Higher Education as Source of Exploitation in Underdeveloped States

All humans are equal by birth. It’s the physical environment and genes which decides the scope of an individual to excel. Throughout the history, there remains a debate among sociologists whether its nature or nurture which play a key role in upbringing of a child. However, majority gave an upper hand to the physical environment; indeed, it makes the dominant traits, the recessive ones, if the given environment is not suitable, as evidence, one may study Darwin’s theory of “survival to the fittest”. Furthermore, studying the parameters in this regard, one may find it’s the educational system and research which served as a triggering factor in changing the fate of nations. For instance, one may consider how Greeks, Muslims and Europeans prospered. All of them ensured the independence and prestige of educational institutions and ensured full fledge support of state machinery to them.

Educational institutions mean, indeed, the higher education ones as their role in society is multi-faceted whether its IT, medicine, engineering, ammunition or last but not the least, industry. The last two centuries have, indeed, verified the given stance. As, one may consider the development of communication systems over the decades, starting from Marconi’s Radio to today’s virtual world, still today, scientists are working over power minimization issues in portable devices. In addition to it, ammunition systems are being manufactured so strong and accurate that they can hit anyone, anywhere across the globe with minimum collateral damage, like consider the killing of Mullah Mansoor. That’s all possible because of advancement in technology and continuous experimentation. Meanwhile, it’s worth full to mention that without having state patronage, it was impossible to achieve such milestones along with human intellectual or labor in terms of economics provided by higher educational institutes like Oxford, Cambridge and many others.

Whether it was Muslim world or today’s Europe, what enables them to rule the world is, indeed, their superiority based upon knowledge. Of course, the rulers used the said institutes to ensure their hegemony across the globe. For example, one can consider how Ullemas were used for invasion on other states as well as for persecution of Shia Muslims or in other words they were used to strengthen monarchs. Moving on to the contemporary world, one may consider the brain drainage from underdeveloped states, under the umbrella of higher education, by developed states in this perspective. Anyway the question here is how it is being carried on? No doubt, studying abroad is a dream for many of us. Consequently, most of us who avail the said opportunity prefer to serve global institutions as they offer attractive salaries along with an improved lifestyle as evident from the ratio of doctors serving in USA, one fourth of them are Pakistanis. More and more enrollment of students in their institutions simply maximizes their income as well as ensures availability of cheap labor for MNCs. Meanwhile, students from underdeveloped states find useless to serve their own states as they lack infrastructure as well as political will of the leaders. Moreover, such students who prefer to stay at home, also, sometimes, become a tool for international organizations, question may be raised how; they act like a communicator, mediator or sometimes as a recruiter too for the said institutions. For instance, consider an Ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan Dr. Shaukat Aziz, an employee of World Bank, after serving Pakistan, he never came back to his homeland, courts were unable to make him accountable for his actions. One may consider as an example the role of NGO’s in underdeveloped states, how they are used for propaganda especially for regime change in such states like the Arab Spring, how youth were manipulated by the slogans of democracy, here west oriented mindset of youth had neglected the ground realities, the divisions of their societies on ethnic and religious lines, their idealism has, indeed, betrayed them and resulted in civil war. Indeed, it’s the drawback of higher education along with the system failure to adjust these idealists within the given scenario.

Apart from the said facts, let us consider the role of researchers in developing states like Pakistan. Here, intermingling of research and teaching departments, has indeed resulted into the deterioration of teaching system Research departments are heavily funded by universities and HEC, so majority’s focus has been shifted towards research. There are only a few institutions like PITB who are committed to the research projects over the issues based upon our ground realities. On the other hand, most of our research scholars associate themselves with foreign researchers, presenting solutions for their problems. So, here one may raise the question how are they benefiting their homelands? The answer lies simply in negation and indeed, it is written on the wall.

One may raise question then how Europeans used Muslim knowledge and transformed themselves. The answer is quite simple, they translated Muslim’s books, used them according to their social demands as well as gradually challenged the monarchs by giving an alternative of nationalism to Roman Catholic Empire and then later on rejection of monarchy by giving the principle of popular sovereignty; the basis of democratic world. So, as a nation, we also want to prosper but by not becoming a consumer market rather should become production unit that is, we should be able to adjust those who study abroad, should encourage those programs which are in accordance to our real issues, in nutshell, instead of blind followership, we should establish a forum to determine our current and future needs in accordance to which students should be allowed to study abroad and conduct research.

Vanishing songs of Native Birds: Challenges to Biodiversity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Recently, Asif Mohmand went on in search of the vanishing voices of the native birds. He then tried to explore a connection of these vanishing voices with the growing threats and vulnerabilities resulting from the Climate Change and that how these are being responded to by the relevant authorities and prevailing development discourse on ground.
Bashir Khan, 50, standing at the corner of his field of wheat crop, narrates the story of the vanishing voices of balbala (Molapestes Cafer***), tootkhwaraka, toranaka (Turdus Merula), chaty (Troglodytidae), zyaraka (Oriolus) and kurkuray (Streptopelia bengalensis). Five Kilometers away from the main city of Mardan, Bashir Khan is a farmer in the Union Council Babinai where his family is engaged in agriculture since his forefathers times. He claims that twenty five years ago from now, the voices of all these birds were there, and until they were there, the farmers in the area were also prosperous. These birds were the protectors of their crops, guarding them from the harmful pests and insects. Today, along with Bashir Khan, almost all of the farmers in the area are using agricultural pesticides. “It has weakened us financially and it is affecting our health as well. Besides, when we talk about use of pesticides on vegetables, including Tomato, Ladyfinger, Bitter Gourd, Cauliflower, and Cabbage, all of these are our day to day food items. There are pesticides that are not effective only on the outer skin of the plant; rather they get absorbed into it, like in Eggplant and Tomato, and when we utilize the same as food, it certainly affects us and our health,” Bashir Khan remarked. He shared that he had been listening to the stories of the songs of these birds from his elders as these birds co-existed with the people and at times had nests in their houses. For generations, a significant number of women, he added, were named after these birds. Today, neither those names exist, nor those birds and their songs.

