Wheat procurement in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa

Direct wheat procurement

By Tahir Ali

(DAWN, Monday, 03 May, 2010)

THE delayed and lacklustre wheat procurement drive by Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa has left growers at the mercy of middlemen/wheat traders forcing them to sell their produce at rates lower than the procurement price of Rs950/40kg.

Farmers complain that wheat prices have declined in recent days and growers prefer to sell their commodity at public procurement centres. They want the government to make vigorous effort to purchase wheat directly from growers.

Haji Niamat Shah, senior vice-president of the Anjuman-e-Kashtkaran, KPK, was surprised that despite reduced prospects for a bumper wheat crop that should have triggered a price-hike, the commodity price was falling. “The lack of government’s enthusiasm to procure wheat this year is very troubling. It will expose farmers to private profiteers, deprive them of a fair price and discourage them from cultivating wheat the next year,” he said.

Officials said the government had a strategy to purchase the entire marketable surplus of quality wheat from farmers. “To meet the 0.3 million tons procurement target, the provincial government has initially ordered for one million gunny bags as it is unlikely to meet the target for various reasons,” said an official.“Reluctance of farmers to sell their crop, shortage of public procurement centres and lack of storage facilities generally hamper government attempts to meet annual wheat procurement targets,” he added.

Basher Badshah, a wheat grower, said smuggling to Afghanistan would have to be stopped and the procurement/payment process to be facilitated, if the government wanted to procure sufficient wheat.

Last year too, it was the same target but only 0.09 million tons of wheat was procured.

The official said 0.3 million metric tons of wheat at a cost of about Rs7.1 billion will be directly procured from the cultivators this year. “The Khyber Bank and the First Women Bank Limited have agreed to lend Rs3bn and Rs2bn at KBOR +two per cent to finance the procurement drive. Rest of the money will be provided by the account of the provincial food department or if needed, will be obtained from banks.

“This direct procurement will help save about Rs1.8 billion. We had saved Rs540million last year by purchasing around 90,000 tons directly from farmers. This saving will ultimately benefit the end-consumers,” the official added.

Due to lower production and procurement, the province is dependent for over 3/4th of its annual wheat requirements of over three million tons on Passco, Punjab government or imports.

This insufficient production is a financial burden on the provincial exchequer on purchase, transportation and subsidy of wheat. Total annual wheat procurement of around 2.5 million tons for the year will cost about Rs5.9 billion while the incidentals alone for it would be around Rs1.6 billion, official documents reveal.

In the financial year 2008-09, the province had incurred a subsidy of over Rs10 billion with Rs2.6 billion of subsidy on indigenous and Rs7.7 billion of subsidy on imported wheat.

“The province should grow more food, for which, it would have to increase wheat acreage, develop high-yielding seeds and mechanise agriculture. The land under wheat is around one fifth of the total cultivable land,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a farmer.

According to Shah Zeb Khan, another farmer, there should be more procurement centres. “The procurement mechanism should be made easy. If possible, farmers should be approached for wheat deals. Farmers’ bodies should be involved in the process,” he said.

Another farmer said many preferred to sell their produce to private buyers for easy and swift payments though they had to sell it at four to five per cent lower rates. He alleged that the food department purchased wheat mainly from these middlemen.

Inadequate storage capacity is also likely to hamper procurement. The food department has a storage capacity of about 0.38 million tons which is less than the required.

“Modern silos can reduce dependence on gunny bags because grains can be stored in bulk quantity. The government must construct modern silos and build godowns to augment existing storage capacity,” said Ahmad.

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Case for a uniform curriculum

Evolve a single system of education

TAHIR Ali

Business Recorder (May 22 2010):

The curricula of almost all kinds of schools vary. Wide disparity is seen in the system of examination and school calendar being followed by each network of schools that educates and evaluates its students in its own peculiar way. The class system of education has sharply divided the nation. It’s virtually impossible to think and hope of national cohesion and development if this situation persists. The national divide will exacerbate if the class system in education is not abolished in times to come.

All these schools promote distinct cultures and inculcate different habits and manners in their students. Students pumped into society with their divergent outlooks are sources of disarray in the country and our country is increasingly becoming a split-society with each passing day.

In an interview with this writer, Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan, a well-known scholar and social analyst, said, “We are amongst the least literate nations in the world. We have 40% literacy rate but that too is questionable by world standard. Education has never been in our priority list. No uniform system of education could be developed as yet. The country as a result has been divided in water-tight compartments.” Indeed it is.

So what should be done to correct the situation?

Curriculum, according to an expert, is all learning, which is planned and guided by school, whether carried on in groups or individually and whether inside or outside the school. It is the path through which a nation tries to achieve its educational objectives. It is rightly regarded as the heart of educational process as it provides direction and rationality to the educational endeavours. Curriculum must be planned and implemented in a way that ensures the harmonious and comprehensive development of students and society. It must reflect and cater to the philosophical, psychological, social and economic realities and needs of the time and society. It should be updated and made relevant to the needs and demands of modern age; to cope with the world of work; it should be more student-oriented than being teacher-centred; it should be more research-oriented; and more practical than being theoretical as at present.

Every society, state and nation develop a particular type of curriculum for its educational system that is best suited to its needs and ideology of life. The curricula of an agrarian and industrial society invariably differ. So do those of the communist and capitalist ones as well as of secular and religious societies.

Pakistan, faced with problems created by regional, sectarian, extremist and linguistic tendencies, must introduce a curriculum that could strengthen national cohesion, promote moderation and modernisation and inculcate the spirit of tolerance in the future generation of Pakistan.

Learning from others

We should learn from the experiences of the other countries. Developed countries around the world have established uniform system of education. USA and Britain have done the same and reached to new heights.

In the Republic of Korea, there is a strongly prescribed national curriculum and all its details are determined by the Ministry of Education (MOE). In Japan too, the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture prescribes guidelines for curriculum and authorises textbooks in elementary and secondary schools. Throughout the country, the school year begins in April and ends the following march.

Malaysia too has evolved a common curriculum and common system of education. All schools, whether private or public, have to abide by the contents and curriculum approved by the MOE. All of them operate on semester system and the school calendar begins simultaneously throughout Malaysia in the first week of December.

In Sri Lanka too, there is a common national curriculum at-least from class 1 to 11 and the school year lasts from January to December in the entire island.

Remove discrepancies

So, there is a dire need to remove the discrepancy between the curricula of the religious and mainstream educational system. There should be a mandatory uniform national curriculum from class one to twelve.

At the intermediate level, all the students in the country should take a federal examination on the pattern of developed countries. Preferably, this examination should be conducted by reputable private institutions to ensure fairness, transparency and reliability and to minimise the chances of malpractices in them.

Free education

Equal opportunities of quality education should be made available to all the sons of the soil. For this purpose, education should be made free and compulsory.

Combine the two streams

Religious seminaries should be included in the mainstream educational network. For this purpose, a spirit of give and take is required on part of both the government and management of Madaris. After having F.A/F.Sc. from institutions based on national curriculum, a student, if she/he so desires, may seek admission in the modern seminaries for religious education and after completion of five years of education there, he should be given a bachelor degree. He may register for Ph.D for specialisation in any religious branch afterwards. It is hoped that through this system we will produce competent religious scholars well versed with Islamic teachings and modern problems.

Specialised education

In place of the present B.A / B.Sc, a new scheme of four years of specialised education should be started after the intermediate for all other branches and subjects on the pattern of medical and engineering courses. This new mechanism will ultimately abolish the obsolete and useless BA / BSc levels to the great advantage of the nation. Science subjects should be taught in English from day one. Their syllabi should be exactly the same as being taught in the developed countries. The curriculum should be goal-specific – we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making them jack of all.

Language

English should be made medium of instruction from day one. Colleges should have PhD faculty. University professors should be limited to research endeavours.

University as research centres

Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post graduate examinations. Their syllabi should be exactly the same as being taught in the developed countries. Colleges should have PhD faculty. University professors should be limited to research endeavours.

Teachers

Teachers are the soul of the educational system. The success of educational endeavours is dependent upon their commitment and hard work. Therefore they need better remuneration. They should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade seventeen as against the present grades 7 to 12. They should be offered refresher courses.

Less religious contents

Too much religious contents should be removed from the curriculum. It should be goal-specific –we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making religious scholars of them.

Unaffordable Fertiliser prices

Unaffordable fertiliser prices
By Tahir Ali
DAWN, Monday, 19 Apr, 2010

THE prices of fertiliser have gone up in the market with the arrival of Kharif season in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. Growers say that surge in prices of fertiliser, an important input in farm production, has become unaffordable for small cultivators.

They fear that its consumption in cultivation may drop considerably hampering the per acre crop yield. To avoid the situation, they have demanded sufficient supply of fertilisers at lower rates through an improved delivery system.

Abdur Rahim Khan, general secretary of the Sarhad Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), said farmers in the province were not getting fertilisers at subsidised rates.

