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Our textbooks and the lies they teach

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. […]

‘Reforming’ the education system

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. […]

April 30th, 2011|development, education, governance, published in DAWN|2 Comments

State accountability

My piece published in The Friday Times (June 18 issue)
Leaving aside the political debate on the results of the recent Transparency International (TI) survey, the results are pretty damning for the masters of our destiny. The issue is not about which province is least or most corrupt. The fact that the majority of respondents hold the Police as the most corrupt department since the last eight years is a matter of grave concern. It is even more troubling, given the current security scenario where Pakistanis are facing a crisis of public safety. Markets, shops, and highways are not safe. If there is a respite from the terrorists, then the criminals are there to make hay while collapsing administrative and policing structures struggle to manage their operations. Let us not forget that security of the person and their property is a fundamental right of the Pakistanis.
The party-based and ethnicity-oriented feuds on TI survey are meaningless as the Police is a provincial subject and TI’s surveys have consistently shown that there is something deeply rotten in how the security apparatus works at the subnational level. The causes for such a crisis of governance need to be highlighted, regardless of which party we vote for or where we live. What could be more telling than the events of the recent past?

Divide or perish: creating new provinces in Pakistan

My piece published in TFT
Since 1947, two characteristics of the Pakistani state have continued to haunt its legitimacy and survival. The first relates to the lopsidedness of its federal framework; and the second pertains to the dysfunctional citizen-state compact. Prior to 1971, the efforts to achieve parity between the eastern and western wings remained a constant struggle eventually culminating in the break-up of the country. Nationalist narratives insist on the Indian intervention in 1971 rather than acknowledging that the governance arrangements for the two wings through a powerful Centre in Karachi and later Islamabad were inherently biased and unworkable. In the post-1971 context, the lopsidedness did not end as the Punjab continued to dominate the way country works and how power is distributed between the various federating units. How can a federation work when one province will always be the most populous, resourceful and hold keys to state power through the civil-military bureaucracy?
The second unfortunate legacy of the colonial governance arrangements i.e., an over-developed state operating through central rule and diktat , is now facing the greatest crisis of legitimacy. It is now commonly recognized that state legitimacy is a function of how effective a state is in delivering services, ensuring entitlements (such as security) and negotiating plural identities and competing demands for resources and power. Pakistan’s dominant classes have always been averse to address this endemic issue until the recent political consensus that has been achieved through the passage of the 18th Amendment. While the political elites are clear on the future roadmap it remains to be seen whether the unelected institutions of the state are on board with the new provincial autonomy arrangements. Perhaps the recent violence in response to the renaming of the erstwhile North West Frontier Province to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was allegedly orchestrated by the Kings’ party known for its servility to the establishment.
The debate on creating new provinces from different corners of the countries is a healthy sign and a direct result of a democratic phase, howsoever uncertain it might be. […]