Thursday, February 1, 2018

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Video Report - 🇦🇫 Girls' education in Afghanistan

Tackling Pakistani Madrassas: An Uphill Struggle – Analysis


In many ways, the question whether madrassas or religious seminaries contribute to instability in Pakistan and Afghanistan goes far beyond an evaluation of the content of what students are taught and how they are being taught. In fact, it could be argued that the train has left the station and that there are no magic wands or simple administrative and regulatory fixes to address problems associated with madrassas. To make things worse, those problems are not restricted to madrassas; they also are prevalent in the public education system.
Irrespective of which of the spectrum of estimates of the number of madrassas in Pakistan one accepts, fact of the matter is that many, if not the majority, of madrassas do not produce graduates who have learnt to think critically. Rote education produces the opposite in a 21st century world in which critical thinking is ever more important.
Moreover, generations of graduates coupled with successive governments willing to play politics with religion and debilitating conflict have helped create a significant segment of Pakistani society that is ultra-conservative, intolerant, anti-pluralistic, and often supremacist.
It is a segment that easily can be whipped up to adopt militant causes as recent protests as well as the popularity of militant groups among both Barelvis and Deobandis have demonstrated. Which raises the question of whether madrassas alleged links to militancy is the core issue, or only part of a far more fundamental issue: the fact that madrassas more often than not teach an ultra-conservative worldview that with a solid grounding and resonance in society is being reinforced and reproduced.
What that means is that the problem is far greater than ensuring registration of madrassas or simply ensuring that include modern science alongside religious subjects in their syllabi. The magnitude of the problem is illustrated in a madrassa in the city of Jang that has a state-of-the-art computer lab.
Access to the lab and computer lessons are voluntary, yet only a mere 16 percent of the school’s 300 students are interested or avail themselves of the opportunity in a world in which a baby’s first demand is an iPhone. Visits to other madrassas elsewhere in the country show that at times English lessons that are on the curriculum are just that. They exist on paper rather than in practice. The language classes that do exist often produce anything but English speakers or children with even a rudimentary knowledge of the language.
The question of the context in which madrassas operate is also illustrated by the fact that foreign funding is not what keeps the bulk of the madrassas afloat. Foreign funding is no longer crucial. That is not surprising. Four decades after Gulf states, and to a lesser degree Iraq in the past, and Iran on the other side of the equation, poured huge amounts into ultra-conservative religious education, a world has been created that leads it own life, develops its own resources, and is no longer dependent on external funding and support. It’s the nature of the beast.
Former Federal Secretary Tanseem Noorani asserted as much as recently as last year when he noted that the number of madrassas was increasing faster in rural areas of Pakistan than regular public schools. There is indeed little doubt that madrassas fill a gap in a country with a broken education system as well cater to a demand for a religious education. And there is no doubt that there are inside and outside of government valiant efforts to fix the system. Hundreds of madrassas have been closed because of links to militancy or other irregularities. But there is equally no doubt that inroads made by ultra-conservatism not only in segments of the public but also significant elements of the bureaucracy cast doubt on the degree to which fixing the system can succeed.
There has been much debate and speculation about Saudi funding. The issue of Saudi funding has much to do with the broader issue of ultra-conservatism as a factor that pervades the discussion of madrassas and more broader trends in Pakistani society. Popular perception is that Saudi funding was focused on Wahhabism, the specific strand of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism prevalent in the kingdom.
In fact, it was not, despite Saudi links and support to Wahhabi groups like Ahl-e-Hadith in Pakistan. Saudi funding and support focused on ultra-conservatism irrespective of what specific strand of Islam as long as it was anti-Shiite, anti-Ahmadi and anti-Iran. It was that broader focus that allowed the Saudis to, for example, support Deobandis, something that a singular focus on Wahhabism would have precluded.