“The government gives a subsidy of over Rs750/50kg on imported and over Rs300 on locally manufactured urea. The farmers complain that they are not getting any benefit. Instead, the commodity is being sold at much higher rates in the market. If the farmers do not get any benefit from the subsidy, then of what use it is,” he asked?

“Though there is no shortage of fertiliser in the market, the prices have gone up enormously during the last three months. Majority of the farmers are subsistence farmers who have no money to purchase expensive fertilisers. If the government does not intervene immediately, it may badly impact the sugarcane, maize and other Kharif crops, fruits and vegetables and bring down per hectare yield as well as result in under cultivation of land,” he asserted.

The consumption of fertilisers is determined by soil, water availability, price trends and supply position. But the price issue usually is the main factor. “The prices of urea has jumped from Rs730 to Rs840 per bag, DAP from Rs1,900 to over Rs2,600 while price of Zarkhez has gone up from Rs1,900 to Rs2,200 over the past three months,” Khan added.

According to the National Fertiliser Development Corporation, the monthly use of urea country-wide saw 8.8, 18.1 and 20.5 per cent decline from January to March as compared to the same period last year. The off-take of DAP dropped by 39.2 and 17.2 per cent in February and March as compared to previous Rabi season. Figures for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are not available but sources say the situation may have been even worse for the province.

Farmers’ awareness campaigns are not needed on the issue. “We know the importance of fertilisers. What we need is smooth, timely and cheaper availability of the commodity at the required time. Establishment of village agricultural centre, on the pattern of utility stores where all types of agricultural inputs are available to farmers, could solve the fertiliser supply problem,” said a farmer.

He said the government should try to improve the distribution mechanism. “For this, it should closely work with farmers’ representatives and bodies. The private fertiliser companies should ensure a strict supervision of their dealer network. This, of course, will also requires that agencies and dealers should be provided enough stock of the commodity,” he added.

A marketing department official of a fertiliser company said that there were no official or controlled prices for fertilisers as it was a de-regulated industry.

“Domestic production of urea is less than the demand. Therefore, it is imported and sold by the government itself through the National Fertiliser Marketing Limited (NFML). In case of delay in imports by the government, shortages may occur, resulting in higher rates in the market,” he added.

Regarding concerns that dealers are minting money by selling fertilisers at exhorbitant rates, he said the dealers were being monitored regularly and directed to sell products at company’s prescribed rates. “Any major irregularity or identification of any such an instance, results in strict action against the dealer which may lead to termination of his dealership. However, better planning and imports at right time by the government will ensure availability of urea at reasonable prices,” he said.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the total off-take of urea and DAP for the coming Kharif season is estimated at 180,000 tons and 150,000 tons respectively. Federal minister for industries had told the Senate that the NFML supplied 41,956 metric tons of urea to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa during September, 2008 to February, 2010. He said the body did not supply urea stocks to any area of FATA directly. However, he said, the NFML had 22 dealers in the province (in June 2003, there were 211 such dealers in the province).

The government has deregulated fertiliser imports and its prices. But it needs to revive provincial quotas, restore provincial supply organisations in the public sector. The general sales tax on all fertiliser products will have to be waived off.

The NFML should also open bulk stores in central and southern parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa like those in Punjab and Sindh. This would facilitate the distribution system. It should also increase its coverage to more areas and assign dealership in other districts and Fata.

The federal government had decided to offer the commodity to farmers through farm services centres but limited membership, insufficient outlets and lack of money with the bodies killed the initiative in the bud. To improve distribution of fertilisers, the bodies need to have more membership and more funds,” argued a farmer from Charsadda.

In areas where there are no farm services centres, district offices of the agriculture department should serve as provisional centres for fertilizers sales. Direct sales of the commodity to farmers have also been exploited by influentials. To check black-marketing and smuggling of fertilisers, daily reporting of quantity details to the district coordination officers should be ensured.

targeting autarky in wheat seeds

Targeting autarky in wheat seeds
By Tahir Ali
(Dawn Monday, 26 Apr, 2010)
OFFICIALS of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa Agriculture Department are optimistic that the province will become self-sufficient in the production of wheat seeds by end of this year.

“If sufficient funds, staff and strong organisational backup are provided, the province may even become exporter of wheat and maize seeds from next year,” said Mohammad Ismail Jan, director seeds, provincial agricultural development fund.

Self-sufficiency in wheat seed production has been a long cherished dream of successive provincial governments but it is now being vigorously targeted. “We have close liaison with the farmers for providing high-yielding seeds to them,” he added.

“The annual wheat seed requirement of the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KhP) stands at around 8000 metric tons. This year seed production is expected to be over 15,000MT (9500MT by the public sector and the rest by the private sector). The province could double the yield if sufficient funds, staff and a strong institutional backup are ensured. This could help earn billions of rupees for the cash-strapped province,” he said.

Normally, the KhP had suffered shortage of the essential commodity and farmers got their seeds on inflated cost.

“Last year seed crops were sown on around 9000 acres in the public sector but a sizeable quantity of the produce was discarded for being of low quality. The procured seed was around 5000MT as against 3000MT the preceding year. This year area under seed crops has come down to around 6,000 acres but the good quality seed and better climatic conditions in the irrigated areas would make up the deficiency,” the official hopes.

Seeds are of three varieties –the pre-basic, basic and certified. Pre-basic is the best quality seed produced in agricultural research farms. It is provided to the agricultural extension department for cultivation in its six farms. This basic seed is sold to potential progressive farmers for cultivation.

For maize crop, the best ever seed hybrid varieties of Karamat and Babar have been introduced. “We have also started a programme for hybrid vegetable varieties but it is in the formative phase,” the official said.

As regards wheat crop, it is regularly monitored and the seeds certified by the federal seeds certification and registration department (FSC&RD). It is procured and sold to farmers in the province at Rs1700/50kg. The commodity is provided through seed depots and farm services centres. The officials of agriculture department are responsible for its marketing and distribution.

“The agriculture research is designed to develop new varieties of wheat that are best suited to the agro-climatic conditions of different areas in the province. For irrigated lands, the best wheat seed is Sahar, Pirsabaq 2005 and Nepa Batoor. For rain-fed areas, Tatara, Zam 04, PS 2005, Hasham 08, Dera 98 and Gomal 08 are the best quality seeds, the official added.

“These locally developed wheat seeds are high-yielding varieties and their per acre yield ranges between 1500-1600kg. It is better than the national average yield of 2,600kg per hectare. If the seed yield gets doubled in future then by bringing more land under wheat and maize cultivation, autarky for the province could be ensured. Also think of the financial output of this yield on that basis for the province. It will be in billions of rupees,” another official argued.

At present, there are bulk seed stores in only four districts of the province for keeping seeds. More bulk stores need to be built in other districts and the tribal areas. The storage capacity of the existing bulk stores should also be increased.

The seed processing capacity needs to be increased because of growing demand. There are only four seeds processing plants with limited capacity. More state of the art processing plants should be opened in all the districts.

At present, more than 500 national and five multinational companies are registered and allowed to market seeds. But strengthening the public sector seeds production capacity is required to stabilise market prices.

“One farmer should be given the responsibility of seed production of only one variety of crop and incentives to progressive farmers should be announced. Seeds for hilly and cool areas should also be developed. Seeds testing labs should be ensured at district level or at least divisional level to ensure quality seeds,” said a grower.

The government should gradually reduce dependence on imported seeds by developing and improving production of local seeds.

Khalid Mir, a multinational official, said, “the main issue in seed business is the absence of laws governing breeders’ rights. This is the first issue the government should tackle,” he said.

“Accredited seed laboratories both in private sector and public sectors should be set up. Private companies need to be encouraged to introduce new seed varieties that could boost productivity,” he added.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: opportunities and challenges

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: opportunities and challenges

By Tahir Ali

(The News 03-05-10)

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is one of the poorest and most backward provinces of the country. There is general belief that this province should go for its own comparative advantages instead of waiting for others to help it out. Any development strategy, experts point out, should be prepared in the light of major challenges, constraints and opportunities of the provincial economy.

The reasons for its less developed economy are many. The main resource-generating sectors of its economy have been badly affected by the negative effects of terrorism inside and outside its borders. There is a sluggish economic growth. Natural disinclination of local and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa due to growing insecurity and the inflow of millions of refugees has harmed its prospects. Sales, investment, and credit-transactions have decreased. Factories are either mostly closed or have reduced their outputs. The increased joblessness has caused a surge in poverty.

Prime Minister Gilani unveiled a package for the insurgency-hit province and tribal belt which was praised but was, literally speaking, a drop in the ocean.

The province possesses over 70,000 mega watt potential for hydro-power generation, as per Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) figures but it could not be utilised thus far.

As there is no freight equalisation in Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s long distance from seaports makes its products less competitive and costlier due to high transport costs. The provincial growth strategy should focus on production of products that can be made from local raw materials like marble, furniture and gemstones.

The province often faces an economic crunch and 93 per cent of its revenue needs are dependant on federal transfers. The provincial GDP is almost $16 billion. However, the informal economy of the province is believed to be three times bigger than the formal economy.

