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DAWN - Letters; March 7, 2003

March 07, 2003

Free education: a positive step

ONE of the blessings of democracy is that the elected governments pay heed to the wishes and needs of the people. If there is an effective accountability system in place, that further helps in solving people’s problems on a priority basis.

It is a matter of great pleasure that the Punjab government has announced the provision of free education in all government-run schools up to the matric level. The NWFP government, on the other hand, has introduced reforms aimed at eradicating the VIP culture and enforcing strict controls against immodesty and debauchery. Urdu has been declared the official language in that province and education up to matriculation has been made free.

The Balochistan assembly has followed suit by unanimously adopting a resolution demanding free education up to matriculation. The Sindh assembly should also move forward in this matter. These steps are in the best interest of the poor and should be implemented in both letter and in spirit.

There is a lot of talent waiting to be utilized in our rural areas. But lack of education has held this talent back from realizing its potential. Children from affluent backgrounds attending better schools are able to avail all opportunities and achieve success in life. Thus, introduction of a common syllabus will also be a step in the right direction.

Providing quality education to all citizens is a tested recipe for sustainable development. Therefore, our efforts and resources need to be concentrated on the provision of quality education, and on achieving a high literacy rate. More spending on education now would translate into technical and scientific progress in the years ahead.

It will not be out of place to mention here that no nation could make any real progress unless steps are taken to ensure the provision of quality education in one’s mother tongue. China, Japan, Germany and many other countries today are glowing examples of this successful policy.

The prevalent feudal system dating back to the colonial times has been the main obstacle in the development of mother tongues and dissemination of knowledge in these. And now the onslaught of foreign culture, globalization, economic policies dictated by the IMF and the World Bank, are having adverse effects on the development of our indigenous culture and local languages.

Although Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto had declared education up to matriculation to be free back in 1972, that could not be effectively implemented. Tall claims can only prove to be beneficial when these are implemented. Paying only a lip- service to such noble causes without implementing a declared policy is hypocrisy of the highest order.

Today, most Pakistanis continue to live below the poverty line and are even being denied the basic facilities of life, quality education being one among these. The present government would do well to deliver what it has promised.



An American’s thanks

A huge ‘thank you’ to Pakistan for arresting and turning over to the United States the 9/11 mastermind terrorist Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The fact that Pakistani politician Ahmed Abdul Qadoos, a member of the Jamaat-i-Islami, was also arrested at the same time along with an unidentified man of Middle Eastern origin, is troubling, both for Pakistan and for the free world at large.

Pakistan is not an Arab nation. Pakistan is a unique nation which many historians believe evolved from the original cradle of civilization located in the Indus River basin. The mix of South-West Asian cultures and those of the West such as during the era of Alexander the Great has created a people rich in history and diversified abilities. This, but for Pakistan’s brain drain, would make Pakistan a very great nation and one of the world’s major economic players.

Our Arab brethren, on the other hand, have brought us much of value, including the best of the world’s mathematicians and scientists.

I lived and worked in Pakistan at the old US Embassy in Karachi in the mid-1960s. Pakistan today has turned a corner, although it has been and remains a difficult one to “keep turned.” Pakistan has rejected terrorism and the most radical, extremist, murderous version of a pseudo-religious faith system that wrongfully claims to relate itself back to real Islam.

The fact that Saturday’s arrests included a leading Pakistani affiliated to a religio-political party demonstrates that terrorists are yet among you and among your own elected parliamentarians.

Pakistan, in the United Nations, now stands at a crossroads on the issue of a second resolution against the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. Pakistan has nothing in common with this man nor his ideology. It is hoped by many of Pakistan’s friends in the West, among whom I count myself, that your nation and government will join the United States, Britain, and Spain in voting for a second resolution to formally end the Iraqi regime’s time in office.

It would be appropriate for Pakistan to assert itself as a thinking and caring nation by voting ‘yes’. This in part will be a favour to the oppressed people of Iraq and will help rescue them from Saddam Hussein and his brutal Ba’ath Party.

Finally, it is noted that a delegation from the legislature of New Hampshire recently visited Pakistan regarding the Kashmir problem. Kashmir remains an open issue to most thinking world observers in the United Nations, and may yet become a free and independent state. Linkage of Iraq and Kashmir, and the need to honour the twin states of Israel and Palestine are all fish in the same pond.


Birmingham, AL, USA

‘Disgraced again and again’

WE have read with a sense of shock an article captioned “disgraced again and again”, particularly with reference to Mr S. M. Zafar, wherein the writer (one S. T. M.) has clubbed him in the company of other elected representatives who, the writer believes, changed many parties.

Without having any cavil with the history traced by the writer about other names (who may defend themselves), we register our protest that one of the eminent and widely respected personalities has been wantonly mentioned as having “contested many elections but on different tickets”.

