education

Exodus from Pakistan’s troubled north presents risks, opportunities

27 June 2014

By Raza Rumi, Special to CNN

Polio

 

Pakistan’s much-awaited military offensive in North Waziristan was launched more than a week ago, and followed an attack on Karachi airport that left at least 36 people dead.

Due to the strategic calculations of the Pakistani state, North Waziristan has steadily fallen into the hands of motley militant networks, and has become a mountainous zone for the Pakistani Taliban to recruit, regroup and launch attacks against the country.

The Pakistani Army conducted a similar operation in the Swat Valley in 2009, not too far from the tribal areas, that has been a relative success in reclaiming territory. It is unclear which direction the latest operation will go. But a major humanitarian crisis is brewing in the wake of the new offensive.

As of Wednesday, the government had registered over 450,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been fleeing the area in view of the aerial bombardments and warnings by military authorities. There are fears the figures could be much higher. (more…)

Indus Valley School of Learning: The school which teaches Humanism

23 March 2014

On Pakistan Day, I was invited by the Indus Valley School of Learning in Rawalpindi. I tweeted about my visit and the pleasant experience. There is so much about Pakistan that remains invisible – many people who are working hard to make it a plural and tolerant place. Whilst I complain about our curricula all the time, here is a school which is striving within formidable constraints to provide quality education.

Policy paralysis haunts our security

22 March 2014

By Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s government has appointed a new committee to conduct ‘peace talks’ with the Taliban. The old committee, with journalists acting as peace-brokers, has been replaced by a coterie of bureaucrats who, in spite of their solid credentials, are likely to be men without a mandate. The talks between the TTP and the government in Islamabad will remain in a flux as the right-wing politicians most keen to engage with them still refuse to deliver on what they have sold to the general public — that you can actually negotiate with groups that have killed 50,000 Pakistanis including over 4,000 security personnel. Why do the government’s peace committees have no politician in them?

A recent report by The Wall Street Journal stated that the Pakistan Army has lost almost twice as many soldiers in the conflict with Taliban fighters as the United States (March 10, 2014). Yet, the civilian government and the army are opting for negotiations. This baffles plain logic unless there is a greater strategy at work. The civilian leadership seems split as the interior minister defends the TTP, while the defence minister warns of a military operation. At the same time, most of the demands put forward by the TTP can only be met if the military agrees to deliver on them. Thus, the future of talks remains dogged by this inherent divergence in the power structure within Pakistan. (more…)

Our textbooks and the lies they teach

1 May 2011

By Raza Rumi

Due to the 18th Amendment, a momentous shift in Pakistan’s governance arrangements is taking place through a politically mediated and largely consensual manner. The federal government is being trimmed and 10 ministries have already been devolved to the provinces. A key development pertains to the devolution of education — lock, stock and barrel — to the provinces. Most notably, the odious era of setting poisonous, centralised curricula in the name of a ‘martial’ nationalism is finally over. Whether the past practices of turning Pakistan into a jihad project will end is uncertain, unless the provinces take the initiative and reverse the regrettable trajectory of the past.

Pakistani textbooks have preached falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. They have constructed most non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as evil and primordial enemies, glorified military dictatorships and omitted references to our great betrayal of the Bengali brothers and sisters who were the founders and owners of the Pakistan movement. It is time to correct these wrongs. (more…)

‘Reforming’ the education system

30 April 2011

By Raza Rumi

Pakistani students sit inside and on top of a rickshaw heading to their schools in Muzaffargarh in Punjab province, Pakistan, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. AP Photo

The recent debates on education have also highlighted how the education sector is not receiving its due compared to say defence, infrastructure and other expenditures made by the government. However, the discussion has yet to move to the most important area i.e. quality of schools and what sort of learning are they providing?

The task of reforming the education system is huge, complex and some would say next to impossible. However, the 18th Amendment to the Constitution has opened the doors to avenues for change. Firstly, education is a provincial subject and the transfer of budgets (with increased allocations through the National Finance Commission Awards) implies that there is now more flexibility and autonomy with the provinces in matters of policy and operations. Secondly, the inclusion of right to education in the fundamental rights also ensures that this is now a justiciable right as well as a paramount priority of the state. (more…)

Devolution in Pakistan: Unpacking the HEC debate

12 April 2011

An amended, rationalised HEC needs to stay in place

By Raza Rumi

The 18th Amendment approved by the Parliament in 2010 signified a new era in Pakistan’s troubled federalism. Given our turbulent constitutional history, the new governance arrangements approved by all parties and federating units settled for a leaner centre and addressed long-standing demands of provincial autonomy. But the implementation of this amendment has been slower than expected, largely for reasons of capacity both at the federal and provincial levels. Despite the constraints, the Implementation Commission has delivered fairly well. Thus far, ten ministries have been devolved. Five ministries — local government, special initiatives, zakat & ushr, population welfare and youth affairs — were devolved in late December 2010. The recent batch of the federal ministries includes: ministries of education, social welfare and special education, Tourism, livestock and dairy and culture.

Media rants:

In recent days, a new controversy on the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has plagued the implementation process with respect to the 18th Amendment. Television channels have aired the views of technical experts as well as the usual suspects who rant on every talk show on almost every subject under the sun, be it defence, culture, or cricket. The move towards the devolution of the HEC’s powers and functions to provinces has been construed as another move by the semi-literate and ‘corrupt’ politicians to thwart the degree validation process, which has been part of our pseudo political discourse. Such an argument is pretty lame, as the rule to have a degree to be eligible for an election has been done away with. The Musharraf scheme of a grand HEC, BA-holding legislators and ‘controlled democracy’ obviously failed in 2008 when the electorate rejected his party and sent representatives who sent him home. (more…)

The Historian – Online Journal of Government College University, Pakistan

23 April 2009

Many months ago I received this link to the online journal of the Government College University, Lahore. It has an impressive editorial board and the editor, Tahir Kamran, is a respected historian whose efforts and contributions to revive the near-dead discipline of history deserve more than appreciation.

The said issue of The Historian has diverse articles including On the Making of Muslims in India Historically and Evolution and Impact of Deobandi Islam in the Punjab. And, there are some brilliant book reviews as well. The book that interested me were Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and M.J. AKBAR’s, Blood Brothers: A Family Saga.

I was once a student at this institution albeit for a year only. After years of state control, the recent reforms have improved the quality of instruction and of course the management. Thus the glorious tradition of the Government College shall not wane despite the awful stateof education that haunts Pakistan.

Do visit the website and browse through the pieces if history is your cup of tea.

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