Morus Nigra tree in Peshawar village Shehtoot

In response to the search for vanishing voices of the protectors of Bashir Khan’s crops, we learnt that the Divisional Wildlife Department in Mardan, primarily responsible for the protection and conservation of Birds and other wildlife, lacks any kind of information, pictures, or record of the native birds and wildlife. Due to the absence of the Divisional Forest Officer in his office, Muhammad Tariq, Office Assistant, confirmed that the native birds are going extinct faster in District Mardan due to growing population and the effects of climate change. He shared that there is no separate scheme with the Office for the conservation of the native birds; however, there are fifty three (53) Watchers in Mardan Division keeping an eye on the illegal hunt of birds and other wildlife. It is important to note that the Divisional Wildlife Office Mardan issues permits for hunting in specific months of the year. As per the office record, four hundred and sixty two (462) shooting licenses were issued during January 2017 – January 2018, resulting into a revenue of one million seven hundred and fifty thousand (PKR 1,750,000) for the Divisional Wildlife Office.

In order to protect birds and other wildlife, there are eighteen (18) wildlife offices in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. As per the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department Peshawar, KP province is the habitat of the majority of the bird species in Pakistan as the climatic conditions prevailing in the province are suitable for both native and visiting birds, in comparison to other provinces. Among the six hundred and sixty eight (668) bird species in Pakistan, four hundred and fifty four (454) species are in KP province. Niaz Khan, Divisional Forest Officer, opined that the extinction of native birds in Mardan and in other neighboring regions is a result of the disappearance of fruit trees and other native trees and plants like Naranj (Citrus acida), Bera (Zizyphus jujube), Kharwala (Salix), Toot (Morus Nigra) and Shawa (Dalbergia siasso). “The habitats are not in favorable conditions (for these native trees and plants), or they don’t have suitable temperatures and climatic conditions available to them”, Niaz Khan added.

Where have the birds protecting the crops of around forty eight thousand (48000) farming families in District Mardan, including that of Bashir Khan, disappeared? How many, and which ones, of the native birds in various parts of the province have got extinct? And how many are remaining? Nobody can answer these questions. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department lacks any such information. It is, however, important to note that the Wildlife Department has received, during 2013 to 2018, a budget of one billion and thirty one lakh (PKR 1,003,100,000), however, despite the budgetary allocations, the situation of protection of native birds – the protectors of crops of thousands of families, including Bashir Khan – is that the relevant Department neither has any record, nor any program for the protection and conservation of the remaining native birds in the province.

BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations, states in a report that two hundred (200) species of birds have got extinct from the world. Syed Kamran Hussain, Coordinator Research for KP at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Peshawar, is of the view that the irrational use of natural resources is a threat to biodiversity globally, resulting into climate change and its severe impacts evident on the lives of the people. United Nations has declared climate change as one of the significant threat to life in the current times. Changes in climate are threatening biodiversity, environmental systems, food and agriculture in the world. “The birds residing on the banks of rivers and water had their nests in a native tree, called Kharola (Salix). However, since Kharola takes more time in maturing into a tree, and also had a growing demand in the sports industry, these trees were cut down”, Kamran Hussain explained.
It is important to keep in mind that ensuring protection of biodiversity in the world and climate change are parts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 agenda. Alongside, a multilateral treaty, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted in 1992, also exists which focuses on the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources. Pakistan has signed the Convention in 1992 and has ratified it in 1994. Under the Convention, each Member State has to develop national strategies and targets for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources. Biodiversity Action Plan – Pakistan, prepared in 1999, besides other targets, prioritizes the sustainable use of biological resources; the maintenance of biodiversity; and strengthening of human knowledge, will and capacity to conserve biodiversity. Besides, in order to follow-up on the CBD and its “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets”, the “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan” was developed in 2016 with the support of GIZ, a non Government Organization. The Action Plan consists of several targets to be achieved by 2025, including the sustainable use of resources, and awareness about the importance of biodiversity and its conservation.

Turdus Merula in Union council Babini (Koel )

Despite the claims made for the protection of the environmental system in the last twenty (20) years and the adoption of strategies and action plans, the voices guaranteeing the sustainability of the system have, since the last twenty five (25) years, vanished from the Union Council Babinai in Mardan. Today, including Bashir Khan, thousands of farmers no more listen to the songs of the protectors of their crops.

[pullquote]*This text story is based on the audio documentary attached with the story.

Asif Mohmand and Noor Ul Islam are partners at PROGNAT DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE.
The scientific/ biological names in this text story are used after consultation with Dr. Muhammad Adnan, Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Peshawar.

First among equals

[pullquote]Manzoor Pashteen, the leader of the PTM, is charismatic and brave, but is that enough for the state to grant Pashtuns the right to life?[/pullquote]

When Manzoor Pashteen gets nervous, his right eyebrow twitches. It’s almost unnoticeable; he himself claims to be unaware of it. He is also fidgety when he becomes nervous, especially with his hands. When television anchors expect him to prove his Pakistaniat, his patriotism — a hoop all marginalised communities are made to jump through before they are heard — you can hear the sustained tick tick, tick tick of the ball point pen in his hand.