As a matter of fact, this is the first time that Mr Zafar has contested elections on a party ticket. He has been elected on a PML ticket in 2003. He was the secretary-general of the PML in 1984 and he was a minister of the PML in 1965.

Will the writer let us know the names of the other parties on whose ticket Mr Zafar ever contested the election other than the (PML-Q) ticket in 2003?





Payment of LPR

IT is regrettable to note that retired professors and teachers are made victims of delaying tactics in the payment of 180 days in lieu of LPR, i.e. leave preparatory to retirement. This is payable on the very second day of retirement so that a retired person, whose monthly pay is stopped, gets 180 days payment to run the expenditure till pension is decided and other payments are matured.

Previously, the pay for 180 days was a part or continuation of pay. But one day some so-called intelligent person put this 180 days pay under a separate head of account, and created trouble for the retired persons.

I retired on June 4, 2002, and I have not received my pay for the 180 days. Even other persons who retired before I did, like professor Abdul Samad Ansari who retired on Jan 1, 2002, have not received 180 days’ pay. Every month the number of those retiring is increasing. Further, the Hyderabad district is the second largest district of Sindh, so a districtwise allocation will not be able to solve this problem.

The DOE, Hyderabad, has sent requisition for Rs2,500,000 to meet expediency, but this requisition, too, is pending somewhere and has not reached the Sindh finance department.

The president and authorities in Sindh are requested to help expedite the matter.



English as medium of instruction

WITH regard to the letters appearing in Dawn under the heading of “English words in Urdu” and the MMA’s wish to revert to Urdu in public schools in the NWFP, I would like to point out to Mr Anwar ul Haq (letter, Feb 6) that if the Urdu language is rich incorporating a variety of languages into it, then one more language, English, doesn’t necessarily degrade it in any way, but rather enriches it.

I would, however, agree with him that the people in the NWFP government are not illiterate. I suggest that their opinions might not fare the best for the people of the province. While Urdu has a historical place in the cultures of India and Pakistan, it really has no place in our educational institutions as a primary language.

Certainly, Qazi Hussein Ahmad fears English and western culture; hence his favour of Urdu. I believe that his fear of English betrays a lack of confidence in the diverse peoples and cultures in Pakistan. If English is “elite” in anyway, then giving all Pakistanis education in English would remove the elitism completely.

I imagine major texts and journals being translated into Urdu. By the time a major body of work is translated and verified, it will be sorely outdated.

I propose that all educational institutions have English as the primary medium of instruction, and students be given the choice of a second language (and a choice of Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pushto, Saraki or Hindko) would allow people to maintain a sense of their culture and heritage.

By going the route of Urdu, and getting rid of co-educational institutions, Pakistan will become a walled state, like North Korea, backward and even more unstable than it is currently.


Fargo North Dakota, USA

Admission policy

THE Gomal University, D. I. Khan, has been practising a rather imbalanced admission policy for three decades. According to this policy, 25 seats, out of a total 35 seats, are reserved for domicile holders of D. I. Khan, Laki Marwat, Tank and Bannu districts. Moreover, admission seekers from these districts are competing on the remaining 10 seats on open merit.

This policy in a way is hurting the interest of the students from other areas of the province. The provincial government must review this situation or reserve seats for domicile holders of the Karak district as enjoyed by others.



Ties with China

“PAKISTANIS are our good friends and they are not required to pay the Chinese visitor visa fee,” a young Chinese immigration officer told me when I asked her about the visa fee at the Chinese consulate in Toronto. I was surprised at how much she knew about Pakistan-China friendship that we always talk about back home.

This led me to wonder why we never heard similar remarks from our Middle Eastern Muslim brethren when we go to their embassies to apply for a visa. Similarly, we never heard any such thing from our western “friends” with whom we are partners in their “War on Terror”.

I would like to ask our rulers whether they know who our true friends are that we can trust.


Niagara Falls, Canada

‘Whirling into ecstasy’

THIS is with reference to the article titled ‘Whirling into ecstasy’ by Qasim Abdallah Moini (Dawn, Images, March 2).

In his article regarding the performance of Turkish Konya Sufi Music Group, Mr Moini claims that “despite the secularist efforts to finish off this esoteric practice during the dark time that was the Kemalist period, when draconian measures were even unleashed upon the Azan, this celebration of the spirit has survived”.

Contrary to Mr Moini’s irrelevant and unsubstantiated allegations, in Turkey there have never been restrictions on practising religious freedoms and rights or on pursuing Mevlevi or Sufi traditions. Instead, there have been some legitimate measures aimed at bringing to an end the misuse of the religion and religious feelings.

According to the Constitution of Turkey, no one shall be allowed to exploit or abuse religion or religious feelings. Therefore, Mr Moini’s claims are, if nothing else, a distortion of the historical facts.

