picture, it is difficult to go in the right direction.

TNS: How have the local languages been affected?

AR: The issue of mother tongue is very important. We have the example of India where they formed a commission in 1948 which gave recommendations to the constitution committee, pointing out that 96 languages were spoken in India and out of them 26 were spoken by not more than 5,000 people but they should be given the right to primary education in their mother tongue. And they were allowed to do that.

We should understand that there is no clash between the mother tongue and Urdu. But some sections have deliberately done that for their vested interests — to promote centralism. In the first education conference after Pakistan came into being, it was recommended that the provinces’ languages will be kept in view while making policies but this point was later removed. The idea of one language, one nation, and one religion goes against the very presence of diversity in the Pakistani society. Quaid-e-Azam never meant that Urdu will be the national language when he said that it will be the “lingua franca” of Pakistan. There is a clear difference between a lingua franca and the sole national language. In the very next speech of Quaid-e-Azam in 1948, he said that I have no objection to Bengalis declaring Bengali their national language. In his Allahabad speech, Iqbal acknowledges the linguistic, cultural and religious diversity.

TNS: What is the way forward?

AR: Broad but unambiguous education policy guidelines should come from the federal government with the main input from provinces after consultations with the civil society. Words like enemy etc, being taught to a student of a primary class do not make sense. Education reform is not a one man show; the parliament will have to put in its share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manufacturing crisis
Where else in the world would a medical condition translate into an in-house change?

By Aoun Sahi

President Asif Zardari’s recent trip to Dubai, which his spokesperson has termed a routine medical check-up, is being connected with the memogate scandal that has gripped the Pakistani politics for the last few weeks. Speculations are rife in Islamabad that the scandal could topple the government. The president’s trip abroad only aggravated the already tense political situation.

An article published early morning December 6, when most of the people in Pakistan were not even aware of the president’s visit to Dubai on the website of Foreign Policy magazine, became the cause of speculations. The article quoted an anonymous former US government official as saying Zardari was “incoherent” when he spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone over the weekend. “Parts of the US government were informed that Zardari had suffered a minor heart attack on Monday night and may resign on account of ill health amid the uproar over the memo scandal,” the official had told FP magazine.

The report claimed, “The noose was getting tighter — it was only a matter of time,” indicating that President Zardari may be facing huge pressure from the powerful army to resign. It also quoted Shuja Nawaz, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council who is considered very close to the Pakistani establishment, as saying, “This is the in-house change option that has been talked about.” Nawaz said that this plan would see Zardari step aside and be replaced by his own party. “Unfortunately, it means that the military may have had to use its muscle to effect change yet again. Now if they stay at arm’s length and let the party take care of its business, then things may improve. If not, then this is a silent coup with Pakistan Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani as the front man,” he told the magazine.

If anything, the FP story shows the power of media to manipulate events and create a crisis where there is none. Political analysts seem to go with the tide and believe that the memogate scandal has put a lot of pressure on the president. “I think he has sensed what is going to happen to him. He will have to face the outcome of memogate scandal investigations. America is also not happy with Zardari because, instead of sidelining the army, he has made it more powerful,” Tariq Butt, Islamabad-based senior journalist and political commentator tells TNS. “One good thing is that his party seems united. Bilawal’s meeting with Gillani is an effort to show that there is no leadership vacuum in the party.”

The memogate controversy initiated on October 10, when an American businessman Mansoor Ijaz wrote an article in the Financial Times claiming a senior Pakistani diplomat telephoned him in May, soon after Bin Laden’s death, urging him to deliver a message to the White House bypassing Pakistan’s military and intelligence chiefs. “The president feared that a military takeover was imminent” and “needed an American fist on his army chief’s desk to end any misguided notions of a coup — and fast,” he wrote.

Media and politicians from opposition started naming Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Washington, as the person behind the memo and termed it an act of high treason. They also started blaming President Zardari for the whole episode as Haqqani has always been considered as ‘Zardari’s man’.

The military establishment, which did not like Haqqani and considered it their best chance to get him out of their way, put a lot of pressure on the presidency to clear its position on the issue. The issue became so big in a few days that President Zardari had to summon Haqqani to Islamabad to solve the enigma and move towards some solution. He reached Islamabad on November 19 and three days later during a meeting of civilian and military leadership, Prime Minister Gilani asked him to resign from the post and hand over his blackberry and laptop to the investigators which Haqqani did. Later, Gilani referred the scandal to the parliamentary committee on national security to investigate it.

To make things more difficult for the government, the PML-N leadership filed a constitutional petition in the Supreme Court. On December 1, Mian Nawaz Sharif appeared in the court which, on the very first hearing, formed an investigating commission. The PPP leadership has openly criticised the court decision.

“We are not going to leave this country and will face courts as we used to do in the past,” Nadeem Afzal Chan, MNA and PPP central leader, tells TNS. He admits there is a lot of pressure on the president after the memogate scandal. “The situation has also exposed all those opposing the democratic setup. Now, they are trying to use courts against the elected president,” he says. “The president will never resign from his office and will be back soon. Everything is normal in the party.”

His opponents contend if everything was normal then why was it announced a few days back that the president was going to address the joint session of the parliament. “Asif Zardari has become the most controversial personality in Pakistan. I think it is better that he should resign from the office of presidency,” Rana Sanaullah, leader of PML-N and Punjab Law Minister tells TNS. “We will never support any undemocratic force to take the president’s resignation on gunpoint.”

The situation does not seem normal to those who have dealt with the Pakistani establishment. “I don’t know if he is in Dubai for medical reasons or he has given up as some are speculating. I think the bottom line here is that Pakistan is slipping into its fifth military dictatorship,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who chaired a review of US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan for Barack Obama in 2009, had told The Telegraph. “It’s going to be very different than the previous four, I don’t expect an actual coup d’etat or a general as president. But the military is clearly taking complete control of everything that matters — nuclear policy, support for terror, and now all aspects of foreign policy including relations with the US.”

 

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