The trade terms between the province and Afghanistan are unfavourable. Smuggling has been on the rise. The parallel economy having its roots in the Afghan transit trade is depriving the fund-deficient province of billions.

Joblessness is on the increase in the province. Many of the erstwhile industrial zones are wearing a deserted look as industries have been transferred to other provinces. Due to the law and order situation, rather than concentrating on developmental expenditures the province is overwhelmed by security related issues.

The province has a bulky and cheap workforce available, which can be an asset. But the workforce mostly comprises of illiterate and unskilled persons and therefore results in low productivity. A huge number of them work overseas, but remittances are also considerably lower as most of them work on low-paid unskilled jobs. Around 82 per cent of the youth are either unemployed, under employed or self employed. High literacy ratio and skill training centres can tackle the problem.

Furthermore, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has not been provided its constitutional right of net hydel profit. According to financial experts, Wapda owes around Rs700 billion to the province as per estimates. The arbitration tribunal head had fixed the amount at Rs110 billion, but the province is yet to get its due, despite repeated promises.

The agriculture sector has also been neglected. Land under cultivation and yield per hectare in the province are less than the national average.

What needs to be done?

As the province is expected to get huge sums of money in the near future, the ANP-led provincial government should chalk out a detailed development strategy to revitalise the province’s economy. Some suggestions are made below:

(1) To get the province out of its current economic turmoil, development programs are vital. Importance of a clear vision, sustained growth strategy and political will cannot be overemphasised.

(2) A proactive public-private relationship and robust private sector’s role is a must.

(3) There are plenty of commercial lands available in several major cities across the province, which can be better utilised by the private sector.

(4) To ensure industrial growth, the provincial government should build as many hydro-power generation units as possible.

(5) Investment in technical and higher education is the key to development.

(6) Subsidised electricity and gas facilities for industrial units are the need of the hour.

(7)The province should be authorised to enter into trade pacts with it neighbours.

(8) The provincial government should be provided with enhanced inflows for handling the ever increasing security expenditures.

(9) The province should have labour and energy intensive industries. Value addition in all, especially the mineral and furniture sectors will do wonders for the province.

(10)Advanced technology and infrastructure development are needed.

(11) A self support fund should be opened, and locals and expatriates should be asked to contribute in it. The funds should be used for retiring the provincial debts, start productive projects and for infrastructure development.

Historical analysis of extremism in Swat

Historical analysis of extremism in Swat or

Why Swatis support extremists

By Tahir Ali

(The News 2709-09)

Even though history regarded them as a nation that is inclined towards the mullah, the face of Swat and MD is changing fast

In his book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force, Sir Winston S Churchill wrote, “Perhaps half the tribesmen who attacked the Malakand had thought that the soldiers there were the only troops that the Sarkar possessed. ‘Kill these,’ they had said, ‘and all is done.’…These ignorant tribesmen had no conception of the sensitiveness of modern civilisation, which thrills and quivers in every part of its vast and complex system at the slightest touch.”

Churchill said that as entire Swat had been involved and around 12,000 armed men followed the “Mad Mullah, it was decided to mobilise a 3rd and Reserve Brigade.”

As a result, “The fearful losses which the enemy had sustained had made an appreciable diminution, not of an army, but of a population. For days their bodies lay scattered about. In the standing crops, in the ruins of villages, and among the rocks, festering bodies lay in the blazing sun, filling the valley with a dreadful smell. To devour these, great numbers of vultures quickly assembled and disputed the abundant prey with the odious lizards.

“The punishment that the tribesmen of the Swat Valley had received had broken the spirit of many, and several deputations came to make their submission. The Lower Swatis surrendered unconditionally, and were allowed to return to their villages. Of this permission they at once availed themselves, and their figures could be seen moving about their ruined homes and endeavouring to repair the damage. Others sat by the roadside and watched in sullen despair the steady accumulation of troops in their valley, which had been the only result of their appeal to arms.”

The appeal to arms has brought devastation to the region and the people yet again. Names of contenders have changed. But miscalculations on the part of the anti-state group and the results are so shockingly identical. In Swat at least history did repeat itself recently.

Swat and other districts of the Malakand division have been centres of intermittent religious — often hard-line — movements. The question is, are the Swatis prone to militancy too often? Are they extremists by nature?

Veteran nationalist politician Afzal Khan Lala says they (the Swatis) are not. “Had they been extremists, they would have supported religious parties in previous elections. Instead, all of the national and provincial assembly seats were taken by secular parties like ANP and PPP. They are a peaceful, moderate, tolerant and enlightened people. I think they were encouraged to support the militants by previous governments.”

According to Lala, the militants “were allowed to occupy the administration, the judicial system, emerald mines and the economy of the region. They fined, punished, abducted, killed and terrorised common people who defied their law, but they were not stopped.”

Earlier, Sufi Mohammad was brought over to Swat by the chief minister to harm Jamaat-e-Islami. He and his men took out weapons, cut off Swat and other districts from the rest of the country for days shouting ‘Shariat ya Shahadat’. The Shariah Regulation 1994 and another amended regulation in 1998 were enforced in submission to his demands — after all, the Pakistani constitution has Islamic provisions and there is no need for the new or old regulations. It requires a two-third majority in the parliament to amend the law but the gun-wielding militants forced the government to comply.

“Sufi was allowed to lead thousands of people to Afghanistan most of whom died there while he escaped. He would have been killed by the angry people in the area but the government took him into custody and saved him. This government released him, pinned high hopes on him to control militancy. On his demand, another regulation was enforced recently, Quaid-e-Azam’s pictures were removed from the room where he would negotiate with officials. But what did he do afterwards? He declared the entire Pakistani system anti-Islamic. He had lost the confidence of the people for his continuous summersaults. I told the NWFP chief minister on the phone not to make a leader of him. But the government went for another pact with him. We, the people of Swat, were not consulted. We have had to face destruction for the faults and wrongs of the previous governments.”

Lala adds aggressively, “Taliban unleashed a reign of terror, there is no question of supporting them or their abetters in the political arena.”

In his view, the Pukhtoons were a “gullible lot” and could be easily cheated in the name of Islam. This, he says, is true not only for the Pukhtoons in Malakand but also in other areas. “In Afghanistan, too, we’ve seen that. The west used mullahs successfully against freedom fighters like Ghazi Amanullah Khan. But what can you say when the Pukhtoons continue to kiss the hands and the feet of the mullahs while none of the family members of Ghazi lives there.”

Wajid Ali Khan, provincial Minister for Environment, says the people in Swat and Malakand have never been pro-extremism though historically they are pro-religion. He recalls that the people of the region voted for liberal parties like ANP and PPP ever since the 1970s. It was only in 2002 that they supported the MMA for a number of other factors.

“When the PATA regulation governing Malakand was declared null and void in 1994, a vacuum was created. The mullahs and, later, Taliban took advantage of the situation and created a crisis on the issue. The people didn’t support them. They just desired speedy and cheap justice. If they had love for them, why would they have gone out of the area when the army launched the operation? Their immediate departure nullifies the notion that the Swatis love Taliban,” he declares.

According to Mumtazuddin, a historian and former administrator of an IDP camp, Swat was a princely state which was merged into Pakistan in 1969. “My question is why wasn’t it made a normal part of Pakistan? Why was it made a semi-tribal region? Why was it governed by the PATA regulation and not by the normal law of the land?”

The women lot also supported the Taliban initially. A woman tells TNS in the Sheikh Yaseen camp in Mardan that she was enchanted by the sermons of Maulana Fazlullah. Another woman says she donated 70 tola gold to Fazlullah though she had to pay a heavy price for this. “My husband divorced me in anger,” she says. “We had no idea that our savings would be used to raise an army to kill and humiliate us, to confine us indoors and to flog us in public. We are ashamed we supported them.”

Rebuilding Swat

Rebuilding the region

There might be big plans for reconstruction on paper, the situation on the ground does not look impressive — at least for the time being

By Tahir Ali

(The News 27-09-09)

Massive funds are needed for the reconstruction of most parts of the Malakand division hit hard by the Taliban-led militancy. But the project is yet to take off as the international community seems least enthusiastic.

The rich Muslim Gulf states have been particularly lying back in this respect. The United States has contributed the most with $281 million so far, but that too mostly for the earlier, relief phase.

There might be impressive plans for rebuilding the region on paper, the situation on the ground does not look impressive — at least for the time being. The government is said to have prepared a comprehensive reconstruction and development plan for the region. But its implementation could start only when sufficient funds are available and law and order improves.

A UN official recently said that only three percent of the $58 million needed for rehabilitation of the IDPs and 17 percent of funds required to rebuild the 411 schools had been confirmed.

“Foreign aid agencies are still waiting for the green signal to start work in the area due to security issues. Foreign donors are reluctant to offer assistance for global credit crunch, lack of an authoritative reconstruction plan, want of transparency and trust deficit,” says a local aid worker.

Jacob J Lew, US Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources, however, did praise the NWFP chief minister for “a very good sense of his needs, his limitations and for his capacity to partner quite effectively.”

