Category Archives: Balochistan

Textbooks — the real culprit

By Zubeida Mustafa

ALTHOUGH many factors affect the quality of education in Pakistan, textbooks are a major culprit. It is rightly said that children learn what they experience in the classroom. The two agents of learning at this stage are the teachers and the textbooks.

In my last post I had drawn a gloomy picture of the teachers whose impact on the young child’s mind is profound. What about the textbooks?

They can be described in a single word — appalling. More can be said about them. They are gender biased. They are anti-peace. They promote prejudice, anger and hatred.  Above all they do not promote tolerance and love or teach children to think critically as good books do. Numerous analysts, agencies such as Unesco and educationists have pointed this out.

Two years ago, a National Party Senator created a furore in the Upper House when he read out a passage from a textbook being taught in the colleges in Punjab and Sindh. In this the Baloch were defined as an “uncivilised people who remain busy fighting and killing”. He told the house that in another book, it has been written that the “Baloch were those people who lived in the desert and looted caravans.”

Wouldn’t children reading this start hating the Baloch? What an unwise and irresponsible thing to write when the Baloch are already under siege in Pakistan.

Then there is the gender bias that permeates our text books. Unesco, in a study that included 194 textbooks from four provinces of Pakistan for six subjects found that “the national curriculum reflected a significant gender bias towards males in at least three of these subjects.”

The report added, “In the analysis, only 7.7% of the personalities in the textbooks were found to be female, with most of them relating to Muslim history, and the rest were male. In the textbooks on the history of the subcontinent, only 0.9% of the historical icons mentioned were females.”A sentence very often quoted as an example of misogynist writing is: “A hundred sons are not a burden but one daughter bows our heads.”

All this no doubt reinforces the patriarchal tendencies in boys and accentuates gender disparity in society.

Our religious identity is another aspect of our national life that finds strong mention in our textbooks. The approach adopted is summed up by Tahira Abdullah in a review of KP textbooks as one that glorifies war, ‘otherises’ non-Muslims, takes a uni-dimensional view of reality, distorts history and stereotypes women.

This is not a positive style of writing on any sensitive issue, least of all for students who imbibe quickly what they read. These examples make clear why we should not surprised that militancy has taken root in Pakistani society. This has been promoted by a nexus between the “militant, extremist, jihadist and pro-ideology” elements who have come to dominate the education sector in all provinces.

As a result, efforts to revise and reform the curricula under American pressure in the post 9/11 years have yielded no result. Violence has also been used to drive away progressive forces from the reform process. Take the case of Bernadette Dean, a liberal educationist working on the revision of textbooks in Sindh, who  was forced to flee the country when banners and posters came up overnight in Karachi declaring her to be “wajibul qatl”  (worthy of the death penalty). She fled the country when the IG Police told her that he couldn’t guarantee her safety. A few weeks earlier another non-Muslim woman educationist had been attacked by militants.

Article 25-A speaks of compulsory education for all children 6-16 years of age. The need of the hour is not just to make education accessible to all children in Pakistan but also to ensure that the textbooks teach them what they need to learn.

The elections are the right occasion to ensure that textbooks receive the attention they deserve.

Source: Alif Ailaan, Taalim Do

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Guns or books?

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE infamous legacy of ‘enforced disappearances’ that the Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet left behind has, unfortunately, been picked up by Pakistan. This phenomenon is today a source of great human agony in the country with thousands believed to have been abducted, many for political reasons.

Balochistan has suffered much. One cannot be certain about who is behind this torturous form of suppression of the freedom of expression. One hears of the ‘agencies’, Baloch dissidents, RAW agents, religiously inspired militants and others being involved. Continue reading Guns or books?

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Why us?

pakistan-mpi-squareBy Zubeida Mustafa

SINCE June, the Pakistan government has been patting itself on the back. Multidimensional poverty (MP) has fallen from 55pc to nearly 40pc in the country since 2004, we are being told. Of course it is admitted that there are districts where poverty is as high as over 90 per cent (Qila Abdullah in Balochistan) today. But in Punjab only 31pc are impoverished. Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have an MPI (multidimensional poverty index) of 10pc. Continue reading Why us?

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Insecure rights

By Zubeida Mustafa

A WEEK before Sabeen Mahmud, the ever-smiling ‘active’ human rights activist was gunned down in Karachi, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan launched its annual State of Human Rights report for 2014.

