of teaching literature
By Rafi Ullah
The dreary impact of war and violence leaves grave signs on one's personality, more so on children. While the perpetrators of war might manage to continue with their nefarious activities, ordinary people can hardly escape the sufferings.
The higher judiciary has only three women judges despite qualification and competence among women lawyers
Alefia T Hussain
Female judges seemingly are in the spotlight these days. Last week, in Egypt, Supreme Constitutional Court in a landmark ruling favoured the appointment of women judges to the State Council. The decision came nearly a month after the general assembly voted with an overwhelming majority against the appointment of female judges to the Council.
The Supreme Constitutional Court stressed that the Egyptian law grants both men and women equal rights to assume judicial positions in administrative courts. The decision was endorsed by Mohamed El-Husseini, head of Egypt's State Council. "Nothing in the Egyptian constitution or in Islamic law prevents a woman from occupying an administrative judicial post, and that women are employed in high-ranking judicial positions in the more conservative Gulf States," he is reported to have said.
Then in India, Chief justice KG Balakrishnan spoke in favour of Indian judiciary appointing more women judges to help bridge socio-economic disparities. While talking at the 40th anniversary of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, he lamented the inadequate number of women judges at all levels in the country, and attributed it to the presence of fewer women lawyers.
And here at home, strangely, the judiciary is far removed from the issue of gender-balance in appointing judges. It is impossible to ignore the fact that there are a handful of women in courts even after the biggest judicial turmoil in the country. At present, of the 18 honourable judges of Supreme Court not one is a woman. Interestingly, the SC till date has not had a single female judge. The record maintained by the high courts is as dismal: out of a total of 44 male judges, not one woman has been chosen for the Lahore High Court. Same is true for the Peshawar High Court not one woman out of the current strength of 18. Balochistan High Court and Sindh High Court, however, fare a little better: 1 out of 5 and 2 out of 27 respectively are women judges.
"It is important to have women appointed to judicial ranks because the judiciary, like other government departments, needs to reflect the composition of the society. In fact, judiciary sans female judges comes across as a big joke," says Shahtaj Qizilbash of AGHS Legal Aid Cell.
Justice (retired) Majida Razvi corroborates: "There is obvious discrimination against women in Pakistan's senior judiciary." She adds, "There are competent female lawyers in the field, who could well qualify to be judges, but are not entrusted with the position. Women are deliberately ignored. Even though the constitution prescribes same qualifications for male and female judge, such as age, ten years of active practice, reported cases, competency etc, still there is some hesitation in appointing a female judge. It obviously reflects a patriarchal mindset."
She questions: "Why is it that women of a certain professional ability are not selected as judges, while men of the same ability are appointed?"
Pakistan has never maintained an admirable record as far as appointing female judges is concerned. The only time an effort was made to add diversity to the judicial system was in 1994 when Benazir Bhutto appointed five senior judges to the superior courts: Fakhrunnisa Khokhar, Nasira Javed Iqbal and Talat Yaqub (removed after the completion of her probationary period) were chosen for the Lahore High Court, Khalida Rashid Khan to the Peshawar High Court; and Majida Razvito Sindh High Court.
Contrary to common perception that women's under-representation ranges from socio-cultural restrictions, patriarchal societal mindset to on-the-job pressures such as relocation and courtroom hooliganism, and ultimately lack of exposure to court procedures Rabia Bajwa, member of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, holds that bar councils are neither organised nor politically strong enough to lobby for female candidates. "We are unable to support and campaign for prospective female judges. Sometimes this weakness leads to the appointment of a less competent, less deserving candidate as a judge."
Bajwa says judicial appointments depend on the extent of networking, political connections and financial status. "Take Nasira Iqbal for instance. She has a strong political background and is financially well off, and that's possibly why she could hold her position as a judge."