Off camera, during his talks, when he is interrupted he uses his hands to wave down the chanters, the sloganeers. This is because he’s not a speaker who riles up the crowd using anger. His style is more bayaaniya — he will tell you stories that shrink and expand your heart, and make you understand how human the Pashtun pain is, how universal their demands are.
Pashteen, the leader of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), has not taken centre-stage to ask for separation; on the contrary, his demand is inclusion. He’s not here to ask for a change in the Constitution; he simply demands that the Constitution be upheld in FATA. His demands are basic: justice for the murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud; the formation of a judicial commission to investigate police encounters; the demining of FATA; a reduction of military curfews and check-posts in the tribal areas; and the return of the thousands of missing Pashtuns that are allegedly held by the army and its intelligence services. The formal list of missing people that the PTM has compiled has 1,200 names.

“We are not out here to ask for money, or schools, or even roads, our basic demand is the right to life,” he tells me during a series of phone conversations between us. According to the 24-year-old who is the eldest among his seven siblings, currently there is no certainty to life in his hometown in the Sarwakai district of South Waziristan Agency or other tribal agencies. “This is why we are protesting, we want the right to live without being disappeared, without losing limbs to landmines, without being shot in murky police encounters, without being abused and humiliated at every check-post,” he says to me. “Are my demands unconstitutional? Don’t you already have all these rights?”

When Pashteen speaks, you listen. At first I thought it was just me who was spellbound by his stories, hanging on to every word. But looking around, at a student rally in Garden Town Lahore, and then at a discussion at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) earlier this month, I realised that Pashteen’s storytelling abilities are at par with those of Scheherazade. After all both storytellers tell tales for the same reason: to stay alive.
Manzoor Pashteen tells heartbreaking tales, in the simplest possible language. He talks of mothers who have missing sons. Of how it feels to see a mountain of burnt books, Babylon style.

Pashteen tells heartbreaking tales, in the simplest possible language. He talks of mothers who have missing sons. Of a 7-year-old girl who saw her mother being shot to death. Of how it feels to see a mountain of burnt books, Babylon style. Of families whose bodies were attacked and obliterated by drones, to such an extent that when the father wanted to piece his children together he had to sit down and think about which finger matches which palm. He tells stories about families that lost homes to bombardments and had no option but to set up camp under the shade of keekar trees, only to lose their daughter’s life to a snake that shared their camp.
But along with the logos — the cold hard facts — he also brings pathos, in the form of humour, to the table. Once your heart is heavy and devoid of hope, Pashteen will reveal his naughtier side and take a dig at someone. One of the devices that Pashteen uses is that of apophasis. This is when the speaker brings up a subject by denying that it should be brought up. Ideal for rhetoric in Pakistan. At a speech in Lahore, he says, “I won’t speak about how when we came back to our villages we saw our houses destroyed and the bricks of our houses used to build the Army Hospital. It might be dangerous to speak about this, so I won’t.”

He does it again on TV when a journalist grills him about his demand of relaxing the number of check-posts in FATA. “I won’t talk about the hanky-panky and double dealing that goes on at these check points. It might be dangerous,” says Pashteen. Even the grizzly journalist succumbs, and smiles.

Pashteen’s stories are not unheard. Unless you consciously chose to have your head in the sand, you would know about the brutality of the Frontier Crimes Regulations, the collective punishments, the landmines and so on. But then what is it that makes Pashteen’s retelling so moving?

One of his listeners, Rabia Saeed, a Lahore-based student whose family hails from the Orakzai Agency, has a few ideas about why Pashteen’s bayaan deepened her sorrow but lessened her pain.
“Pashteen made my hurt, our hurt as a community, real. I’ve heard these stories before, but I didn’t know that I was allowed to discuss them in public, nor did I know that I was allowed to feel pain about these stories,” she says. “The death and brutality were just facts of our lives. Pashteen turned them into tales that can be retold and spread.”

Pashteen says that for the last 16 years, talking about their trauma was a taboo, which he has finally broken.

In school Pashteen had the reputation of being an all-out nerd. Once accepted to Gomal Univeristy in Bannu for an MA in veterinary sciences, when Pashteen decided to run for president of the Tribal Students Organization in 2014, the buzz was that he’s not popular enough to be president. “He sacrifices his sleep to study, he’s too much,” they said. In his defense, he says his father, a schoolteacher, would teach him at night after completing his day’s work, and that is how his night-time studying habit formed, he says at a lecture at LUMS.

But why veterinary studies, I ask him. Does he have a particular interest in animals? In response, the leader of a movement — that is “an affirmation of life in the midst of death,” according to academic-activist Ammar Ali Jan — placidly says: “Walid sahib ney kaha tha, toh hum nay karliya,” [My father said I should do veterinary studies, so I did].

Pashteen’s father dissuaded him when he began campaigning and creating awareness for Pashtun rights, in 2014. But he thinks that secretly his father was happy and proud. Apart from the pressure Pashteen felt from his family and villagers, there was pressure to stop demanding the right to Pashtun life from colleagues as well.

It was after securing presidency of the Tribal Leaders Organization that Pashteen really began his career as a human rights activist. He organised the only way he knew: door-to-door. He knocked on tribal students’ doors to ask for support in raising a united voice for Pashtuns. They told him he was paagal [mad]. “You should go see a psychologist, they said” says Pashteen at LUMS. “Whenever Pashtuns have demanded their rights, they’ve been shot dead. You are nothing but the son of a common school teacher, you have no power behind you.”

They began helping people get over their fear of speaking truth to power by holding study circles. Then they expanded to small jalsas, protests at Haq Nawaz Park in D I Khan, demonstrations in Bannu; at that time, they were still only known as the Mehsud Tahaffuz Movement (MTM).