Not only was Saudi funding broader focused, it also was in a majority of cases hands off. In other words, a majority of Saudi-supported in Pakistan as elsewhere across the globe, were more often than not, not Saudi-managed nor was a Saudi anywhere in sight, even if textbooks, Qur’ans and other materials were Saudi-supplied.
Moreover, official sources will never be comprehensive in documenting funding particularly from foreign sources. That is all the truer in countries where financial controls and their implementation is lax. In the case of Saudi funding of madrassas, this means that money flows are often not transparent and not necessarily recorded and when recorded not made available for scrutiny. As a result, tracking Saudi funding may never produce a comprehensive picture and will often rely on anecdotal evidence or unofficial documentation provided either by the donor or the recipient.
No doubt, far less Saudi funding is available today, but that there is, yet, no indication that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s vague notion of a more moderate Islam means a restructuring of the kingdom’s funding targets.
The effort to rewrite Saudi textbooks that are used in the kingdom itself could indicate that change is coming although the extent of that revision remains to be seen. Recent statements by the World Muslim League, a major vehicle of Saudi funding, about the need for inter-faith dialogue and recognition of the Holocaust point in that direction.
Yet, the record of the first three years of the era of the Salmans, King Salman and his powerful son, Prince Mohammed, also has markers that would suggest the opposite. It may be that funding abroad will be more focused on what serves Saudi efforts to confront Iran, which would put Pakistan, with its borders with Iran and the Islamic world’s largest Shia minority, in the bull’s eye. It would also mean that moderation may be less evident in what the Saudis choose to support.
Over the past two decades, repeated efforts have been made to regulate and reform madrassas even if implementation and impact has been lagging. That lag cannot simply be attributed to a lack of resources and/or capabilities.
Reform depends on political will and is obstructed by resistance from powerful and entrenched ultra-conservative circles whose tentacles reach beyond the ulema and the administrators of madrassas.
With other words, it is the fallout not only of Saudi and Gulf funding but of government and state policies that allowed ultra-conservatism along a broad spectrum to flourish in Pakistan. The issue here is not simply militancy, it is ultra-conservatism that is not by definition or necessarily politically militant.
This is nowhere more evident than in the fact that the problem is not restricted to madrassas but is far more universal. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reported as recently as two years ago that Pakistani public school textbooks contained derogatory references to religious minorities.
The report asserted that “in public school classrooms, Hindu children are forced to read lessons about the conspiracies of Hindus toward Muslims’, and Christian children are taught that ‘Christians learned tolerance and kind-heartedness from Muslims.”
It went on to say that “this represents a public shaming of religious minority children that begins at a very young age, focusing on their religious and cultural identity and their communities’ past history.”
The report noted that a review of the curriculum demonstrated that public school students were being taught that “religious minorities, especially Christians and Hindus, are nefarious, violent, and tyrannical by nature.”
Addressing the issues at the core of Pakistan’s religious and public education system is going to take out-of-the-box thinking that devises ways of drawing in important segments of the ultra-conservative community rather than alienating them. A turn-around will only truly work if it has buy-in rather than projects a sense of imposition.
For that to happen, government policy and the implementing bureaucracy will have to have a broad vision: one that initiates and manages a broad range of policies and processes that seek to foster values that are at odds with ultra-conservatism such as tolerance, pluralism, and freedom of expression rather than just pay lip service to them. It’s not clear that Pakistan has the political will for this, let alone that the building blocks for such policies are in place.