Pakistan’s rehabilitation plan for Malakand, of about $2.5 billion, was approved by the Friends of democratic Pakistan (FoDP) meeting in Turkey but no cash inflows followed.

NWFP senior minister Rahimdad Khan hopes the September 25 meeting of the FoDP in USA will entail generous assistance for the Malakand reconstruction plan.

For some it is rather premature to talk of the reconstruction phase when the provision of return package of Rs 25,000 through ATM cards — part of the earlier relief phase — is yet to complete.

“There is only one ATM issuance centre in Mardan for the IDPs. Most people returned home without payments. ATM centres should be opened in Swat and Buner,” says a worker.

Rahimdad Khan says the Frontier has earmarked Rs 2 billion while the federal government Rs 50 billion for rehabilitation phase to offset any delay in foreign assistance. “Another development plan for Swat worth Rs 4 billions has been approved. We should be able to compensate the area people for maize crop which was not allowed for security reasons. We shall also be giving Rs 0.3 or 0.12 million for rebuilding of homes.”

In case the donors fail to fulfil their pledges, Khan says, the entire annual development programme of NWFP will be diverted and utilised for the reconstruction of the area.

According to him, MD will be developed into a model division. “Several mega projects such as the double road from Dargai to Mingora, the Malakand tunnel and the setting up of a Cadet College as well as the National Vocational and Technical Education Commission (NAVTEC) have been approved for MD.”

The government, he claims, intended to pay Rs 25,000 return package to over 0.3 million registered families, “but there are also thousands of families who left their homes late and were registered. Many others didn’t leave their homes either.”

He says the Prime Minister has announced a package of Rs 2 billion to provide return assistance to the newly registered 53,000 families. The federal government has released Rs 6 billion out of Rs 24 billion approved for strengthening of police force and the Frontier Constabulary in NWFP. “The police force shall be doubled and police stations increased in Swat.”

The main focus of reconstruction efforts would be strengthening of administrative structure, revamping justice system, improving service delivery and socio-economic growth. Army should supplement the reconstruction efforts of the local administration.

Malakand Division boasted 23 technical and vocational institutes. By reviving these and creating more opportunities for skill training and education of the young and the women, the socio-economic situation of the region can be improved. Besides, the whole lot of people who have developed different mental ailments as a result of shock must be provided proper treatment.

Swat earlier had 30 health facilities that are now either partially or totally damaged. The shortage of gynaecologists, medical officers and lady health workers in MD remains to be helped.

The future of some 40,000 youngsters who were studying in over 1,000 seminaries in the area, should be secured.

Local industries like tourism, horticulture and livestock should be revived. NWFP should be declared a war-hit zone. It must be given a relief package soon as promised by the federal government last month.

Psychological impact

Return of the natives

Psychological and physical impacts of the operation and displacement

By Tahir Ali

(The News on 27-09-09)

Despite experts and locals talking about the traumatic experiences the people of Malakand Division in general and Swat in particular have gone through, one finds very little government attention being paid to this aspect of the IDPs.

Reportedly, over 2.3 million people in the region had to bear hardships of different kinds when they were forced to flee. They had to live in miserable conditions in makeshift camps or congested buildings with their hosts. And, sadly, their misery didn’t end even as they returned to their homes. The women and children were coming back, having assimilated the horrors of displacement on the one hand and the devastating battle between the military and the militants on the other. For months, the young had been fed on images of blood and gore, throats being slit, bodies being hanged, and so on. They had witnessed the Green Square, in Mingora, now rechristened ‘Bloody Square’.

The educated and professional lot — lawyers, journalists, teachers, people related to industry, police officials, political party activists etc — also took a beating.

According to reports, around 200 girl schools in the region have already been destroyed by the militants which means thousands of female students will be without education now. A teacher at a high school that was blown up by Taliban, remembers the horrors of the night: “The Taliban attackers broke into our school, shouting slogans of ‘Allah O’ Akbar’. They blindfolded us, tied our hands behind us and picked up all sorts of expensive goods while detonating a bomb in the building.

“Luckily, they spared us on the condition that we’d never come back to the place.”

The teacher laments the fact that the careers of thousands of youngsters had been destroyed.

Doctor Mohammad Farooq Khan, a well known psychiatrist from Swat, says the people in the affected areas have returned but not without some mental conditions — “chiefly depression and psychosis.”

He tells TNS, “The conditions are likely to aggravate because these people have been under continued stress and without proper medication.”

Dr Farooq also speaks of having met cases of acute anxiety disorders. “People have been passing out on the street. The women, especially, complain of getting panic attacks. Insomnia (sleeplessness), nightmares, hopelessness and a strong sense of helplessness are the order of the day.”

Dr Farooq says he identified 10 to 20 percent of people in relief camps as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “The patients of PTSD are haunted by unpleasant and painful memories that badly influence their sleep, mood and behaviour.”

Common psychological aberrations such as anger, peevishness, fighting over petty issues, urge for vengeance and conspiracies and highly suspecting nature are some of the other ailments that have been increasingly found among these people.

Dr Farooq suggests comprehensive treatment and psychological counselling for the purpose of which “the number of psychologists should be increased five times in Swat. The schools should have in-house psychiatrists.”

Ex federal minister and ANP leader Afzal Khan Lala tells TNS that the people of the region have been transported back by half a century in the march for progress. “Our children have received big psychological shocks. Their future is at stake. We need preferential support from the government and the world outside. We are entitled to special quota in jobs and development funds on long-term basis. Unless the area and its people get the required funding and support, they can’t compete with the rest of the country.”

It may be mentioned here that Lala himself sustained injuries in an incident when the insurgents pursued and killed the brothers of Ayub Ashari and Wajid Ali Khan, provincial ministers of ANP.

NWFP Minister for Forest and Environment, Wajid Ali Khan says ANP was on the hit-list of the insurgents. “Over 150 (ANP) activists and office-bearers were murdered in Swat. These are indeed testing times for us and the people of Swat.”

Wajid says a comprehensive plan worth $2 billions has been prepared for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the area. “Education will be given priority, vocational institutions will be opened, jobs will be provided; losses to businesses, agriculture and properties will be compensated. The world should support us in our reconstruction efforts.”

Mumtazuddin, former administrator of an IDP camp in Mardan, says, “In our camp, there were cases of acute anxiety, depression, loss of sleep and other psychoses. Though they were treated, the nature of these ailments is such that they could recur any time in the future. Therefore, these patients need to be on medication for a longer time.

Sirajul Haq, former finance minister NWFP, says the province was pushed to war-like situation but was not sufficiently funded for the losses. “NWFP has incurred an estimated loss of Rs 25 trillions while agriculture in Malakand lost Rs 72 billions. The situation warrants that the province should be declared a war-affected zone.”

“Unfortunately, the trauma continues as no compensation has been provided to the people as yet. Despite emergency relief, work on recovery and rehabilitation has been slow,” says Aftab Alam, advocate and President, District Bar Association Swat.

He adds that the resilient legal fraternity — both judges and lawyers — decided to revamp the legal system in Malakand in the wake of the hazards for the future of the country. “But our problems have not been addressed. There are cracks in our office buildings. The judges face housing problems. We asked the government for help and, in February this year, a sum of Rs 3.5million was sanctioned for repair work in district courts. That, however, is yet to be released.”

The journalist community has also suffered. A Swat-based journalist tells TNS that the breaking news phenomenon had aggravated their woes. Several journalists have been killed while covering rallies and programmes in the region. “The media organisations want the latest news at any cost. The security forces have their own demands while the militants are also unhappy with us. We are virtually caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

A government official says that around 83 percent of the total 1,800 Swat police officials quit when Taliban unleashed a reign of terror against them. “The situation now looks encouraging as the old guard has rejoined while new inductions are being made.”

People related to the entertainment industry had to wind up their projects after 2007. CD shops and music centres were shut down and female dancers in Mingora were forced to leave the place.

According to the journalist, 25 percent of the entertainment industry people have returned to Swat. “Most of the poor people have returned. But unless the MPAs, MNAs and the influential people from the area return to the area, the public morale is likely to remain low.”

Why is there difference in students’ performances

Why do students fail to achieve desired grades?
TAHIR ALI WEEKEND MAGAZINE (March 27 2010): Why do students fail to achieve desired grades? Why do some students score well while others do not? Why is there difference in students’ performances? Why do some fail while others succeed? Questions such as these arise in minds and experts discuss the causes and forward their suggestions. In terms of their performances, I think, students can be classified into three categories: high achievers, moderate performers and low performers.

The first category comprises highly intelligent students, they just need a little attention and nudge to do wonders. Students in the second category have average abilities, they may excel if properly guided and lag behind if neglected. The third include dull students who can hardly memorise something, they need special attention and special techniques.