And then after four years of slow but steady activism, a few arrests and threats, arrived a catalyst — in the form of Naqeebullah Mehsud’s untimely and unfair murder. Everyone connects Pashteen’s popularity to Naqeebullah’s murder, but very few know that Pashteen had already chalked out the Islamabad Long March in the December of 2017, a month before Naqeebullah was killed.

There was something about Naqeebullah, his social media persona or maybe his aspirations to be a model that gripped not just Pashtun heartstrings, but those of the nation at large. So when Pashteen announced a jalsa and connected it to Naqeebullah, this time not in the tribal agencies or its surrounding areas, but in Islamabad, people came out in droves.

At the start of the ten-day sit in, journalists ignored it. Politicians looked the other way. But eventually the 6,000 non-violent protestors outside the National Press Club, in February 2018, could not be ignored. The jalsa no longer represented only the Mehsuds, so from MTM, the movement became Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM). Political parties came to give their haazri and eventually the government came too. They agreed to fulfill PTM’s demands and the jalsa dispersed.

The jalsa dispersed from Islamabad on Feb 10 but in the hearts of Pashtuns, the awakening had just begun. So the PTM and Pashteen have been holding jalsas and events in Lahore, D I Khan, Quetta, Killa Saifullah, Peshawar and all over social media. After 16 years of war and oppression, they have found a leader who looks like them, dresses like them and most importantly, dares to speak their truth.

Pashteen is not the only Pashtun leader who has risen in the last decade or so. To say that would be to erase the history of so many brave Pashtuns. Take Ali Wazir for example. He is vocal about the oppression of FATA, and has paid the price of losing 17 family members. But while Ali’s hurt is fiery and angry, Pashteen’s is calm and controlled. Pashteen doesn’t make his pain about himself, the PTM is about humanity at large; they have invited all the historically oppressed to his movement: Baloch, Hazara, women, and all Pashtun regardless of their tribe.

And they have all come running. When Pashteen arrived at Killa Saifullah earlier this month, he was greeted like a rockstar. While walking up to the stage, the crowd love-surged towards Pashteen so ferociously that his posse had to hold hands and make a human chain around him for protection.

Pashteen is articulate, educated, and fearless, but that’s not all. His appeal is also cultivated through details. For instance, the clothing he chooses. The red-and-black hat that he won’t be seen without has developed its own legend: it’s said that Pashteen received it from a labourer in his hometown. Now, his followers, including PkMAP’s Hashim Khan, don the Pashteen-hat with pride.

A close friend of Pashteen’s, Raza Wazir, says that his appeal comes from the work he has done at the grassroots level. When no one was working for the Pashtuns, it was Pashteen who was recording the names of the those who had been forcibly disappeared, or those dead by landmines. “He was providing food and ration to families that had lost everything,” says Raza. But Pashteen’s true appeal, in Raza’s opinion, lies in his vast vision. “Most leaders work for their village, their tehsil, their tribe. Pashteen invited all Pashtuns,” he says. “And made them feel welcomed, important and heard.”

Pashteen can’t say why he is receiving this attention. He does say that he derives his energy from the mothers whose sons are missing and fights for their right to life. “Laapata is such a small worthless word. It doesn’t carry the pain of a missing family member,” he says. “When your son is laapata, your trauma has no wound so it can never heal.”

Pashteen claims to not have any mentors. When I ask him who he looks up to, he laughs awkwardly. “You are right, most leaders do have someone to look up to, but everyone we looked up to has been killed,” he says. He’s speaking of FATA’s local masharaan [leaders]. In his stories, Pashteen pays homage to how they continued to dare to speak truth to power — despite knowing the costs — until there were no masharaan left. He says instead of learning from books of philosophy or literature, he has learnt from his own experiences of living in a warzone.
In a recent opinion piece, he says that people tell him to read the history of Pashtun people, to prevent repeating the same mistakes. A friend recently gifted him Dr King’s A letter from Birmingham Jail. But he hasn’t yet found time to crack it open. He says, instead, perhaps it’s time for the Pashtun to make history of their own. Since the pain is their own, only they know the prescription.

He doesn’t think that no one can replace him, nor does he care about who leads the PTM to success, as long as Pashtuns are awarded the right to live. In this sense, he can be regarded less as a leader, and more as the first among equals.

According to journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, the army is watching the PTM and Pashteen closely. “They aren’t acting yet because perhaps they are waiting for Pashteen and his excitable colleagues to make a mistake themselves.”

Activists are not politicians; they aren’t trained about what they shouldn’t say to the media. Already, the PTM has made some mistakes. In Killa Saifullah, earlier this month, Pashteen and others were booked for raising anti-army slogans.

A second fear for PTM is pressure from Pashtun ethno-nationalist parties. At first, they supported him and the Pashtun Long March, but now, Yusufzai says, they may be feeling threatened by the PTM. “Just last week a member of the PTM, Mohsin Dawar, who is also a member of the ANP, was removed from ANP’s youth committee. He was told that since he is part of another [PTM] group he can’t hold a position in the ANP,” says Yusufzai.

On his part, Pashteen negates the idea of him entering parliamentary politics. But who is to say that in the upcoming election, the PTM won’t garner support for certain parties over others? Already, under coercive pressure from television talk show hosts, Pashteen has admitted that on a personal level he wishes FATA to be merged with KP.

Yusufzai also predicts “in the future, there may be infighting in the PTM, especially at the tribal level”.