Pakistan Is Losing the Space Race

#Pakistan - 13 #ANP Leaders Call On Asif Ali Zardari , Announce To Join #PPP

A 13-member delegation headed by former MPA Khyber Pakhtunkha Assembly Skindar Irfan called on former President of Pakistan and President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Asif Ali Zardari at Zardari House here on Wednesday and announced to join Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

A13-member delegation headed by former MPA Khyber Pakhtunkha Assembly Skindar Irfan called on former President of Pakistan and President Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) Asif Ali Zardari at Zardari House here on Wednesday and announced to join Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

#Pakistan - The rise of Bilawal Bhutto : Much more than a poster boy of Pakistan’s family-dominated politics

By Salman Zafar

In the midst of the political tussle between the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been a distant observer for the large part. For a party with rock solid ideological roots, this is not a healthy sign. For a party that has historically been Pakistan’s most potent left-wing force at the federal level, this is even worse.
The PPP was outmuscled, outwitted and completely blown away in the 2013 General Election. Statistically, the PPP’s seat count in the National Assembly went down to 42 seats from the 118 it won in the 2008 General Election. This was, in no small part, down to PPP’s poor performance during its governance from 2008 to 2013.
As our political web unfolded following the 2013 election, the general feeling was that the PPP was redundant and dead as a political entity, with the elections functioning as one of the last nails in its coffin. The old guard had been put to shame, and the new one went unnoticed. As things stand currently, not a lot has changed. PPP seems to have little hope in the upcoming election, and sadly, it has been reduced to a regional party at best. However, a recent interview given by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to India Today has been a breath of fresh air. He touches on several important issues, such as terrorism and the army’s role in Pakistan, amongst others.
While still operating under the wings of his father, there is already a vibe about Bilawal that is a far cry from the political mudslinging that takes place in Pakistani politics these days. Neither PTI nor PML-N have someone like Bilawal in their ranks, and therein lies PPP’s advantage.
It is ironic that in the wake of the recent political instability in Pakistan, the youngest head of a political party in the country is the one making the most sense, and serving as our best international representative. Not only does he display political maturity that seems to be light years ahead of PML-N and PTI on local issues, his stance on foreign issues is equally impressive, from India to the United States.
However, despite his recent growth as a political force, Bilawal continues to face a barrage of criticism from Pakistan’s conservative circles. The criticism against him is based around the argument that he is too young and too immature to be taken seriously. This criticism is likely to continue in the future, but nonetheless it carries little weight. Age is not, and will never be, an accurate determinant of skill and ability. This is not to suggest that Bilawal has learnt everything there is to learn, of course, as he has only just entered the political arena. However, the signs are extremely encouraging in his favour.
Then there are those who will claim that he is the poster boy of family-dominated politics in Pakistan. We can beat that drum as much as we want, however, family politics is a reality in Pakistan and it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. Moreover, this is a phenomenon not limited to PPP alone. When all is said and done, political positions should be treated on the basis of merit and without any prejudice. Family politics or not, the right stance should be supported regardless of who it is coming from. Bilawal’s rise and PPP’s resurgence are interlinked. Despite PTI’s entrance in the 2013 General Election as the new force in Pakistani politics, PPP still remains the country’s most ideologically principled party. The party may be at its lowest ebb right now, but Bilawal offers an energy and maturity that is missing from both, PTI and PML-N. He also brings with him a massive political legacy, first built by his charismatic grandfather, and further honed by his indomitable mother.
There is obviously quite a lot of baggage, amid accusations of corruption levelled against his father and his party. Therefore, for a party that for the most part has remained progressive, Bilawal’s rise is extremely important. For a country where attempts at thwarting democratic forces are the norm, this is even more important.
One hopes that Bilawal’s rise continues the way it has done thus far. He will eventually need to be given a bigger role in the party than the one currently occupied by him – one where his father does not call all the shots – but the signs so far point towards the right direction. Not only does the PPP need Bilawal to rise, Pakistani politics needs Bilawal to break free from the shackles of the redundant power struggles that ultimately do more harm than good.
More power to him!