On the other hand, although the Group has been brought to Pakistan by the efforts of the Turkish embassy, and the event has been organized in collaboration with this embassy, the Pearl Continental Hotels, PSL, the Turkish Airlines and the STFA Construction Company, regrettably Mr Moini did not mention the efforts or even the name of the Turkish embassy.

It is my belief that it would be better if Mr Moini had tried to promote mutual understanding and the truth for the sake of our close and common cultural ties, instead of hurling some baseless comments on a long-awaited cultural event.


Press Attache, Turkish Embassy,


Silence of religious parties

THE MMA gained support from the public in the elections because of their anti-American slogans. Most people labelled the PML-Q as a king‘s party while the MMA was considered a party which was against the policies of the military establishment. But their silence over Iraq crisis has proved that they are indeed the supporters of the present regime.

Most people will argue that this is not possible because the MMA opposed the military establishment for its support to the US to invade Afghanistan. But we must not forget that it was indeed in the interest of the military establishment that the religious parties come out on streets and protested because the government could claim that it was facing stiff resistance from them and , hence, in the process, minted more US dollars.

Unfortunately, the situation was not properly tackled by President Musharraf, who easily bowed to the demands of the US, and the financial remuneration which we received was peanuts as compared to the financial benefit that the USA plans to give to Turkey in return for using its bases.

The political parties of Pakistan and the Arab countries should be ashamed of themselves that while the people in the West came out on the streets, they were sitting idle or glued to TV watching the worldwide protests. These protests have also proved the claim of the religious parties as false that the ongoing war against terrorism is a war between the infidels and the Muslims. In fact, the war is to get hold of the natural resources which the Muslim countries have.



Jamali, NAM & Senate polls

IN a recent television interview, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali clarified that although he had been invited to the 13th NAM summit, he could not attend it because he had found out that the freshly postponed Senate elections were falling on the same dates.

This sad incident speaks volumes of the organizational ability of the premier and his elite staff, who proved incapable of planning his itinerary. Moreover, it appears quite ludicrous that the Senate elections, which were postponed due to Haj, could not have been slated either before or after the vital NAM summit.



PTCL line rent

THE PTCL has given a figure of Rs9.72 billion as its expected net profit earning during the first half of the year. This means that this company is most profitable in Pakistan.

It is charging each customer a monthly line rent of Rs261, which is much higher. The line rent must be reduced to give relief to the customers out of the huge profit the PTCL is earning.

I request the prime minister to instruct the PTCL to provide this relief to its customers. I also request all customers to press and endorse this demand.



Cricket: dignity in defeat

SO, we are out of the Cricket World Cup competition. What hurts is that we are also down. As a people we are extremely emotional. In defeat we are in tears, in victory it is all song and dance. Now we are in mourning. It is perhaps natural but not very sensible. Instead of shedding tears, we should be thinking.

Let us not start calling the players any names. Each one, in his place, has been, and is, a great player by all standards. The younger ones have a great future ahead. Among the seniors, each one has served our cricket brilliantly and valiantly. Let us not be ungrateful.

What has done us down was inattention to preparation. We sent out 11 wonderful players — but a weak team. Imagine, we were experimenting with the opening pair in every World Cup match! The same with the pair of opening bowlers.

Who is responsible for this failure? Obviously none but the PCB. The chairman’s resignation is on the table. He should press for its acceptance, before the promised ‘inquiry’ begins. The ‘inquiry’ will not be credible if he remains on top of the organization under inquiry.

Next person responsible is the captain. He went into the matches without a match plan, not to speak of strategy. He must take the responsibility for his player remaining unable to play as a team. But we must not forget that Waqar Yunis is a great bowler, indeed one of the greatest ever. Our regard for him remains undiminished.

About the coach, the less said the better. Again putting a square peg in a round whole is not the fault of the peg. The blame attaches to those who put him in the coach’s seat. Once again, it is the PCB that should be in the dock, not the coach.

Waqar has hinted that he would ease himself out of the captaincy. That is only proper. But he should be shown the respect that is due to a bowler of his stature. The moral of the story is that a great bowler, or a great batsman, does not necessarily a great captain make. Nor a good general necessarily makes a great PCB chief.

Even with this defeat, admittedly galling, our cricket record is not altogether dismal. We have won the World Cup once (1992), have been runners-up once (1999) and semi-finalists three times (1979-83-87), quarter-finalists once (1996). This is the first time in the history of the World Cup that we are out of any reckoning. Let’s hope this is also the last time to be so lowly placed.

Finally, I would urge all concerned that there should be no recrimination, no pointing of accusing fingers. In a moment of sorrow, dignity should not be made the first casualty. The PCB officialdom should make sure that the players are received in an appropriate manner. They have lost a tournament but there is a lot more to our cricket than one reverse, however agonizing it might be deep down.