It is widely believed that Sabeen’s decision to host a seminar on Balochistan invited a terrible retribution from the powers-that-be. It is indeed saddening that this staunch defender of all the rights covered by the HRCP report is no more amongst us to act as society’s conscience to remind us that each of us becomes an abettor when the state violates any right the citizen is entitled to and we remain silent onlookers. Continue reading Insecure rights

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Dance away the war

By Zubeida Mustafa

HOW does one get one’s message across to a large audience when a cacophony of sounds drowns out one’s voice before it is heard? Politicians scream into microphones making aggressive gestures before a captive audience that has been assembled for their benefit by their minions. Extremists and militants hire killers and suicide bombers to drive home their point. Television talk show hosts broadcast their inanities.

At the other end, artists draw pictures to tell their story, while authors and poets play with words. In fact, there is another medium that can be employed to win the hearts and minds of people. Last week, Suhaee Abro demonstrated effectively that dance can be used to convey the message of love and peace.

Having seen this talented child blossom into a charming dancer-cum-choreographer, I was fascinated by the ease with which Suhaee and the 44 dancers she brought together captivated a crowd of more than 2,000 people with their message of harmony and beauty blended with a lot of colourful cheer. Continue reading Dance away the war

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2008-2013 Democratic Annals

by Rifaat Hamid Ghani

The government and the Parliament of 2008 completed a full term: a democratic first. But it could be more because interventionists have matured than because politicians demonstrated a reassuring capacity to learn on the job.

If we step outside the trite paradigm of democracy and dictatorship and the polarities of the civil and military public political interest, we might not see any polarities: Both want power and there is a competition for it. For most Pakistanis Pakistan is home, not a cow to be milked dry. They need and want their country. The touchstone for legitimacy then becomes pragmatic for them: How is the power of government being used?

guest-contributorIf asked about the 2008-onwards use of democratically mandated power there would be more than carping complaints about law and order and safety in daily life. The common perception is the state itself is increasingly endangered by the vice and folly of the politically empowered. In 2013 despite democratic freedom a question is suppressed: Is it a myth, which local democratic experience exposes each time, that democracy is invariably the better formula? As soon as there was no self-perpetuating incentive in maintaining or reaching a consensus, political rivals needed arbitration on the caretaker PM. When mainstream parties so evidently mistrust each other’s motives and nominees they also need unusually skilled spin masters to tell the electorate why it may place faith in their candidatures and avowals. Continue reading 2008-2013 Democratic Annals

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The genesis of violence

By Zubeida Mustafa

IN his excellent keynote address at the fourth Karachi Literature Festival, Urdu fiction writer Intizar Husain, one of the 10 finalists for the Man Booker International Prize for 2013, eloquently reflected on a dilemma.

Should we be celebrating literature in the catastrophic times we live in when people are being killed by the hundreds?

Intizar Sahib said he first delved into the wealth of Urdu and Persian poetry but could not find an answer to his question. To his credit, the speaker turned to prose and the legendary One Thousand and One Nights provided him an insight into how literature could be turned to one’s advantage in adverse circumstances. Didn’t Scheherzade buy her reprieve from execution by her storytelling gift? “Literature can change human nature,” Intizar Sahib concluded in support of the literature festival. Continue reading The genesis of violence

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Books in times of war

By Zubeida Mustafa

A CHILDREN’S Literature Festival in Quetta sounds like a contradiction in terms. Quetta is in Balochistan and one doesn’t have to be reminded that the province is in the grip of a violent insurgency.

When I went there last week I could feel the tension in the air. Fear was palpable. So how could a festival — that too for children — be held in a place not considered very safe?

For me the festival amounted to making a political statement: children need peace. We knew that whatever the state of security, life has to go on. Yet one could not turn a blind eye to the tight security which in turn made one feel insecure. The event was not advertised and was reported in the media only after the show was over. Continue reading Books in times of war

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After Akbar Bugti, what?

By Zubeida Mustafa
Source: Dawn

NAWAB Akbar Khan Bugti is dead. His violent death at the hands of the Pakistan army in a targeted military operation has given Balochistan the martyr that it needed at this hour to rally people round the nationalist movement and inject fresh vigour into it. Ironically, in his death Bugti’s contribution to Baloch nationalism may prove to be greater than his role in life.

His oppressive tribalism and brutal style of ruling over his clan drove terror in the heart of many of his tribesmen and earned him enemies among his own Baloch people. He was accused of not doing enough for his people though he had been at the helm in his province — once as governor under Z.A. Bhutto and then as chief minister under Nawaz Sharif. Regarded as Islamabad’s point man in the province, Bugti could have brought prosperity and development to Baloch society if he had wanted to — until he fell out with the rulers. But all his failings will now be erased from public memory as he is mourned as the hero who fought for Baloch nationalist autonomy and honour.
Continue reading After Akbar Bugti, what?

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