All of these kinds have their familiar attributes. For now I would enumerate the common characteristics of the third category. Low performers are distinguished easily from high achievers or moderate performers as they frequently absent from school:

— Arrive late in class but leave early, this is especially true for college and university levels;

— Even if present, they will not be attentive to what is being taught;

— Usually read some novel, digest or newspaper and don’t heed lectures;

— Usually look outside the window or are lost in thoughts;

— Are in a habit of exchanging looks with mates and gesturing for something;

— Talk with desk fellows during lectures, laugh, make a noise;

— Won’t take detailed notes and rather like to be passive listeners and not active participants in the teaching;

— Do not ask questions and also dislike being asked;

— Avoid fulfilling the assigned tasks and always try to avoid checking;

— Either don’t read at all or read wrongly, so they are unable to understand, master, and memorise the text materials;

— Are in the habit of missing exams or papers hoping they would do well next time. But it is again the same story – they put off studying until it is too late. They tend to procrastinate; lack motivation, are lazy, unprepared, undisciplined, have a poor attitude.

— Usually have a low IQ but may also comprise highly intelligent but misguided students;

— Don’t care for their books and notebooks, throw them casually; write untidily; live haphazardly – have nothing in its place and have no place for anything. There are various factors that impact the students’ personalities and pace the quality and quantity of their performances negatively or positively.

The Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of the students, is effected by the factors of heredity and environment, the behaviour and level of guidance offered by their parents and teachers, the poverty and illiteracy or otherwise of their parents, their own health, study/classroom habits, their domestic, social and economic background, environment at school, teacher’s methodology and personality, the language barrier, the workload upon them, and their hobbies.

Some students are dull at some subjects but exceptionally better in others. This variation could be attributed to their inclinations and aptitudes or to their perception about the subject teacher and his teaching methodology. They need to be transferred to their favourite spots.

Some others have a limited span of attention. They can’t concentrate for long. They need to be given focussing exercises. Today, there are more distractions than in the past. These are the enemies of concentration and good future. If television, movies, surfing the net, chatting or partying with friends, video games, or anything else of the sort prevent them from focusing on studies, they should be shunned.

Students who work have little or no time to study and revisit the contents at home. It usually has a negative effect on their achievement level. According to Sayyad, a 7th class student who has now given up studies, his frequent non-attendance due to work weakened him and he had to leave school quickly.

Some students do try their level best to learn but fail because of their inappropriate study-habits. Zahid Ali, a student of class 9, says he read but his weaker IQ made it difficult for him to learn something. Students from broken and un-cohesive families usually score low.

“Two things that have helped Indian, and Pakistani children, in that order, excel in US schools, thus far – cohesive family, where father is the leader, manager, provider, who sets clear, and firm limits, regarding children behaviour, (and a mother who does not sabotage father’s agenda), and there is enormous, encouragement and motivation – at times it appears, that these kids from the sub-continent, have little nuclear battery fitted in them. That is all I learnt in 38 years as an educator in US,” writes Professor Naseem Khan of Johns Hopkins University USA. All these students cannot and must not be shepherded with same methods.

The administration and teaching staff in educational institutions should deal with each category of students the way best suited and beneficial for them. They usually comprise many gifted students in their ranks who can do wonders if their potentials are positively channelized.

Mir Alam Syed, a Mardan based lecturer, urges close teacher-parent-child relationship for this purpose. He says that revision of what has been taught at schools should be ensured at home. He also underlines the need for a competitive environment in classes as well.

Questions and their answers clarify ambiguous points and help understand the themes. Students should be encouraged that when ever they fail to comprehend, they should ask questions in classes or meet their teachers frequently in office hours to seek explanations. This simply doesn’t work if they remain confused but silent for months and visit their teachers to clarify points at the end of the year. Mohammad Yousaf Qindeel, a teacher at a local school asserts that individual attention and a proper mechanism for guidance and counselling of the students is needed in schools.

Youth usually behave in extreme ways. They study hard or hardly study. They work hard for one examination and do well, but then being over confident or careless they shirk work later and do worse. They should believe in work, work and work throughout their life.

According to Hafiz Mohammad Zubair, educationist, most often students engage in “passive study”. Studies have shown, however, that an “active” learning approach results in greater learning. Active learning requires “handling,” shaping or manipulating the information read, ie, reading and outlining, summarising, or answering questions about the text.

Students need to respect their subjects, teachers and class fellows. They should also make use of the library, the reading material there, the computer facilities and the like. They should befriend the brighter students which will benefit them academically. Students desire to be entertained, inspired and educated simultaneously. All teachers, however, are not really good at it. They should not have to be. Students can learn from even the dreariest teachers if they want to.

We all know there are inter-individual and intra-individual differences between students in spheres of physical, mental, emotional, social and educational development. It is for the teachers and psychologists to investigate as to what has caused variation in their attitude and performance and deal with each accordingly.

I think students have a prime role to play in deciding as to what they would and could become and which way they have to go. Their attention and devotion to studies can elevate them to higher positions, make up the deficiencies inflicted by other factors, and open new and improved vistas to them.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

Equality of provinces in National Assembly

A key issue has mostly escaped the attention of NA
TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (April 17 2010): The 18th constitutional amendment is likely to be passed by the parliament soon. No doubt, it has several good points vis-à-vis democracy and provincial autonomy but one main issue – that of disparity between the federating units in the ‘king-maker’ National Assembly of Pakistan – has escaped the attention of the political analysts as well as the members of the Raza Rabbani-led committee.

I think it is essential for strengthening the federation that there should be equality of opportunity for all the federating units within the national assembly, though they may retain their respective number of seats therein. The component units of a federation should have equal influence and opportunity to appoint the federal executive authority – the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

That financial and political autonomy of the provinces is the only way to remove the sense of deprivation and alienation of the smaller provinces, no one will contest but the question is how that will be achieved and what are the other steps needed to be taken in this regard.

The constitution of Pakistan has three power-lists – the federal, provincial and concurrent. The federal list specifies the sphere of the federal government while the provincial list narrates the areas where provinces can work on their own. The concurrent list spells out the combined domains of the two but it too has been utilised mostly by the former.

In its present shape, the CoP is more a constitution of a unitary state than of a federation – all powers are vested in the centre and provinces have no autonomy. Hence demands for abolition of concurrent list. But even the abolition of the concurrent list, as decided by the constitutional committee, won’t suffice because it touches minor issues such as the withdrawing or giving certain departments from or to the provinces. Something more concrete will have to be done to make the system and constitution look more just and to discourage the secessionist tendencies and growing discontent in smaller provinces.

Most of the federations like Pakistan, having parliamentary form of government, have two chambers of parliament. The lower chamber -National Assembly in Pakistan’s case – is the powerful of the two whose members are directly elected by the people while those of the upper chamber – Senate in Pakistan – are indirectly elected.

The Senate of Pakistan is there with equal representation for the provinces. But it not only has insufficient financial powers but also has no role in election of the Federal Government though it is rewarded with some ministerial slots in the cabinet. Most of the powers are at present vested in the National Assembly. It has the sole authority to elect the Federal Government and has financial powers. For that matter, all the four provinces should have equal representation and equal opportunity in it.

But the problem is that its membership is based on population and Punjab being the biggest province by population, enjoys an absolute 55 percent majority in NA while the combined seats of the other three provinces, the federal capital and FATA accounts for 45 percent of the body’s members. So, if a party sweeps elections there, it can form its government in the centre even if the electorate in other three provinces out-rightly reject it in elections as the combined members of the three smaller provinces form only 36 percent of its membership. At present, Punjab has great leverage over other provinces in the formation of the Federal Government.

One wonders if it is anything else than rewarding a component of the federation, Punjab, for its increase in population vis-a-vis other provinces. There have been demands to reduce the clout of Punjab, it should be divided into two or three provinces. But that will hardly work. The reason: the eastern region of the country that comprises Punjab will continue to have the upper hand in election of the Federal Government and Prime Minister of Pakistan.

When Punjab alone could suffice for capturing the highest slot at Islamabad, every party necessarily and naturally will try to please and win over its electorate and neglecting other less effective regions. It explains why there is frequent resort to Governor-rule, palace intrigues and vote of no-confidence to snatch the throne in Punjab.

This doesn’t mean that the financial share of Punjab, that has the biggest population and therefore having great need of development expenditure on health, education and other social sectors should be curtailed. It is simply neither desired nor will be deemed as just. Neither this writer wants any reduced membership for Punjab. It should retain the present number of seats in the National Assembly.

But my question is why there is great disparity in the treatment of each province in the National Assembly? Why can’t all provinces have the same authority, power and role in electing the Federal Government?

There is already a precedent in our political system for that. In the election of the President of Pakistan and the Senate members, all the four provinces have equal share, the difference of their strength in parliament notwithstanding. Why this can’t be applied in the election of Prime Minister, who is the actual executive authority in the federation of Pakistan?

It is time the parliament amends the constitution and the draft of the 18th amendment bill in this regard. The votes of all provinces in the national assembly should have equal force and weight in the election of the Federal Government.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

Neglected Primary teachers

Neglected primary school teachers
By TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (March 13 2010): The success of any education system largely depends on the success of its teachers, especially primary school teachers (PSTs). They bring and ensure change, modernisation, reformation, and intellectual development in a given society by transmitting knowledge and promoting ideas/values.

