Such a hatred of illiteracy and such a decisive recognition of its consequent ills, one would assume, would produce an equally fervent desire for literacy, for learning, for schools and all that accompanies a country’s intellectual advancement. But for all the professed love, all the avowed promises, all the passionate proclamations, there is nothing to show. In the past year, however, what was simply lazy inaction has now grown up and morphed into an actual, angry hatred of education itself...
One year ago, Pakistanis lamented only the school burnings and the school bombings done by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. But last year, the attack on schools graduated to something more. In October, Malala Yousafzai, marked her momentous escape from the school girl killing brigade of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Weeks later, on November 1, 2013 a girls’ school in Lahore was attacked and then burned to the ground by a furious mob. The cause for the destruction; an accusation against a teacher for having blasphemed against the Prophet, The reported context; a harried woman copying down a passage on a blackboard, an accidentally turned page and two unconnected passaged merged together into a mistaken concoction deemed worthy of death. Death was demanded for the principal who soon became a prisoner. The teacher ran and hid and tried to save her life.
Between then and now, over 15 schools were blown up or bombed. On January 2, 2013 a bomb blast at the University of Peshawar, outside a classroom injured several people and terrified several hundred more. Going to University, it announced to everyone still believing in the value of an education; is an extremely lethal business. On February 12, 2013, a college was bombed in Mardan where a bomb had been placed outside the Physics Department. If others were left doubting, the mob that gathered at Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan on March 15, 2013 could have sealed the argument against teaching and learning. Led by the members of the Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz-e- Namoos-e-Risalat, the Multan mob had a single demand: the arrest and immediate execution of a lecturer in the University’s English Department. The man’s crime, an alleged blasphemy committed on a social networking site. The imperiled Professor fled and hid to save his life, the rabid mob and their leaders vowed that they would find him and kill him.
Then came the killing of last week when a poet and a professor, Sibte Jaffar was gunned down. The event was tragic, but everyone shrugged their head and nodded. “He was a known target” some said, being a Shia and a poet and a professor, everyone agrees today is a lethal combination; an obvious invitation for some secret gunman’s unforgiving bullet. Thus proceeds, the war against learning, where being a female student, or a male professor or anyone asking others to think, to pause, to consider, is a target. An illiterate Pakistan was one where the lack of education made the polity slow and dull and easily duped, a Pakistan that has declared war on teachers is one that is suicidal.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.
Rafia Zakaria is an attorney and human rights activist. She is a columnist for DAWN Pakistan and a regular contributor for Al Jazeera America, Dissent, Guernica and many other publications.
She is the author of The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan (Beacon Press 2015). She tweets @rafiazakaria
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.