Women lack presence in the subordinate courts of the country as well. But perhaps the contrast here is not as drastic as in the superior judiciary. In the Punjab, for instance, "female representation is at best five percent," says Ghazala Khan, member Punjab Bar Council. However, she thinks, the situation is improving after Lahore High Court fixed the five percent quota for women civil judges in 2006. "This has encouraged many young lawyers to opt for a career in judiciary." Out of the total strength of 72, Khan is the only female member of the Council.
So what can change the face of judiciary? A quota system similar to one in practice in the parliament presently or relaxation of qualification requirements, especially for working mothers taking breaks for childcare, or merely fair and open recruitment procedures for integral, impartial and independent judiciary. Whatever the change, which Shahtaj Qizilbash is hopeful will come soon, "must be based on fairness and more crucially merit," she maintains.
There is a reluctance to portray an independent Pakistani woman because there is a preference towards their domestic gender roles -- it is preference for convenience
By Beenisch Tahir
An angry husband shoots a frustrated look at his bewildered wife before leaving for work. Puzzled, and baby-eyed, the wife looks at him. The husband looks down at her disappointedly. He points to the missing button on his crisp white shirt, a piece of white thread hanging in the air. The wife is shocked, guilty and angry at herself for not paying closer attention to her husband's needs. The husband clutches his briefcase and walks off to work.
Determined to avoid the unforgivable sin, she discovers a way out to make more time for her beloved. Miraculously, the wife discovers processed food. Now she has ample time. She looks at the camera and beams with self pride and accomplishment.
This true scenario is a Pakistani advertisement, shot on a 35 mm camera, with the country's best male and female stylist, directors, actors, designers and, Ad Company otherwise known as the urban middle class, or more loosely as the elite. The O and A level classes of Pakistan: the class that is often blamed for living in a westernised liberal bubble that needs a well-travelled passport to enter their world.
This is the class that has choices, that is integrated into the global culture; why then are they showing such reluctance in portraying the new Pakistani woman?
Theoretically, with their background it would be appropriate to presume that they would uphold the egalitarian view towards marriage? Some, yes, but most, choose the traditional route to a functional marriage. Of all the liberal fantasies that manifested into the elites lives, it seems the most important one of love and respect for the opposite sex in a marriage failed to filter through.
There can only be two reasons why such advertisements are allowed to air. First, no one cares. However, if no one cares, that simply reaffirms the point made earlier and links to the following motive. There is a reluctance to portray an independent Pakistani woman because there is a preference towards their domestic gender roles -- it is preference for convenience.
Such preference is rooted in the personal imagination of the Pakistani individual. It is the question that men and women deal with to find their future spouses everyday. There is a guilt to move (for both men and women) away from their assigned gender roles. Guilt, because the social culture of Pakistan can only define itself on two things: it is everything that the West isn't and, it is everything that India isn't. A step outside social convenience, leads to a journey that is riddled with cultural isolation and unforgiving judgment.
The ad described earlier is just one of the many advertisements that subscribe to the convenient gender roles. This ad particularly was intriguing because of the husband's outright selfishness and disrespect for his wife over something so petty. So shaken is the wife, she compromises her family's health with processed food. Such behaviour is considered rude in any situation. Are Pakistanis okay with promoting bad behaviour?
Showing a woman taking care of her husband's needs is a revered tradition, the emblem of a healthy Pakistani family system, as opposed to the crumbling' social values of the 'West'. The independent woman 'type' though gradually receiving acceptance in the urban classes, is still a concept that doesn't receive enough attention on television if any at all.
Based on these assertions, it was necessary to conduct a small-scale content analysis of the advertisements. I didn't even have to spend more than 10 minutes to find my answer. In the span of two approximately ten minute advertisement breaks. All six household products commercials, were represented by housewives who primarily took care of their children, while the husband is seen either at the dinner table being served or returning home from work (the wife never eats). There were, however, two instances of teachers, one of whom was in a Hijab. Both the teachers had no main role in the commercial, they were a seconds worth of background characters. The stereotyping is further seen in representation of the daughters. They were firmly placed in malls with shopping bags, asking their father for money.
