SINCE 2008 the Annual State of Education Report (Aser) has emerged as an annual exercise which is impatiently awaited. Mainly focusing on children’s learning levels in school in the rural areas, Aser is now recognised as a fairly accurate assessment of the quality of education in Pakistan.
This year Aser records an overall ‘improvement’ under many heads by using the 2014 results as the benchmark. Our policymakers are bound to seize this indicator to go into self-congratulatory euphoria. But the fact is that an improvement of one or two percentage points in some areas is not really progress. The overall picture remains bleak.
A country where one-fifth of its children aged six to 16 remain out of school should hang its head in shame. This is what we have to show five years after our Constitution was amended to make education free and compulsory for the five- to16-year-olds.
August 14, is traditionally a day for rejoicing, much fanfare, military parades, display of firepower and nukes. Symbolically, the patriotic chest thumping and feet stomping at the Wagah border between the erstwhile “traditional enemies” touch a feverish pitch as hysterical crowds on either side cheer their highly charged and battle ready soldiers, hoisting their national flags amid fierce expressions in a crescendo of sloganeering at sunset – the climax of the existential confrontation refuses to ease or ebb with time, despite the epoch making history that has transformed the greater part of our world.
Perhaps we are condemned by history or by geopolitics, or both, keeping us embroiled in a state of perpetual confrontation as other regions have prospered and progressed and long buried the hatchet of hate. Meanwhile, both India and Pakistan are competing in exclusion and exploitation of their respective population, as their state policy inch towards nihilism.
It was quite an extraordinary way of celebrating the 67th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence last week. Believing that they could usher in freedom/revolution by bringing their supporters out on the street, Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri succeeded only in creating polarisation and instability in a crisis-ridden country.
The two marches organised by these leaders have evoked strong reactions from political observers. A large segment of pro-democracy opinion views this show of force as an extra-parliamentary move by the opposition that could derail the democratic process and open the door for military intervention. There have also been allegations of collusion between the agitators and elements in the military. Others have defended the people’s right to protest against government excesses. The speculation of regime change has been intertwined with an ongoing discourse on the military-civilian role in politics. Continue reading “Rules of the game”
Peace activists in Pakistan and India are attempting desperately to be heard above the din raised by warmongers – elitist by all counts and claiming to be patriotic as well – in the wake of the Mumbai carnage. Jingoism is in the air – be it from so-called nationalists (posing as analysts on television) advocating a nuclear attack for the defense of their country, or the man on the street. Be they from Pakistan or India, they speak of war with great abandon as if it is child’s play. For the electronic media it is a race for sensationalism.
KASHMIR is again in the news, this time not be cause of an upsurge in violence. Once more there is talk of peace. Another plan has been floated by Pakistan.
In an interview to an Indian television channel last week, President Pervez Musharraf proposed a four-point formula that envisaged the free movement of people within the state with unchanged borders, self-governance or autonomy to the state, a phased withdrawal of troops and a joint supervision mechanism with the participation of India, Pakistan and the Kashmiris. Continue reading “Another formula on Kashmir”
THE All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) leaders’ visit to Pakistan came as a watershed in the protracted dispute between India and Pakistan on the status of Kashmir. In the bonhomie and euphoria that met the APHC leaders in every city they visited, some basic implications of the political strategy adopted by the Hurriyat leaders and the Pakistan government’s handling of the situation have been missed.
They indicate U-turns by Pakistan and the moderate Kashmiri leadership and a partial turn around by India. What is most important is that this turnabout is the best thing to have happened to South Asia — termed as the most dangerous spot in the world by President Clinton in 2000 — as it can now at long last hope for peace.
Taking a look at Pakistan we find that it had since independence pinned its entire foreign policy on Kashmir. We don’t have to argue whether it was the dispute on Kashmir which vitiated Pakistan’s relations with India or realpolitik compulsions of the two governments that pre-empted a solution to Kashmir. Whichever it may be, the fact is that India and Pakistan remained locked in a vicious dispute that cast its shadow on all other aspects of their bilateral relations. Continue reading “APHC’s message to Pakistan”
The reaction to the ‘bus accord’ signed by the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan last week in Islamabad has been a mixed one. While those who staunchly support peace between the two countries have welcomed it as a fillip to the composite dialogue which can now be expected to move forward.
Others who have adopted a hard line on Kashmir feel that the decision to link Muzaffarabad and Srinagar by a bus service will be hurtful to their cause. For instance, the BJP, which started the dialogue with Pakistan and is now in the opposition, feels that the bus will allow terrorists to infiltrate the Valley. Continue reading “Significance of the bus accord”
AS India-Pakistan relations, which move in a cyclic pattern, enter one of their friendlier phases, it is heartening to hear voices of sanity in support of peace and normalization between the two countries. It seems that war fatigue has set in and the “voices of sanity” are getting louder. Continue reading “What next in Kashmir?”