ISLAMABAD: Members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, while debating the Compulsory Education of Arabic Bill 2015, discussed whether the lack of Arabic as a subject in the curriculum was the cause of terrorism in Pakistan.

The bill was moved by MNA Naeema Kishwar Khan, and debate on it began even though the mover of the bill was not in attendance.

PML-N MNA Parveen Masood Bhatti expressed support for the bill, saying terrorism was increasing because students were not studying Arabic.

“We have started focusing on the English language, and parents put their children in English-medium schools and do not bother teaching their children the Arabic language. It is because of this attitude that terrorism is increasing,” she claimed.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi, however, argued that even people who speak Arabic can be terrorists and spread terrorism.

Committee member Nafeesa Khattak from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supported the bill, saying introducing Arabic as a compulsory language from “the start of education” would allow children to learn and understand the Quran and help a large number of people get jobs.

Committee chairman Rana Mohammad Hayat Khan responded that the inclusion of Arabic would not increase job opportunities, and paraphrased Allama Iqbal, saying those who study Arabic would only get jobs selling oil.

“Students who are serious about studying the Quran, they go to mosques early in the morning and after that they go to school,” he added.

However, PTI’s Asad Umer argued that the language of the Quran and its translation should be taught to students, claiming that “85pc of mosques in the federal capital are run by those who do not preach what is mentioned in the Quran”.

The Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) has decided to oppose the bill, Secretary Nargis Ghalo said, because there are not enough teachers to teach Arabic as a compulsory subject.

“In provinces such as Sindh, where local languages are also taught, the inclusion of Arabic as a compulsory subject will put an extra burden on the children,” she added. “Arabic is introduced from the sixth standard as an elective subject, but it is observed that the majority of students do not opt [for it].”

Mr Abidi also suggested the opinion of the Wafaqul Madaris be sought, but Mr Hayat Khan directed the CADD ministry to bring concrete suggestions for the bill, or it would be finalised according to the committee members’ opinions.

Polyclinic Hospital extension discussed

While discussing the extension of the Polyclinic Hospital, Mr Umer said he has been hearing that the project will be completed soon for years.

“Although I disagree with the location of the project, as it is being constructed on park land, the government should expedite the project and complete it at the earliest. I suggest that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif inaugurate the project immediately, just like he is inaugurating other incomplete projects,” he said.

CADD Minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, who arrived at the meeting late, said the project will be awarded on a turnkey basis.

It was decided in 2008 that the extension, in the form of an additional building, was to be built on one third of Argentina Park. The project became controversial when the health ministry realised the Argentine embassy needed to give permission to construct the hospital. After the embassy allowed for the hospital to be built, the Capital Development Authority refused to allow construction of a hospital on park land and said only the prime minister could allow for a relaxation in the rules. Although the prime minister has approved the construction of the hospital, work has not yet begun.

The hospital is the second largest in Islamabad and its outpatient department facilitates over 8,000 patients a day. It has a capacity of 550 beds, which does not meet the city’s requirements.

Published in Dawn February 16th, 2017

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