In the "Feminin Mystique', Betty Friedan argues that women are victims of a false belief system that requires them to find identity and meaning in their lives through their husbands and children. Such a system causes women to completely lose their identity. Which is true for even the most intelligent middle-class woman who suddenly finds herself pressurised to conform to society's version of a wife.
Daughters are meant to be dependent on their fathers, while as women they are meant to be dependent on their husbands. Like the feudal lords who encourage dependence of the locals, the Pakistani social system continues to breed dependence of women on men. The culture of dependence is a diseased habit that is present at every facet of Pakistani life.
Friedan goes on to say that advertising manipulates women into consumption, perpetuating a 'sick or immature' society instead of one that encourages women to develop their human intelligence. It is clear in the depiction of women in advertisements that intelligence is not a virtuous factor. Why should it be in a power hungry and patriarchical society? Mukhtaran Mai, in a procession for Women's Day Rally in Multan, said that women should not keep silent on small issues. Keeping silent on small issues leads to a national menace. Unfortunately, women belong to a world of choices and privileges choose to silence their individualities, for the sake of their husband's crisp white shirts.
Beenisch Tahir is a freelance writer and consultant and can be contacted at Beenisch_bb@hotmail.com
Teaching literature to teenage boys is one of those experiences where enjoyment and frustration converge
By Sarah Sikandar
When I asked my O level literature students to define literature, they came up with something like this: "stories, stories and more stories, long endless details, more long endless details followed by long endless discussions," by far the most interesting was "literature is life...why bother!" My students mainly relate literature to stories and fiction. Hence, not important. Hence, useless.
They can't be blamed. They have on their minds the more 'serious' subjects like computers, sciences or business -- mostly because fathers want them to. But teaching literature to teenage boys is one of those experiences where enjoyment and frustration converge. You enter the class and you feel they are relaxed, which is good, but they are a bit too relaxed, which is not good.
Those who have taught literature to both boys and girls would not agree with the common assumption that it's easier to teach girls. Yes they are more receptive to the emotions but their perspective is a little too bookish and objective. Boys, on the other hand, couldn't care less about books. So, if they do it at all, they enjoy literature for itself. They get involved only when examples are given from something they relate to, at which they become 'alive', a discussion ensues and everything under the sun comes under discussion except the text. This is their way of responding to the text itself.
Unlike girls, boys like to comment on politics and boast of their knowledge. The former, naturally, like to dissect the characters. Boys are less prone to looking for meanings, thus, their response is spontaneous rather than forced.
Despite the fact that some of the best literature the world over has been produced by men, over here it is generally considered to be women's area of expertise. The subject is regarded as a feat that is typical of the female gender, that being taught to the boys makes them appear very 'girly.'
Sidra, 25, has been teaching literature to teenage boys for more than three years. And it appears almost as if I am forcing a subject on them that they can neither relate to nor can they understand the necessity of something that is either written in too flowery a language or is dealing with the mundane realities of life. They are always wondering as to how is this going to help them in their future."
Even for girls, literature has now become a futile subject at the basic school level, like an appendix in the digestive system. Even though girls are considered to be more sensitive than boys, and that they are expected to relate more easily to what is written in books, the major problem we have in this theory is that the 21st century girl does not want to be marginalised on the basis of her sex, no matter what. The issue of gender discrimination that crops up then makes them vouch for the same ideas that men usually promote.
Boys also have the same problem that they do not like to be termed 'bookworms' and they despise to be seen with a book when they can cut a more dashing figure with iPod headphones in their ears and a notebook in their hands. A book, according to them, downsizes their opportunity to impress all and girls around them. And literature requires book-reading, a deed that they would never want to be associated with.
Even though literature as a subject might be like an unwanted child, at the end of the day we accept that it hones their vocabulary skills.