But to be able to that effectively, they must be mentally satisfied and made free from financial worries. Teachers are generally criticised for their lack of commitment and devotion towards their duties. They may be partly responsible for the deteriorating standard of education. But to blame all the ills on their ‘poor’ performance may be an exaggeration. There are certainly many other factors involved.

No one can deny the fact that teachers have been at the lowest of priorities of successive governments. They have received relatively less recognition. Their terms of service have been quite inadequate as compared with other professionals. They rarely figure in the honour lists announced each year.

Ali, a PST, started his career in the basic pay scale (BPS) 7 in 1990. He was an FA then, with a Primary teaching certificate (PTC) course (the basic requisite for the PST was Matric with PTC at the time). In 1991, he was awarded BPS 9 for being or FA, but he continued in the same scale for 17 years. During the time, he passed his MA and also got a certificate in teaching (CT), Bachelor in Education (B.Ed), and Master in Education (M.Ed). Luckily, last year he was amongst the thousands of teachers who were promoted to BPS 12 for having completing ten years of service.

Malik Kahlid Khan, the president of All Primary Teachers Association (APTA) NWFP, said around 75,000 PSTs in NWFP have been neglected so far. “There is no service structure and promotion rules for them. They started and finished their career as PSTs. They had the benefits of a selection grade (which was given after some years of service), a move-over (which was given after an employee crossed the last stage of his scale) and advance increments, but all these were withdrawn in 2001. The decision was enforced from retrospective effect and thus thousands of PSTs were reverted from 13th and 14th scales to 9th and 10th scales. This was a great injustice,” said Khan.

Mian Abdul Bari, an office bearer of All-teachers association (ATA), is unhappy at the world of difference between the scales. He urged the government should decrease the stages of the lower scales as well. “Before 2001, for scales 1 to 16, the stages were 15, while for scales 17 to 22, there were 10 stages. In 2001, these were increased for the former to 30 stages.

For 17th to 19th scales, these were made 20 while for scales 20 to 22, these were made 14. This simply means that those in the higher scales would reach the last stage of their scale and get promotion to the next grade quickly. The PSTs, however, may retire in that very scale as they will have to cross thirty stages, for which they must wait for thirty annual increments.”

According to him, the initial take-home salary of a PST was around Rs 5500 which should be increased. “The PSTs serving in scales 7, 9 or 12 receive fixed house rent allowance from Rs 1069 to 1306 and medical allowance of Rs 5500. It is well short of their needs and market rates,” said Bari.

He said promotions should be based on both seniority and qualification. “The government last year awarded BPS 12 to PSTs on the basis of completion of ten years of service. But it was unjustly applied. There were teachers who had completed thirty to forty years of service but they were also given that scale. Those with Matric and MA qualification were also equated,” he maintained. Another teacher said the PSTs should be given special pay scales and they must be provided opportunities to get advance training on state expenses.

Khan said rural teachers should be given preferential treatment. “During my meeting with Dr Ishrat, I suggested a minimum take home salary of Rs 40,000 pay for urban and Rs 45,000 for rural area PSTs. I think there should be a few categories of employees and each should be given a lump sum salary,” he said. Dr Ishrat Hussain-led pay and pension committee (PPC) is finalising its report on the pay scales of public sector employees.

NWFP minister for education Sardar Hussain Babak, when contacted, confirmed that the service structure is in the final stages. “But I can safely say that the package would be of immense benefit to thousands of PSTs in the province. The fact is that successive regimes of the past have neglected the teachers. They should have been given a service structure but unfortunately they weren’t. They deserve it and we would be shortly announcing it,” he said. The minister however urged them to be dutiful and punctual in discharging their duties.

A high-placed source in the NWFP’s ministry of education, wishing anonymity, said that the structure would be given final shape in a meeting to be held shortly and then it would be notified. He said that promotions to scale 16, till now, were made from middle and high schools teachers. “But as per the structure, for the first time PSTs would also be promoted to 16th scale. They could even become head masters in high schools.”

He said after five years of continuous service and completing a 60-day course, PSTs would be promoted as CT/middle schools teachers (MSTs). After the service of five more years and undergoing another 60 days course, they would be promoted as SET/high school teachers (HSTs). They would also be eligible from then on to be part of the general SET seniority. PSTs would be the biggest beneficiaries as, being in the majority, they would receive the bulk of the share in the promotions to the above posts,” the source said.

All the promotions would not require any further qualification, except the pre-recruitment one – FA with the PTC, he said. He agreed with the observation of this writer that the move over, selection grade and advance increments on higher qualification weren’t going to be revived.

Responding to a query, the official explained that the service structure would be applied from the date it was issued on and it would benefit the younger and ablest teachers. It meant that the old guards who had completed thirty to forty years of service, wouldn’t get any benefit, which could be resented. Also, the decision to award promotions on the basis of experience alone in the suggested service structure may result in the promotion of incompetent teachers to high schools.

The changing mindset

The changing mindset

By Tahir Ali

The frequent terror strikes seem to have caused visible shifts in public opinion. Militants and their political supporters are loosing popular support in the backdrop of an emerging anti-private jihad consensus in the country. But the fact is people are afraid of the invisible enemy and most avoid making open hostile statements against the insurgents for fear of reprisal. And that it is still a long way to go to achieve that terror/retaliation free environment in the country.

Analysts say there are several positive signs. The security establishment has shunned its earlier policy of appeasement or support to the militants. Much of the political leadership has also given up its familiar reluctance to act against the militants. Religious-political parties, forced by the heat of anti-extremist sentiments, have reconciled their strategies and abandoned their Jihadi tones. There is increasing support to the security forces in militancy-hit zones. Jihadi charity boxes have disappeared from markets. Religious scholars avoid Jiahdi sermons. Most of the illegal FM radio stations, the biggest tool of extremist propaganda, have gone silent and so on.

Until recently, New Year nights’ programmes, cinema houses and billboards with women pictures were attacked. Music functions were forcefully stopped. Students were openly enticed to volunteer for ‘Jihad’ first in Afghanistan and then in Kashmir. Picture and video shows were organised profusely to attract youngsters to ‘Jihad’.

However, situation has changed now. Religious parties that once talked of hoisting national flag on the Red Fort of Delhi and threatened suicide attacks against foreign naval ships avoid similar outbursts. New Year nights and night-clubs are no more attacked by baton-wielding workers. ‘Kashmir has been left to the Kashmiris’. Religious parties don’t run any Jihadi training/fund raising campaigns any more.

“Save a minority comprising a few right wing/religious parties, majority population is no more interested in the Jihadi rhetoric and culture. This could be the beginning of a new era in Pakistan marked by more tolerance and moderation,” argued a political activist wishing not to be named.

Renowned analyst and religious scholar Dr Mohammad Farooq Khan said it was a happy development that around 99 per cent of population and military and political leadership were on the same frequency on how to tackle the threat.

“We had been advocating since the last 15 years that private jihad is not only against Islam but is also a dangerous strategy. We are happy that finally the establishment and religious parties have realised it. They have practically given up their practical support to jihad though the latter would hardly accept it. No doubt they have done so after bad practical experiences and were late to do that, it is a welcome development anyway,” he said.

“Musharraf and the previous MMA-led NWFP government had shown criminal negligence vis-à-vis the Taliban in Malakand which made things difficult for the coming government. But happily the operations- ‘Rah-e-rast’ in Swat and ‘Rah-e-Nijat’ in Waziristan- have been the most successful ever operations of the world history,” Khan added.

Former chief secretary FATA and security expert Brigadier Mehmood Shah agreed that an anti private jihad consensus was developing in society. “Swatis are now openly supporting the government but the situation in Waziristan is not that encouraging. There is general fear amongst the people there militants might come back in the area.”

“But one thing is for sure that people have overwhelmingly turned against the misuse of religion for political motives. It is in this back ground that the religious parties have shunned militant approaches. They simply cannot go against the tide. To save society from the threat of extremism and terrorism, a civil society movement like the one for restoration for judiciary is needed. Live media has exposed the religious parties to the nation. The religious class in simply unable to lead the nation. Modern religious scholars and intellectuals should take the interpretation of religion from them,” he commented.

Dr Begum Jan, chairperson tribal women welfare association, didn’t see any positive outcome any time soon. “We are just harvesting what we had sown years ago. Security situation is worse despite claims of victory in Malakand and I think the announced surge in US troops in Afghanistan would just add fuel to fire.”

“But one development is encouraging to see. I saw in 2001 when Mullahs agitated against the US invasion in my area that they were given generous donations for onward supply to Afghan Taliban. But if these Mullahs ask for funds today, I am afraid the people would beat them either,” she said.

Begum Jan said the people of Waziristan and other agencies had suffered badly and they would never ever support the mullahs.

“Now we should save our children in the given scenario from religious seminaries and offer them religious education at home. The government should bring FATA at par with rest of the country through fast track and corruption free development schemes. It should provide jobs to the youth in the region to save them from extremists who give them lucrative offers in return for support,” she said.

