WE all cry over plights of Rohingya Muslims. We also fiercely condemn the inhumane treatment meted out to them at the hands of religious bigots anywhere in the world, especially in the West. Moreover, we demand equality and freedom of religious practices. All is justified.
But do we reciprocate and ensure that minorities are safe and get equal rights in Pakistan? The recent death of a Christian student, Sheron Masih, in Burewala, speaks volumes in this regard.
Owing to religious radicalisation in our education institutions, it is hardly surprising that a Christian student was barred from using a water cooler as, according to some, it would contaminate water and make it unfit for pious Muslim students to drink. This had compelled Sheron Masih to remain thirsty for long hours of schooling in this hot weather. However, Sheron rebelled and his attempt to drink water from the cooler cost his life at the hand of his classmate.
The case in not an isolated one. The country’s education system has deeply been radicalised at all levels, mostly at universities. Paradoxically, universities have become breeding grounds for intolerance and extremism. Militant organisations recruit students from these universities. Noreen Laghari, Saad Aziz and Karim Sarosh Siddiqui are few such people. Moreover, investigation into the Mashal Khan case has also revealed that there is an unholy nexus between corruption and extremism on campuses.
The scenario is gloomy and demands urgent but comprehensive work plan to fight this monster. The plan can be divided into two phases: short-term and long-term goals. For the short-term goal, security of campuses and proper monitoring of students’ activities are necessary for preventing any trouble.
For long-term goals, a drastic change must be brought into the curriculum first. One reason behind our radicalised society, in general, and on campuses, in particular, is teaching of distorted and monolithic history which breeds hatred among students. Hence, a pluralistic narrative is required.
Second, extra-curricular activities and free thinking must be encouraged. Third, the student union should be revived as it will fill the vacuum which is now filled by religious and sectarian forces in the face of ban on students unions for a long time now.
Time is short and the country’s future is at stake. We should act quickly or face international isolation and embarrassment.
Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017