But even with these fears looming large, PTM’s demands are steadily being met. The demining of South Waziristan has begun. Rao Anwar was arrested last week. Although the naysayers say the arrest has nothing to do with PTM, many such as Yusufzai and activist Jibran Nasir believe that PTM’s pressure had a lot to do with Anwar’s arrest. Even disappeared Pashtuns are being sent home, others are being presented in court. The numbers are small, mere hundreds in light of the missing thousands. But it’s a start.

In another life Pashteen would’ve opted to be an Air Force Pilot, but when he saw the Air Force dropping bombs on him, he gave up that dream. Then he thought, maybe the system could be changed from the inside? He thought about joining the Public Service Commission and even took the exam, he scored a 150 — you only need 124 to be called in for an interview.

Unfortunately, the date of the interview clashed with a national event he had arranged — the Long March — and he chose consciously.

“I wish I had a chance to live a normal life, who doesn’t?” he says. “Your capability is one thing, but the halaat around you also define your life choices.” Recently he’s made another choice he wishes he didn’t have to. His baby girl is one month old, but he hasn’t been able to carve out time to sit with his family and choose a name for her.

This Article originally published in TNS


As many as 80 Vice Chancellors of the universities have shown solidarity with the armed forces and Government of Pakistan for countering extremism and radicalization in a grand muster organized by International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI) on Monday.

Islamic Research Institute (IRI), in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC) organized a conference on “the role of universities in advancing national narrative to counter violence, extremism and terrorism” at Faisal Masjid campus of the IIUI.

The joint declaration was announced in the concluding ceremony in which participants called upon inclusion of ethics, societal values and ethics of disagreement as part of the curriculum. The participants maintained that sectarian hatred and imposing ones ideology is clear violation of Shariah and it can not be allowed as it is against the constitution of Pakistan. It was declared that Pakistan can never be used for the propagation of any kind of negative activities such as hatred, training of terrorists and other ulterior motives.

The joint declaration said that a subject of interfaith harmony, tolerance and peaceful coexistence will be introduced in all the schools. The VCs and ministers agreed that non Muslims must be provided full protection of life and higher education institutions would discourage discriminatory attitudes in this regard.

The declaration also discussed that university community will ensure that no outlawed organizations be allowed to use their facilities including online platforms for promoting agendas of hate and extremism. It added that monitoring and counseling should become a regular activity in the universities. The participants also recommended that directorate of students services should also be established in the universities.

The gathering was of the view that it was imperative to engage youth in useful academic and social activities that promote professionalism, ethical conduct and tolerance. The participants also said that the aspect of freedom of speech be observed and juristic and ideological discussions must be taken in educational institutions instead of inappropriate places and ethics of disagreement shall be made part of the curriculum. They agreed to remain united and committed to curb hatred, extremism and violence.

Hafiz Abdul Kareem, Minister for communication said that education was the backbone for prosperity and progress. In the concluding ceremony, he added that Pakistan has played a pivotal role in war against terror. He furthered that universities are the best sources to eradicate the menace of extremism.

Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar, Minister for Human Rights called for discouraging violence saying that no religion in the world supports extremism and violence. He maintained that Islam was staunch supporter of peace and prosperity. He stressed that youth be put in the constructive activities to have positive results in the society.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, in a session, called upon a cohesive and well devised strategy and counter narrative against extremism which he said was impossible to be implemented and established with out bridging a gap between academia and parliament. He said that VCs and legislators together can serve way better to produce a counter narrative and have the educational institutions empowered.

Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC, said on the occasion that society is being poisoned by the negative elements with the seed of hatred and it is facing the challenges of intolerance and extremism. He added that lethal attempts of instability can be foiled through unity and by an active role of universities in the society. He stressed upon the universities to teach societal values and message of peace to the students. He also hailed armed forces while saying that they have played a historical role in eradication of extremism.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzai said that extremism was the menace which has crippled the society and a counter narrative to deal with it was a pre-requisite for progress and prosperity. He called upon the universities to take the responsibility to nurture youth and address the issues of hour. He also briefed the participants regarding the activities and efforts initiated by the IIUI to curb the problem of terrorism, violance and intolerance.

IIUI President Dr. Ahmed Yousif Al-Draiweesh said that university had organized around 400 conferences, seminars and dialogues regarding eradication of extremism, violence and promotion of peaceful co-existence which were attended by scholars, academicians, intellectuals of Pakistan and aboard. He urged universities to make dissemination of peace their top priority. He also apprised about the constituent units and faculties of the university.

Earlier, Director General IRI, Dr. Zia ul Haq apprised the participants regarding the efforts of institute for counter narrative. The conference was also attended by the IIUI Vice Presidents and other relevant officials

Brief Facts about a Murder FIR against Journalist Hamid Mir

1-Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani of Islamabad High Court ordered Ramna police station Islamabad to register FIR against journalist Hamid Mir and Usman Punjabi for the kidnapping and murder of former ISI official Khalid Khawaja on November 1st 2017.Khalid Kawaja was kidnapped along with Colonel Retd Immam and a British journalist Asad Qureshi in March 2010.Khalid Khawaja and Col Immam were murdered while Asad Qureshi and his driver Rustam were mysteriously released by Taliban.This order of IHC was issued on the application of Shamama Khawaja who is the widow of late Khalid Khawaja.

2-It is important to note that Osama Khalid son of late Khalid Khawaja filed an application against Hamid Mir in May 2010 in Shalimar police station Islamabad and alleged that Hamid Mir trapped his father and he travelled to North Waziristan on March 24th 2010 with Colonel Immam and Asad Qureshi.He also accepted in his application that he himself was in contact with Usman Punjabi who later on killed his father.