Militancy hit areas like parts of Malakand division are experiencing shifts in general perceptions. Security agencies are having the greatest ever popular support.

Former federal minister and nationalist leader Afzal Khan Lala said people had supported the militants not out of love but for fear because they killed their opponents. “They may give even more support to army and the government if they are emboldened and ensured of safety. There is not yet hundred per cent support to security forces. For example, one of the two main tribes in Shah Dheri Kabal has formed a lashkar against the militants but the other is reluctant to do so. The security forces have more communication and interaction with the general public,” he opined. Lala also chastised the religious parties for not opposing militants. He praised Army for getting the area rid of insurgents.

Amir Muqam, president of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) NWFP and a parliamentarian, said how the nation could support those who killed their children, brothers and destroyed their businesses.

Muqam said that the army had established writ of the state for which the nation stood indebted to it. “But this now will have to be maintained by the civilian forces. Basic amenities would have to be provided and problems solved. There should be a sound plan to deal with the post-operation situation. There still fear of return of militants. Militants after all have not been eliminated altogether. The government must safeguard those who side with it,” he said.

Sadullah Khan from Buner said the army has won us the area back. “It has done that in Swat and Wazristan too. The notion of invincibility of militants has been buried for ever.”

An old man from Kabal Swat, wishing anonymity, said Swatis followed the extremists because they talked good. “They disappointed us when they took over the area. We will never support them and would rather support the government. Let us hope that it would be the old tolerant Buner and Swat where different religious groups have lived peacefully for centuries,” he said.

The man narrated a family of Syeds in his area commanded respect. “We always accepted their arbitration in our controversies. But the family joined the Taliban. And the people of the area then killed several of them with their own hands,” he said.

US president Barrack Obama also alluded to the fact in his last address.  “In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who have argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight. But in recent years, as innocents have been killed from Karachi to Islamabad, public opinion has turned,” he said.

There is a growing national pride. “The tragedy was huge. The state acted like a mother. Had it not come up to the expectations, the tragedy would have been more devastating. The militants wanted to create disbelief but miserably failed,” argued Shakir khan, a former IDP from Swat.

There were frequent desertions from the army and police in initial days. Around 80 percent personal in Swat and Buner had deserted for fear of militants. That trend has reversed. And recently there has been a new urge in the youngsters to join the security forces.

“When enemies are bent upon destroying the society, why should I lag behind? Though I didn’t want to join army or police in the past, I now am for it. I want to fight Pakistan’s enemies and take them head on,” declared Saeed Khan, a college student in Charsadda.

Collection of donations by jihadi organisations has also declined. There are indeed Chanda boxes in shops and markets but these are of Sahara Trust, Shaukat Khanum memorial hospital and other genuine humanitarian organisations.

“The phenomenon has weakened for various reasons: People don’t like to give donations as they did in the past. They are fed up of mushroomed growth of Jihadi outfits. Poverty is also a factor. They avoid it for fear of arrests too,” said a shopkeeper in Mardan who wished not to be named.

Swat Taliban also collected huge sums through donations given by the people especially women. Jehnazeb from Mingora Swat said they didn’t know they would buy arms with their alms.

“They were given generous alms to build, as they had promised, mosques and madrassas. But look! Where did the money turn out at the end? We had no idea that they would buy arms with our money to wage war against Pakistan and kill our children,” he added.

There were numerous FM channels were in the air before the latest onslaught against the extremists in Malakand and the tribal belt. These were blatantly used for anti-state and extremist propaganda. Almost all of these stand closed now.

However minorities living in the Malakand and tribal belt have also been severely affected by the ongoing tensions. Buner and Swat had a sizable presence of Hindu and Sikh people. Atleast 15 families, including some known professionals, have migrated to India of late.

Ashok Kapoor, the general secretary of the Hindu-Sikh Sudhar Sabah, said though the violence was not specific to them, minorities have suffered badly. “We know how the minorities could be safe when majority was not. But that ensuing lack of security and slump in businesses has led to migration of quite a few of them to India is agonising to say the least. Jagdesh Lal, the son of Bhajan Lal, was kidnapped in 2003 but he is yet to return homes. Tilak Raj left Mingora for India when his brother was killed last Ramazan and his own life was endangered. The family of Dr Mohen Kumar, a notable doctor from Buner, has also shifted to India insecurity. Dr Jian Parkash, also from Buner who ran a big hospital there, also plans to go because of his brother’ murder. Others are also considering departure which would be a tragedy if materialised. Pakistan is our country. We want to live here.”

Kapoor said the mainstream population was very caring for their community. But community needs motivation, support and coordinated efforts on part of district administrations, NGOs and security forces to change their minds from leaving the country.

Siraj-ul-Haq, former senior minister and ex-amir of Jamat-e-Islami however declined to accept that Jihadi culture had weakened and that new developments had forced them shun Jihadi tenors.  “Jihad continues in Afghanistan. We think that US interference there and in Pakistan is the root cause of the problems. We have started our jihad against the USA- the go America go campaign- by organising political rallies and train marches.”

Haq said JI believed in political and constitutional means. “JI never had any military wing. We don’t believe in under ground activities. If any one thinks JI is a B-team of agencies, he should remove this misconception.”

(tahir_katlang @yahoo.com)

The curriculum issue- a situational analysis

The curriculum issue
TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (May 01 2010): As curriculum forms an important part of the strategy to achieve national cohesion, it needs to be reviewed and revived so that it may help achieve the desired objectives. Following a careful examination of the situation in Pakistan, the educational institutions can be easily divided into two main categories.

Religious institutions called Madaris (seminaries) and the mainstream educational institutions. Seminaries: These are further divided into many other sub-categories. For example, there are at least five separate independent religious boards functioning in the country representing the Deobandi, Brailvi, Ahlehadith and Shiite sects and one being run by the Jamat-e-Islami (JI). Many seminaries are not even affiliated with any religious board- they are financed and administered by individuals with affiliations with Tablighi and some other sub-sects within the above mentioned five schools of thought.

Of the approximately 20,000 seminaries countywide, only a small portion are registered with the government. Almost all of them are run independently. The teachers in each of these institutions are from their respective sects. Students are imparted knowledge from the perspective of their sects.

Most of the institutions register students from very childhood. Although in some seminaries students are enrolled after they have passed their middle or secondary examinations but, as they are also detached from practical world and imparted only theoretical knowledge, they become a separate class within themselves quite distinct from the mainstream population. Students are cut-off from rest of the world, kept in isolation from their environment and exposed to a highly prejudiced education. Since they have no knowledge of the modern day techniques and expertise, they cannot get job in any public department or private enterprise because they are not capable to do so. They have to adapt teaching at a seminary as a profession or open a new one or else live as unemployed youth who can be an easy prey to terrorists who are always on the search for disgruntled and disillusioned youngsters.

All the students educated in these seminaries have strong dissimilarities of thought. They are antagonistic to each other. When these “prejudices-incarnate” enter life and society with their stereo types, tensions, division and conflicts and emotionalism and reactionary psyche are but natural to grow.

Mainstream educational institutions: These are further divided in public and private schools.

Public schools: These are run by federal and provincial governments. They include both Urdu and English medium institutions scattered across the country. Children of the poor majority read in the former. The standard of education is low there. Majority have no facilities. Children sit on the ground in overcrowded classrooms. The curriculum here is outdated, teacher-centred, and irrelevant to the outside world. Students are exposed to corporal punishment. Teachers are overburdened and low paid. Experimentation with the curriculum is the norm. Political interference in the administration of the department is on the rise making the smooth functioning of the department difficult if not impossible. Teachers here also do extra duties such as election related duties, examination duties and electoral rolls are also prepared by them. They also undergo unnecessary and useless in-service training every now and then. As they face financial burdens due to their low pays, they have to do side business. The result is that the students have ultimately to suffer. Their future is darkened. A mentally unsound teacher cannot inculcate good habits in students to nurture them into balanced personalities. When these students grow up, they find the outside world extremely discouraging and see that they are looked down upon and neglected.

What is more astonishing is that even the curriculum in these state-run schools is different in each of the provinces.

Private schools: Now we come to the private category of schools. On the bases of their administration and source of funding, these schools are further divisible into individually owned, parties’ managed, foreign affiliated, semi-governmental but autonomous schools and military run schools.

Majority of these schools are low standard so-called English medium schools and colleges founded purely on financial considerations these may be called money minting machines. No importance, attention and resources are allocated to build a sound moral character of the students. Many of these schools select their curricula prepared by private firms only on the basis of how much profit they can get. The number of private schools has surged up to hundreds of thousands according to an estimate, a mushroomed growth of private publishers of text books is also being witnessed these days in Pakistan to cater to their academic needs.

Some schools are administered by independent networks. Awami National Party (ANP) has also started its network of schools recently. Some school systems in the country are being run by religious groups. Pakistan Army runs a vast network of cadet schools throughout the country besides many other schools in the cantonment areas under its indirect supervision. Other security forces have also opened schools for children of their in-service and retired personnel. Some other schools like the Fazle Haq College Mardan and AQ Khan institute of science and technology Swabi etc are financed by government though these enjoy autonomy in their affairs.