Akbar Khawaja, 15, an intelligent student of grade 11 in a private school, believes that his "vocabulary has improved so much in the past two years by studying literature and now I can put my feelings and thoughts easily in words."
Students like Khawaja are rare but not extinct. I never saw my class fellows asking our teachers so many questions as my students do. They want to know why a certain character cheats on his wife or why a son abandons his family or why do people commit suicide.
Fahad Awan, an associate professor at a private university, taught literature to Intermediate students a few years back. He thinks the way boys respond to literature is far more powerful than girls the only difference is they don't like to express their feelings as openly as girls do. Girls openly express their 'love' for Mr Darcy or Heathcliff, but boys are less likely to admit something like that."
Generally speaking, because boys are brought up under many pressures the future bread winner, decision-maker of the house they lack sentiments in their early age because they are less exposed to emotions like girls. "Boys are discouraged to express themselves, like not being allowed to cry. My two boys are the only confidantes I have, unlike people who have girls. We never say you are a boy, you shouldn't be doing this. Maybe, that is why my sons love reading books and writing poetry," says Imrana, a mother of two teenage boys.
Another boy, Aaron Edgar Abbir, 16, states that literature is a subject that "has helped me in creating a perspective on life. It makes you more astute to understanding the psychological drifts in the humans around you." Only, you have to be curious.
Extension in service to the country's top spy leaves many wondering if the institution lacks competent officers
By Mazhar Khan Jadoon
People across the country watched with awe the handing over of army command when Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani replaced General Pervez Musharraf as chief of army staff. People glued to their TV sets were expecting a handover of some kind of an impressive office or some shining badges and stars, but it was to the utter surprise of many a stick. Yes, a bamboo stick that a composed Gen Kayani got from a visibly wavering Musharraf. It was just a stick that made Gen Kayani the army chief a stick symbolising sheer power. After all, it must have been painful for Musharraf to hand over his 'skin' the COAS uniform to someone else.
It was easy for General Musharraf to bulldoze his way to power, keeping dual offices and picking extensions for his rule at will just as dictators do. All the logic Musharraf churned out for public consumption was "in national interest".
Giving or grabbing extension in service, somehow, remained inherent in our top institutions, be it army, judiciary or executive. These kinds of arbitrary decisions with some sort of expediency as their backdrop derailed democracy but always destabilised vital institutions.
Although service extension is always viewed with skepticism, Director General Inter Services Intelligence, Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha, reportedly got away with it rather easily as he has been in the saddle comfortably carrying out successful operations against militants. Senior security analysts believe Lt. Gen Pasha was directly involved in major missions from systematically eradicating the militancy culture and taking the fight against terrorists to its logical end.
President Asif Zardari was also taken on board by the army chief while retaining Lt. Gen. Pasha, though the move was floated and vetted by the Defence Ministry and approved by the prime minister. Lt. Gen Pasha is the fourth Lt. General to be given extension in service by the present army chief. Earlier, Corps Commander Masood Alam had been given extension for an indefinite period. Lt. Gen Sikandar Afzal and Lt. Gen Tanvir are already on extension.
Critics of extensions argue that when individuals overshadow institutions, institutions are doomed to fail. How can one assume that there is no one competent enough in the ISI who can replace Lt. Gen Pasha? How can one say that the officer in line will not perform better than Pasha?
The chief executive of the country should have asked for solid reasons before approving one more year for Pasha. Inter Services Intelligence, or any other institution, can better perform within a system following standard operational procedure and rules in vogue rather than just relying on individuals. Whether its judiciary or military, extensions send a wrong message on more than one count. Apart from the preference for individuals over institutions, it also gives the impression that the executive is being taken for a ride by a few powerful individuals, thus denting the much-needed harmony among institutions.