Osama Khalid provided an audio tape to police and claimed that it was a telephonic conversation between Hamid Mir and Usman Punjabi and Mir instructed Usman to kill his father.Islamabad police conducted an investigation and found that Khalid Khawaja travelled to North Waziristan on his own and Hamid Mir never asked anyone to kill Khalid Khawaja.It was not clear that who recorded that telephonic conversation.

Hamid Mir said it was a concocted tape.FIR was not registered against Hamid Mir.Osama Khalid filed application in Session Court Islamabad against Hamid Mir but his application was dismissed on June 12th 2010.Later he filed application in LHC Rawalpindi Bench but his application was disposed.

3-Widow of Khalid Khawaja filed a new application in Islamabad High Court in 2017 and claimed that Hamid Mir kidnapped his husband from Islamabad in March 2010 and killed him in North Waziristan.Her son claimed 7 years ago that Hamid Mir encouraged his father to travel North Waziristan.His mother never mentioned that Colonel Immam and Asad Qureshi also travelled with her husband.

4-Shamama Khawaja wrote a book sometime back and claimed that Osama bin Laden gave money to Nawaz Sharif in the presence of her husband.She also claimed in her book “Shaeed e Aman ” that her husband went to North Waziristan on a peace mission.She wrote on page 91 of her book that Khalid Khawaja called her from Kohat on March 26th 2010 and informed that he was well .She never mentioned in her book that he was kidnapped by Hamid Mir.

Now she is claiming that Hamid Mir kidnapped her husband.Why she never wrote these details in her book?Why her stance is different from the application of her son in 2010?Why the family of late Colonel Immam never made any allegation against Hamid Mir?How British journalist Asad Qureshi was released by TTP?

Why he never said that he was also trapped or kidnapped by Hamid Mir?It is not a secret that some intelligence agencies were angry with Hamid Mir for his stance about missing persons and Khalid Khawaja murder case was used to blackmail Hamid Mir in 2010.Hamid Mir is again facing the same old charges after 7 years.This time he is not aware who is after him and who is trying to blackmail whole journalist community?It is also interesting that why Islamabad police never explained the old facts about this case in IHC?

Literary festivals important to keep militancy, extremism at bay, says Sindh culture minister

The second Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) started on Friday at a local hotel in Karachi as a folk orchestra played traditional Sindhi tunes while the ribbon was cut by some prominent guests to formally inaugurate the event.

Sindh Culture Minister Syed Sardar Shah who joined the presidium to address the inaugural session, said such festivals were extremely important in the present geopolitical scenario as culture was an effective tool to combat militancy and extremism.

“Such events are highly needed to save our culture,” said the minister. “We have a centuries-old tradition of literary and cultural festivals at the anniversaries of our Sufi saints. These festivals are reformed incarnation of the same ritual.”

He said who would organise such events if not the government and intelligentsia. “Will the banned militant groups hold these events?” he wondered, saying all acts that save the society’s pluralism and tolerance were on the government’s list of priorities.

The minister said he had been criticised for being a “melai” (culture-loving) minister, “but,” he added, “I love to be called this, because it is [better] to be a melai than an extremist.”

He said the recent cultural show in London was a success despite all sorts of criticism at home.

book fas

“We are going to organise a national conference on Makli, which is among the world heritage sites, in January,” he added.

Changing Karachi’s name

Mr Shah put forth a proposal to change Karachi’s name to its historical original name of Kalachi as names of many cities in India, including Mumbai, had been changed.

“Should we not get a resolution passed to change Karachi’s name to the one it was historically called?”

Mr Shah said the government would help the organisers with all possible means to make the future editions of the event better.

Writer Noorul Huda Shah said holding such festivals in Karachi had huge significance as it linked Sindh to the rest of the world.

Jahangir Siddiqui, Fatima Hasan and Aijaz Mangi, chief patron of the event, also spoke.

The festival offered several cultural and literary niches to the visitors.

Bookstalls were aplenty for avid readers and food stalls offered traditional sweets, pickles, burgers, chicken tikkas and soft drinks to gourmands. Other stalls offered traditional dresses, quilts, ajraks and toys.

People turned up in sizeable number not only from various neighbourhoods of Karachi but from many other cities of the province to attend the festival hosted by the Sindh Literary Foundation.

The organisers said they had planned to hold the SLF once in a year which would basically champion Sindh’s culture and celebrate its literature chiefly in Sindhi language, but other languages, including Urdu, English, Balochi and Seraiki etc, would also be given ample space, as Sindh was a multicultural land — “the land of the givers and not the snatchers”, as one of the organisers put it.

The festival would continue till Sunday during which dozens of sessions on literature, history, fine arts, poetry and drama would be held.

A number of singers and bands have also been lined up to perform in the coming sessions, the organisers said.

This 12-year-old Aitchisonian is a published author

In 2012, Aiman Waheed, an impressive nine-year-old from Lahore, launched a writing career and simultaneously made history in Pakistan as the youngest novelist.

Now, Faizan Aslam Soofi is following those tiny footsteps. Only 12, Soofi has authored and self-published a 40,000-word fiction, titled “Instrumental Kings”.

The young boy began writing and reading at an early age. His teachers at Aitchison College, Lahore, describe him “as an impeccable student.” They discovered his talent when he was 8-years-old, busy writing short poems in class.

Besides being available in Pakistan, the novel is selected to be stocked at international libraries, including that of Harvard University, Colombo University and the Library of US Congress.

How did the idea of this novel come to you?

Instrumental Kings is actually my fourth book, not my first. I have another one titled Instrumental Queens. I started writing novels when I first got my Dell Laptop, which was somewhere around when I was nine.

