The Devil is in the Definition

hafiz saeed samiul haq sheikh rasheed hamid gul munawar hasan

We have reached a consensus. Zero tolerance for terrorism. Terrorism will not be allowed to flourish on our soil. All terrorist groups will be dealt with across the country. Ban on death penalty has been lifted and already six hardcore terrorists have been dispatched to hell. So we are in a agreement about one thing: We are all against terrorism. The problem is we don’t agree about what is the definition of ‘terrorism’.

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Sacrificing reason on the altar of ideology

Censored textbook

Imran Khan says education is key to the success of the country. At first glance, this sounds like an intelligent (if obvious) statement. Let’s look at the PTI chief’s comment in more detail, though. Here is what he said:

He said that the country was suffering from two parallel education systems, adding that if he comes into power, the PTI government would introduce a uniform education system across the country. He said that education was the backbone of any developed society, but in Pakistan, the government never gave importance to the most important issue.

To understand what this means in a practical sense, we can look at what education system the PTI has introduced in KPK where it is already in power.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has agreed to revisions in the curriculum for government schools here – including the removal of pictures of schoolgirls with their heads uncovered – for the new academic session commencing April 1, 2015.

The PTI’s coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) raised objections over the curriculum which was approved in 2006. The JI said Islamic chapters had been removed in 2006 syllabus; the party also wanted secular chapters removed from the textbooks. The religious party asked for the removal of “objectionable” materials and the addition of 18 Quranic verses to grade 9 Chemistry book…verses on jihad were removed from the ninth-grade Islamiat textbook and added to the grade 11 course.

According to Directorate of Curricula and Teacher Education (DCTE) Director Bashir Hussain Shah, the provincial government has accepted all of JI’s demands.

This is a glimpse of the education system that Imran Khan promises to make uniform across whole of Pakistan – one that is founded not in facts and reason, but in ideology.

Actually, this system is becoming uniform already – the PTI just wants to speed up the process. Even without the guiding hand of PTI, Karachi University recently banned Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, from attending a conference because of his views on 1971. Dr Imtiaz Ahmed got off easy. Dead of Islamic Studies at University of Karachi Mohammad Shakil Auj was murdered in the street for promoting a liberal interpretation of Islam.

LUMS administrators were cowardly in a different way when they allowed Pervez Hoodbhoy’s contract to expire with no explanation given. They may have felt that this would allow them to do the deed while denying the reason, but the message was heard loud and clear by anyone paying the least bit of attention.

In Islamabad, a dean and students advisor were sacked after it was discovered that a Model UN programme included information about Israel. It should be noted that Israel is a member state of the UN. Or was IIUI modeling the UN of its dreams instead of the UN of the real world? Either way, how can students be expected to succeed in the real world when their education is based on a fantasy one?

Most reports on education crisis in Pakistan focus on abysmal enrollment numbers. However even full enrollment of every child in the country will not provide an educated population if our education system is one that sacrifices reason on the altar of ideology.

Time for #PTI to #ShutDownToRebuild?

Arif Alvi gup shup during PTI sit in

PTI leadership are very good at some things. They are second to none at thinking up slogans. They can put on a rock concert better than most professional entertainment companies. They have an almost magical way of entrancing the media. And lets be honest, they have the top social media team of the country. PTI is a successful marketing machine, but even the best marketing team cannot make a delicacy out of old meat.

PTI’s most recent marketing campaign, branded with the hashtag #ShutDownToRebuild, threatened to bring Karachi, the financial capital, to its knees. What actually too place, however, was more like a pain in the neck. PTI sat down in the street and blocked traffic. Imran Khan made speeches. Youthias shouted slogans. And as the sun went down, they packed up and went home. The demonstration was inconvenient, but tomorrow everything will go back to normal as if nothing happened.

Now PTI is taking their road show (literally sitting in the road) to Lahore in a few days. There they will follow Imran Khan around chanting slogans. Arif Alvi will chat on the phone while sitting in the middle of the street. Wealthy PTI leaders will have their photos taken while drinking tea at a dhaba and their social media wing will spread them as evidence of their leaders humble authenticity. When the lights are off and the cameras put away, though, those humble leaders will return to their mansions and armies of servants.

How this helps the country, I don’t know. Actually, I’m not even sure how this helps PTI. Is their plan to annoy the country into handing over the reins of power? PTI’s leadership has proven to be masters of political showmanship, but they can’t seem to figure out how to get beyond sitting in the middle of the road inconveniencing people who just want to go about their lives. And so as another day comes and goes, so too another PTI demonstration that promised to bring things to a halt once again falls flat. Maybe it’s time for PTI itself to #ShutDownToRebuild.

PTI and JUD: Connecting the Dots

Imran Khan justifies Hafiz Saeed contact

I recently wrote a short piece about PTI is funding JUD programmes and how these organisations use crises to grow their own power at the expense of the state. The crises I was discussing were natural such as floods and famines. Today, however, PTI changed the date of its latest demonstration in order to facilitate a JUD demonstration that was scheduled for same day, which made me wonder just how deep the ties between these two groups run, and I was surprised by what I discovered.

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PTI, JUD using crises to grow their own power at the expense of the state

plaque commemorating PTI  funding of Jamaat-ud-Dawa wing FIF

Four years ago, historic floods devastated Pakistan. The government immediately launched an effort to raise money to provide relief for affectees, with President Zardari stepping up and donating over Rs.300 millions of his own money to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The government admitted being overwhelmed by the unprecedented natural disaster, but efforts to help those suffering the most were hindered when ambitious politicians chose to use the event for their own personal agendas. Imran Khan led the pack in this move, telling the international community that Pakistan’s government was too corrupt and that they should donate their money to his own personal foundation. In doing so, the PTI chief was able to build his own personal stature, but at the cost of undermining the state itself.

Imran Khan wasn’t the only one who took this cynical attitude towards suffering, however. Also there was jihadi leader Hafiz Saeed who used his newly formed front group “Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation” to distribute relief goods. Like PTI, Hafiz Saeed uses “humanitarian relief” work as a cover for promoting extremism.

In Pakistan, Jamaat ud-Dawa and the FIF continue to operate quite openly and Hafiz Khalid Waleed said the group was using its flood relief camps to preach its version of Islam.

“We think that a Muslim has to live according to his religion in order to become a good human being. Thank God, we do preach to them, and it has its effects, and they are converted. To us, this is social work, too.”

Today, PTI and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are working hand in hand in Sindh, where Imran Khan is desperate to get a political foothold. By providing humanitarian relief, PTI and JUD are able to win the “hearts and minds” of the people there, turning them against their own government and making them more sympathetic to the PTI’s and JUD’s agendas.

This may be a cynical political ploy by PTI and JUD, but the real responsibility comes back to the state. If the state was providing adequate relief to affected people, there would not be a ‘vacuum’ for other groups to step into and take over the role of the state. By failing to provide for the people, the state is undermining its own legitimacy and fueling its own demise.