#Pakistan - #PPP - The rising Bhutto

Will the new wine fit in the old bottle?
Whereas on one side, with the demise of Benazir Bhutto, the future of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) became subject to a potential leadership vacuum, on the other the party has remained a victim of severe criticism aimed at its tenure of governance, whether at federal or provincial levels. The PPP faced a major setback in the general elections of 2013 amid the lack of public outreach due to unfavourable security conditions, barely winning over its stronghold of Sind province.
The winds of change, however, turned a new leaf for the PPP with the young chairman, Bilawal Bhutto, entering local politics, re-igniting the lost spark of Bhuttoism via engaging the public through large scale gatherings across the country. With much to learn, the amateur politician, despite being criticised for lack of political understanding and maneuvering, managed to make his mark, and impress many with his political acumen and finesse.
The recent World Economic Forum (WEF) 2018 held at Davos in Switzerland, not to exaggerate, has unleashed Bilawal’s potential to emerge as future leader of Pakistan, and an option to the longing national demand of a young, and untested political figure to take over.
Sick and tired of the same old politicians, as the nation looks forward to a new face, Bilawal Bhutto certainly can prove to be a new wine for our old bottle of a political system
Bilawal’s visit to Davos, accompanied by the vice president of PPP, Senator Sherry Rehman, has made headlines, and is being viewed as a success, particularly in countering the international critique on Pakistan’s role with respect to terrorism, and effectively presenting the national narrative; something the government has been found lacking to do. The young Bhutto’s exhibition of confidence and balance while responding to questions and misconceptions regarding Pakistan at the WEF comes as a breath of fresh air, not just for the nation but also for willing, however reluctant, foreign investors. To impress the most was his nationalist stand for Pakistan alone, leaving behind all political and ideological differences.
The official delegation of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as opposed to the leaders of the opposing PPP, instead of being on the front foot remained under the carpets, and barely made any news headlines.
In his back to back busy schedule at Davos, Bilawal started off his visit with the BBC World Debate on the topic, the very real threats fake news and disinformation pose to democracies. The chairman PPP went on to attend a breakfast hosted by the Pathfinder Group for delegates from Pakistan and later on shed light on countering violent extremism in a session. Bilawal also attended the young global leaders’ dinner hosted by the president of World Economic Forum, Borge Brende, and the CEO of Jigsaw, Branden Cohen, where he had the opportunity to meet and interact with other high profile personalities including Haakun Magnus (crown prince of Norway), Jared Kushner, and Prince Hussein Bin Abdullah of Jordan.
Not to leave out the young Bhutto’s first ever interview on his last day at Davos with an Indian journalist from India Today that went viral over the social media where Bilawal vocally defended Pakistan’s military by saying; “It does not serve my purpose or my country’s purpose to criticise my armed forces when they’re fighting terrorists”. Bilawal also emphasised the significance of continued efforts to improve diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. Relations must be between states, not two persons; he went on saying. He also criticised the Indian and US leaderships dictating Pakistan as it was not the right approach to build prospective relationships. “Despite hostilities on both sides and genuine complaints, ultimately the youth of both countries understand that the only solution is peace. We just have to figure out a way to get there”, stated Bilawal while referring particularly to Indo-Pak relations.
The PPP chairman’s visit to Davos, on one side where has portrayed Bilawal Bhutto as a potential future candidate for the country’s leadership, on the other will also have positively constructive political implications for the struggling PPP as it might fill up the party’s existing leadership vacuum, and revive the lost-legacy of Bhutto with Bilawal in the driving seat.
Sick and tired of the same old politicians, as the nation looks forward to a new face, Bilawal Bhutto certainly can prove to be a new wine for our old bottle of a political system. With a majority of the country’s population comprising youth, political parties driven by youth are most likely to win over in future elections; hence the focus of political parties on activating their youth political wings. After all, Imran Khan gained popularity on the basis of his youth driven politics. The old Khan, however, does not seem as fit to represent the youth as someone like Bilawal does.
Outdated and traditional approach to local politics is unlikely to get public acknowledgement in the long-term political future.

#Pakistan - #PPP slams hike in petrol prices; demands the decision be taken back

Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari slammed the hike in petrol prices and demanded the additional costs be taken back.
In a statement, the PPP chair said that the petrol bomb is being dropped on people as revenge.
“We will not stand for the economic murder of the country,” he said, adding that the economic attack by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz will be combated.
On Wednesday, the government revised prices of petroleum products increasing the price of petrol by Rs2.98 per litre. The revised price of petrol would be Rs84.91 per litre.
The price of diesel has been increased by Rs5.92, while the price of light diesel has also been increased by Rs5.93. Diesel will now be retailed at Rs95.83 per litre while light diesel will be sold for Rs64.30 per litre.
Kerosene oil witnessed an increase of Rs5.94 per litre and will now be sold for Rs70.26 per litre.

Bilawal Bhutto concerned over PTI leaders’ shielding and nexus with barbaric criminals in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed his deep concern over the sheer negligence of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government and its police in ferreting out the real culprits in medical student Asma’s murder and other cases of heinous nature. In a statement, the PPP Chairman said that reports that ‘the killers of medical student Asma, Sharifan Bibi, minor girl Isma, and student Mashal are still at large due to backing of influential people belonging to the PTI,’ are disgraceful.
“It appears that PTI has become a party of several Ladlas ganged up together to protect and guard killers, murderers and even terrorists,” he stated.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that a local PTI leader who incited a mob for the barbaric murder of innocent student Mashal Khan has not been arrested even after nine months. Reports have also confirmed that nephew of PTI Kohat President and the identified killer of medical student Asma have fled to Saudi Arabia, which is not possible without collusion of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, he added. PPP Chairman pointed out that as per media reports the killers of Sharifaan Bibi and minor girl Asma were also being shielded by influential leaders of PTI in KP.
Bilawal Bhutto strongly condemned the criminal complicity of the ruling group’s leaders in such horrific crimes and the silence and laxity of their chief Ladla, who talks on everything under the sky minus what is happening under his nose. It seems that PTI has turned into ‘grand-mother’ of heinous crimes in KP, he added.