Lt. Gen Pasha is one of the few chiefs of ISI who have remained in close touch with the administration and have briefed members of the parliament on the ongoing military operations in Malakand and tribal agencies. He is also considered to be a close confidant of General Kayani. Lt. Gen Pasha would have reached the age of superannuation on March 18, 2010. Such extensions are not considered a good idea as they stall the elevation of other officers but these, we are told, are extraordinary times.
Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani is also retiring in November, if he chooses to. Driving the war on terror in this part of the world successfully may lead to a rationale for another extension in service for the army chief. Though Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has ruled out extension for the army chief at the moment, it is the all-powerful establishment that "will cross the bridge when it reaches the bridge".
Retired armymen, it seems, see a logic behind the recent extensions, especially that of the ISI chief. "Not only are we in the middle of a war inside the country, we are also a frontline ally of the US fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda. Thus, there is enough weight in the logic behind giving an extension to Lt. Gen Pasha as the ISI is carrying out a successful operation against militants. It does not make much sense to change the command when the security forces are out to hunt terrorists," noted security analyst Lt Gen (Retd) Talat Masood tells TNS.
Many believe the extension of senior military officers impede the chances of promotion for many officers. "But the present security scenario of the country makes such decisions permissible for the successful continuation of operation against terrorists," opines Masood, adding the officers in line awaiting promotions can be accommodated by creating new vacancies.
Former ISI head and politician Lt Gen (Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi says change of command at such a crucial juncture may upset the whole operation against militants. Cementing his point with a historical reference, he says, "In the Pakistan-India war of 1965, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik was poised to capture Akhanoor to pave the way to take Srinager, the capital of Kashmir. Malik was removed from the command at a wrong time and General Yahaya Khan was put in his position, sabotaging the whole operation."
Saying it is too early to speculate on extension to the army chief, Qazi states, "It is up to the government to decide whether to give extension to Gen Kayani or retire him in November, 2010. Realities on the ground will determine the course of action."
Attempts should be made to rewrite South Asian history
By Javed Qazi
It is the 90th birth anniversary of a man who is not accepted to us as our leader, but is a part of our history: Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rahman. People of Bangladesh respect him as their father of nation called in Bengali as Bangabandhu. We, perhaps, have softened our views on him over the time and do not subscribe to the official attributions for him. It is high time to talk about Sheikh Mujib objectively. Like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Akbar Bugti, he had his own version for Pakistan, and that is all.
He was not a traitor as it is generally believed. If he was a traitor, does it mean Gen. Yahya was our hero and the story concocted by my yet another beloved leader Zulifkar Ali Bhutto was right? He was the first leader of Bengalis (East Pakistan) who wanted his people to make a contract with Pakistan to live under a six-point programme of his party. Was it he who wanted it or were it the people of East Pakistan? Being visionary is an intrinsic part of a leader to understand what his people want and what is right and possible.
There were many hardliners in his party like Taj-ud-Din but Mujib was not. With the six-point programme, he was allowed to contest the election. There are hardly two opinions among jurists and constitutionalists that the 1940 resolution was in spirit reflecting a confederation between the two wings of Pakistan, and was envisaging a highly diluted federal system for West Pakistan's units.
Sheikh Mujib's six-point programme reflected the intention behind the 1940 resolution. Thus, his party won the 1970 elections and formed a government by simple majority. Sheikh Mujib was arguing a point here, which Jinnah was arguing in India that states (federating units) should be given more autonomy whereas Nehru and Patel were arguing for centralisation. Atrocities by military dictators had made him a leader. One can give hundreds of reasons why they were thinking that way, like we have hundreds of reasons to justify our separation from India.
We have taken almost sixty years to understand it is not unpatriotic to talk of a loose federation. There is a general acceptance, tolerance and readiness in the democratic forces to calm down separatist aspirations prevailing among the people of Balochistan.