Tell us about the plot:

It is a sort of an urban fantasy. Newt Wrathbone, an orphan who moves to Seattle, narrates the story. A year after his arrival, an awful disease known as Ravannah begins to spread, which turns the locals into bloodthirsty vampires. As he battles against the infection that is taking over his town, a mystery is unraveled related to a world full of darkness that only Newt can destroy.

The book does draw several characters from Greek and Egyptian mythology. I tried to swing the narration between real-life and fantasy.

When was the Instrumental Kings published?

I sent it for publication before my thirteenth birthday.

What’s next?

I am now working on a trilogy, Instrumental Gods, which should be out by the end of the year.

Here is an extract from Soofi’s earlier work, Instrumental Queen:

“Black was her favourite colour. She loved it firstly, because she loved the silent nights in her village punctuated by the chirping of the crickets, and she loved looking at the sky, the stars equidistant from each other. She had learnt that it was very rare for the stars to be equidistant. Secondly, because darkness was so silent that she could think of new ideas and new things in abundance, without someone reading her thoughts by reading her face.”

Cambridge website crashes after it put Stephen Hawking’s PhD thesis online

Cambridge University has put Stephen Hawking’s doctoral thesis online, triggering such interest that it crashed the university’s website.

Completed in 1966 when Hawking was 24, “Properties of Expanding Universes” explores ideas about the origins of the universe that have resonated through the scientist’s career.

The university says the thesis was already the most-requested item in its online repository. It was free to download on Monday to mark Open Access Week. The website was intermittently inaccessible during the day as it struggled to handle to the interest.

Hawking said he hoped that making his thesis available to all would “inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet; to wonder about our place in the universe and to try and make sense of the cosmos”.

Female Pakistani journalists share stories of harassment at the workplace

Last Sunday, American actress Alyssa Milano tweeted ‘Me Too.’ The reason: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Within 24 hours, the hashtag was tweeted half a million times.

While the hashtag comes in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, sexism isn’t limited to Hollywood. Every industry, in every country, has its own Weinsteins, including Pakistan.

Being a media group, we asked women journalists in Pakistan to share their ‘Me too’ stories in order to show the magnitude of the problem in the country’s media industry and the sexism women journalists face in the line of work.

All the women have asked to keep their identity secret.

1) Sexual abuse in the field

“I was at a shrine a few years ago, reporting on a festival. It was late at night and there was a huge crowd. I was with a large group of people and the men had made a circle around the women in our group.

Yet, this still didn’t stop a guy from jamming his fingers up my butt again and again and again, until I turned around with the intent to smash a rock in his face. But he managed to snake through the crowd and that was that.”

2) Abuse of power

“When I first started, being a TV journalist did not seem any different than other industries where sexism and misogyny prevails. I learned early on, for example, that men working in technical roles often have difficulty accepting a woman producer.

Later, I joined a pioneer of television journalism in the country. I found that it was also a place where women were constantly harassed, subjected to sexual assaults, and slandered when they refused the advances of their seniors.

One of the most disturbing experiences I personally had was being asked to come to a senior’s office to discuss the agenda of the day’s show, only to find him jerking off to porn, even after having knocked and entering the office upon permission.

It turned out it was common knowledge that he indulged in such acts at the workplace. If that wasn’t enough, he would offer his hand for women to shake, while they knew where it had just been.”

3) Unwanted advances

“I invited a much-loved, viral, less-journalist-than-sensationalist television reporter to cover a campaign my organisation had been working on.

When I first called him, he told me to message him the brief (that’s reporter-speak for “I’m never filing this story”).

Nevertheless, I Whatsapp-ed the details to him. He immediately called me back. Thrilled that my written pitch had worked, I began spilling all my ideas for coverage – when he cut me short.

Aap pehle tau yeh bataaein aap ki Whatsapp tasveer mein kaun hai?” (First tell me who is in your Whatsapp display picture?)

Taken aback, I muttered that it was me and immediately resumed talk of the campaign when he man-terrupted me again.

Agar aap he hain, tau mein tau zaroor milne aaunga aap ko.” (If it really is you, then I’ll definitely come see you.)

I nervously laughed. I really didn’t want him to come anymore – but he offered my campaign unparalleled visibility so I sent him the where’s and when’s anyway.

He did show up at the launch. He placed his hand on my shoulder, told me he had never seen such an “intelligent voice come out of so pretty a mouth.” He never even looked at the campaign material once.

He called me again the next day, asking me when I was returning to the city. I told him I’d be sure to let him know when I did.

I’ve been back for days. He still doesn’t know.”

4) A full-fledged culture of misogyny

“I’m at an office, waiting for the editor to come. It’s a magazine office, one of the very prestigious and old ones. I have arrived at the time I was asked to come, but incidentally no one is at work.

It’s my first day on the job training, so I have little idea that journalists always swing by late. As I’m waiting, a young guy walks up. He’s geeky looking, thin, glasses, button down shirt, greasy hair parted in the middle.

From the looks of it, harmless but certainly not someone I’d take to. He is looking for someone. “Is S in?” he asks me about the editor. I tell him no. So he stays, telling me he better wait as he has to talk to her about something important.

I’m polite and also smile decently, but do not encourage him. It’s my first time at a proper workplace. He is asking me questions, innocuous enough but it shocks me immensely and I’m not prepared for it when he suddenly lunges at me, trying to kiss me, all the while groping me with his disgusting hands.

I can’t get out of shock but I do what is required: Push him back and slap his face. I tell him to get lost and that I will complain about him. And I do.

My editor is furious and lodges a complaint with his boss (it’s the marketing section in the other building), and she tells him she never wants to see him again. He never does come. But I could not shake off that dirty feeling.

I have now become a full-fledged journalist, and coincidentally work in the same organisation where this happened.