It is high time that we revisited the historical facts. There are almost 600 million Muslims living in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, and all of them are South Asians. We need to get closer to the Muslims of South Asia first than to the Muslims of Arab world. Besides being Muslims, we have our separate history, culture, language and geographies that are shared by those who have everything in common but religion. We can, therefore, thrive and prosper only in a secular fabric. Our Jinnah, their Mujib and Gandhi can be seen having the same wavelength as far as religious tolerance is concerned. People across South Asia still vote for those who have secularism in their manifestoes.
Whatever is happening in South Asia is due to the fact that our history has been tampered with and the recent findings of Jaswant Singh are self-evident in this respect. We must attempt to rewrite our history to make it transparent and clear. As the Indians have started revisiting Jinnah, we should equally revisit Sheikh Mujib and Gandhi.
I had personally seen and met an affectionate Sheikh Mujib when he visited our home in Nawabshah. My father was senior vice-president of All Pakistan Awami League. Mujib gave hope to smaller nations. That is why people like my father and Asma Jahangir's father had joined his party. Those were the days when everyone in Sindh was obsessed with Bhutto whereas our family was called a traitor.
My father, Qazi Faiz Mohammad, who had a long history of struggle for the rights of peasants in Sindh, had also appeared before the "Hamood-ur-Rehman Commission". My father had also met Mujib when he became the prime minister of Bangladesh. Mujib told my father that he was worried about his military leadership's activities.
When he was to be freed from Rawalpindi, he desired to see my father. My father travelled to Pindi but could not meet him as his departure plan was suddenly changed. My father was allowed to meet him in London soon after he left Pindi.
The tide of misinterpretation and hate cannot dim our long history of friendship with the family of Bangabandhu and Bengalis.
The issue of orphans must be made an important part of the overall rehabilitation programme
By Rafi Ullah
The dreary impact of war and violence leaves grave signs on one's personality, more so on children. While the perpetrators of war might manage to continue with their nefarious activities, ordinary people can hardly escape the sufferings.
Women and children are falling prey to the misfortunes of war. And this callous situation has prevailed in Swat for the last more than three years. Violence in the valley has left a large number of widows and orphans, mostly belonging to poor families.
Swat is facing a calamity. Taliban have sought legitimacy for committing violence in the name of religion while the state has reason to justify its operation against terrorism.
Ordinary people of the valley are grief-stricken as they are the primary victims. Condition of the orphans demands particular attention, mainly due to two reasons. First, they have lost either their fathers or mothers or, in some cases, both the parents. Thus, they are deprived of parental affection and love. Second, as these orphans have lost patronage of their parents, this lack of parental care might push them into an uncertain future.
Children have lost their parents either at the hands of Taliban or during the military operation. It, however, does not make any difference if the parents of some orphans were Taliban. These innocent children should not be punished for the wrongs their parents have committed.
If they are subjected to unjust treatment they will be alienated for the rest of their life both from the state and society. And this will certainly not help rebuild Swat.
The reconstruction programme of Swat is far from being satisfactory as it seems devoid of the spirit of patriotism. Everyone involved in the project one way or the other seems to be self-centered. The instances of corruption range from the embezzlement of funds to the hypocritical role of local politicians.
In such a scenario, orphans are not on the priority list. As a result, these unfortunate children are destined to earn their living, if they can, by working in the nearby houses, hotels, or farms. The responsibility of these children falls on the shoulders of their mothers. At this critical time what is the responsibility of the state, political institutions and the civil society?
What should be the work of organisations involved in the rebuilding of Swat? And what kind of role the influential people of every tehsil and village should play?
The issue of orphans must be made an important part of the overall rehabilitation and reconstruction programme on a long-term basis. Data in this regard must be collected, and the government and national and international organisations must allocate sufficient funds for the care and upbringing of these children. They are in need of care and love.
The trio -- the government, the organisations and the local influential figures -- must be mindful of the serious nature of the issue which direly demands their collaboration. It is, thus, appealed that the orphans of Swat must not be treated as disowned children. Own them. They are hapless; help them. They are voiceless; make a case for them.