I work with men now, although there are students and interns too in the same room, but it is divided in sections.

I sit with the men. I am the only woman there. I can sense vibes from them. Different vibes of distrust, xenophobia, chauvinism, and patronising vibes. They don’t want me, but while I’m there, why not use me?

They pass lewd comments about other women, mostly celebrities, in front of me. I ignore. Then they start making double-meaning remarks on me. They think I cannot react. One day I say “CD andar nehin ja rahi” out aloud (There was a problem with my computer). The alpha male there retorts, “Daal dete hain”.

I slam my drawer shut and turn towards him, asking what he means. He instantly backtracks. I slam the door and go outside attracting a lot of attention.

Some reporters come and ask what happened and I tell them I’d bash this guy up. Afterwards, the guy never said or did anything other than being polite to me.

I realise, that if you act like a ‘man’, and behave like one of them, they show you respect. But if you are ‘womanly’ about your responses, like complaining, they will treat you like dirt, as if ‘you didn’t know how to play’ the Game.”

5) Men who are complicit

“As a freelance journalist, I spent a lot of time on the phone with government departments and would find that senior spokespeople – men – would only want to engage via text messages and not speak on the phone for comment.

There would be innuendo and requests to meet outside of work, over dinners, rather than responding to routine questions any journalist in the world would want a government department to go on the record about.

These are the casual and unwritten rules of sexual harassment in Pakistan; things are made clear without ever being stated. If you want access and contacts, woman, then play by my rules and do what I want. Be available for me when I want.

One time while working on a story on the outskirts of Peshawar – a public protest – the all male crew decided that they did not feel comfortable having me amongst them because they did not feel it was safe for me.

When I asked them why it wasn’t safe – obviously I knew, but I wanted my male colleagues to acknowledge the reasons – they said the area was crowded with men and anything could happen.

The fixer at least looked embarrassed when telling me the truth, but others also added there was a high security risk in the area due to the number of people gathered.

I said, in that case, the risk was the same for all of us and so we either worked as a team or we should leave the area and forget about reporting on the story. I stood my ground.

We worked on the story as a team and spent many hours on the ground working. I was pleased that the men felt discomfort at the way many of their fellow men were behaving around us and me in particular.

While filming in Karachi, a man who I had been in contact with to fix the story I was working on decided it was OK to ring my cell phone non-stop for days ahead of our meeting, and for days after asking me if I was alone and if I wanted company.

No is not a word these types of men like to hear or respect.”

6) Disrespect from peers

“As a woman, it’s difficult to be taken seriously. It’s worse when I’m doing fieldwork. Many times it has happened that I’m covering a lifestyle event and I’m getting more unwanted attention than the celebrities attending. Maybe the men think that since I’m not a celebrity, I’m more approachable. But I’m there to work.

I once covered an event where the cameramen and reporters would ask to take pictures with me. When I’d refuse, they’d say, “At least share your personal number.” I’d tell them to let me work, just like they should be, and they’d laugh it off and call me a prude.

They didn’t know me, they didn’t work with me, but they just wanted to invade my space and interfere in my work. I feel like if I hadn’t been assertive, they’d have followed me around.

Some of them would also start the conversation asking where I work, and without even paying attention to my response, they’d proceed to lecture me on how to go about my job. They don’t know me but automatically assume I’m an amateur, desperate for advice. I’ve been here a while. I know what I’m doing.”

7) Resenting women in authority

“Even though I hold a senior position within my organisation, I’ll occasionally encounter men who decide to put me down, not take me seriously or just plain harass me because I’m a woman.

Like the senior male journalist who was introducing me to a group of other journalists, and instead of using my name and title as a means of introduction, chose to introduce me as a ‘bachi‘.

Or the source who I was interviewing over text messages for a story who kept commenting on my Whatsapp profile picture.

Or the colleague who conveniently ‘forgot’ my name during a meeting despite the fact that I’ve worked with him for two years.

Or the writer who tried to mansplain my job to me even though I was the expert in the room, not him.

Or the other source who kept suggesting we ‘grab dinner’.

While these incidents aren’t physical harassment, they contribute to a culture of misogyny that makes women feel they’re fighting an exhausting, constant uphill battle.”

In conversation with Pakistan’s Oxford Award winner Kanza Azeemi

Kanza Azeemi is a Pakistani student who received Oxford Award a couple of weeks ago. She was the only Pakistani from her batch of 327 students from 58 countries. Kanza studied from Karachi Grammar School and LUMS in Pakistan.

In an interview with The News she described her experience at Oxford as intellectually stimulating in a diverse setting.

“Oxford is an overwhelming magical place. The best part about going to a business school that’s embedded in an 800-year old university is the amalgamation of the city’s historic character and the school’s modern, state-of-the-art teaching,” she said.

Talking about the contribution in her success Kanza said her teachers at Oxford encouraged healthy debates and made teaching experience unique. She called her colleagues competitive yet cooperative.

Contrary to the perception of discrimination being faced by Muslims abroad, Kanza called Oxford a place for dialogue and debate instead of violence and terror. She added, “During my time in the UK, there were many reports of hate crimes against Muslims and it incited fear and apprehension particularly in family and friends at home.”

Kanza wants to work for women empowerment and is determined to play part for the social and economic development in Pakistan. “No nation can succeed when 50% of its population is deprived form basic necessities; it’s a human issue,” she emphasized.

Kanza was a recipient of two scholarships including Said Foundation and Chevening Scholarship.

She believes Pakistan has been represented very positively by the youth in recent time. “It is the youth of Pakistan that has potential to turn things around, let’s not let that potential go to waste,” Oxford award winning student concluded.