Foreign schools: Some other schools and colleges are academically related with foreign universities. These elite institutions offer high-standard expensive education to the children of minority affluent class with all facilities and excellent learning environment from the very childhood. If the children reading in the public schools develop inferiority complex, the students studying in the elite schools are ‘gifted with’ superiority complex.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

Animal Breed improvement

Prospects of artificial breeding Investment needs to go into research on artificial insemination to increase milk and meat production

By Tahir Ali

Expansion of artificial insemination services can help meet the growing requirement of milk and meat in the country. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa earns billions of rupees for the country. A strong commitment and financial support is required on the part of federal and provincial governments to realise this goal.

Improvement in per animal productivity through artificial insemination will not only increase farmers’ income but will also attract local and foreign investment. “Artificial insemination and cross-breeding of the local and high-yielding species will help increase local milk and beef production.

Animals born through artificial insemination can yield up to 30 to 40 litres of milk per day as against the local average milk-yield of 4 to 5 litres. Likewise, indigenous cow breeds have comparatively short lactation period of 200 days as against the cross-bred cows that provide over 5000 litres of milk for around 300 days. Similarly, weight at the time of maturity of local cattle is 300kg whereas the cross-bred cow weighs over 400kg,” says Dr Muhammad Ghulam, a livestock breed improvement expert.

Ghulam says indigenous animals take more time in attaining puberty — in about two to three years as against the AI animals which attain puberty in less than a year. “Artificial insemination also helps prevent viral diseases which are common by the natural way. The premature use of bulls is avoided. Early detection of infertile, old, or crippled bulls is also possible,” he says, adding, “In natural mating one male is required for 10 female but through artificial insemination 300 specimen can be prepared from a single ejaculation. Artificial insemination is economical, has less or no chances of disease transfer and is safe as compared to natural breeding as it avoids physical injuries,” adds Ghulam.

Pakistan has 25, 26, and 25m buffalo, sheep, and goat respectively. But the failure to go for artificial insemination and their cross-breeding with foreign breeds has hampered development of genetically superior milk/beef breeds. “Improvement of livestock breed through artificial insemination is a sure recipe for farmers’ prosperity and empowerment. For this purpose, the development of breed improvement societies by farmers is need of the hour,” says Sajjad Haider, a farmer.

The province, however, has only two semen production units at Harichand Charsadda. The semen produced there is supplied to artificial insemination centres to livestock farmers throughout the region, including provincially and federally administered tribal areas.

Imported semen or one extracted from local bulls is kept in containers under minus 196 degree centigrade in liquid nitrogen containers. But there are only two nitrogen-production plants in the province. “The nitrogen plants are a basic requirement for the programme. To minimise the shortage, and early and easy delivery, more nitrogen plants should are set up,” says another official at Mardan’s centre which is non-functional these days.

“Farmers have greatly benefited from the services. The artificial insemination straw is given to farmers for Rs50 but it can fetch him up to Rs100,000 as it matures early which means more money for farmers,” says an official in the directorate of breed improvement KPK.

Director General Livestock and Dairy Development, Dr Sher Muhammad, says the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is doing its best to improve the local breed but an increased level of interest and investment by private entrepreneurs is a must to convert the livestock sector from subsistence-oriented to income-driven commercial farming. “Expansion of artificial insemination network, development and promotion of breed improvement societies, and encouragement of private sector are some the steps that need to be taken urgently,” he says.

According to the livestock census in 2006, there were 6 million cattle and 2.78m buffalos in the province. Of these, 3.03m female cattle and 2m female buffalos were three years of age who could be covered by artificial intelligence services. There are at present about 360 artificial insemination centres, providing services to the farmers in the province. The AI coverage has been recently increased to up to 15 percent in the province but much still needs to be done.

Artificial insemination has played a pivotal role in the livestock breed improvement worldwide. According to a report, quantity of milk of an average American cow has increased to 9000 litres from 3000 litres thirty years ago. The SPU in Harichand prepares about 0.21m AI doses annually and earns over Rs10m. “By importing more bulls for SPUs, increasing the standard and amount of feed for the existing 31 bulls, and expanding the coverage of AI services, the income may jack up to hundreds of millions per annum,” says the official.

The government should import bulls to the SPU to increase artificial insemination. “It will save billions on import of the foreign insemination doses. We provide the locally produced doses to farmers for Rs50 while the imported one costs over Rs7000,” he adds.

According to him, getting a male or female offspring from the AI facility is possible in other countries but, “we are yet to import the technology that separates male and female doses for obtaining a calf of one’s choice. The SPU also should have a single machine for filling, sealing and printing the doses which will save time and increase production,” he advises.

In 2006, the directorate provided 0.28 million AI services. The production of liquid nitrogen reached to 0.1 million litres from 0.01ml in 2005. The income earned from AI services also went down from Rs16 millions in 2006 to Rs14m in 2007 and Rs12m in 2008.

A private veterinary doctor, Imtiaz Ali, however, says AI programme also has some disadvantages which could be avoided by proper management. “Success of AI depends to a great deal on staff training. So it requires more labour, practice, facilities, management skills and properly trained staff,” he says.

Another important issue is that conception rate for AI is 60 percent in cows and is considerably lower in buffaloes. The problem should be tackled quickly. The province has a great potential for higher milk production but, unfortunately, due to poor genetic make-up, the average milk yield in the province stands at just 900 litres for cow and 1200 litres for buffalos.

The milk and beef requirements in the province stand at around 2.79 and 0.783m tonnes as against the availability of 2.254 and 0.229 respectively. The average availability of meat in the province is 31 grams per person per day whereas the requirement is 56 GPD. By improving livestock breed through artificial insemination and cross-breeding, the gap between demand and supply can be easily met.

Pakistan’s biggest and provinces’ only cattle breeding and dairy farm at Harichand Charsadda houses the only SPU in the province. It faces a shortage of funds and personnel as the staff and infrastructure sanctioned way back in 1982 for 90 cows have now to attend to around 500 animal heads. Unemployed veterinary graduates and assistants should be given special AI training and provided necessary inputs to enable them open private AI centres.

Gujar Garhi Farm Tool cluster

Upgrading farm tool cluster
By Tahir Ali

Monday, 10 May, 2010 | 01:06 AM

THE farm tool producers at Gujar Garhi in Mardan say that they need technical and financial support to upgrade the existing cluster.

The site is not on the list of clusters selected by the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority (Smeda) for development initiatives.

Various equipment from the smallest to the biggest agriculture tools are manufactured in this cluster and have province-wide demand because of their cheaper rates.

“Our agriculture tools such as rotary hoe, shovel, spade, sickle, pickaxe, gur-ganees, plough, wheat-threshers and tractor trolleys are popular in and around the province. Though the wheat-threshers made here are of standard quality they are a bit costlier as against those made in Faisalabad because they are made in bulk quantity,” said Gulzaruddin, a manufacturer of farm tools and micro-power plants.

“The iron sheet cutter we manufacture has a price of around Rs1.2 million while the imported one costs around Rs25-30 million. The micro-power sheet binding and rolling machines produced by us are cheaper than those made in other clusters. We also make standard but cheaper micro-hydro-power plants that are accepted both nationally,” said another manufacturer at the site.

But load-shedding is playing havoc with production in the cluster. “We avoid taking bulk work-orders as only three to four hours of daily power supply has left us with no option. If we use generators, our cost of production increases and our goods become uncompetitive in the market,” he said.

“Militancy and terrorism have also taken their toll. Our sales have dropped by 50 per cent in the last few years and we are also exposed to kidnapping for ransom,” he added.

“In the wake of growing energy crisis and law and order, the cluster needs relief in taxes and electricity and gas tariff,” he urged.

The cluster is situated on the main Mardan-Swat highway and must be shifted to an industrial estate. “The industrial estate should be built nearby in close collaboration with and direct supervision of the local manufacturers. Plots should be provided to us on monthly installments,” he added.

Iftikhar Ali, a dealer in agriculture implements, said in the past training, equipment and financial support were provide to local entrepreneurs, but there was nothing of the sort at present.

There are around 120 small, medium and big manufacturing factories in the cluster. Many of these, however, are still working with outdated tools. “This warrants spacious factories, more investment and technical support of the government and capacity building of the workers,” said Ali.

“The cluster should have common facility centres and machine pool from which small artisans unable to buy machines could get them on rent,” said another wholesaler.

Free flow of electricity, easy loans, preferably interest-free ones, tax-relief and a separate industrial estate for the cluster are the steps urgently needed, he added.

Interviews with several manufacturers and industrialists revealed that most of them would like to have Sharia-compliant interest-free loans. A few others said loans on low mark up and easy conditions could be acceptable.

Smeda can help develop networking among manufacturers, upgrade technology, improve human resource skills and market products internationally.

Javed Khatak, chief of Smeda NWFP, said cluster had enormous significance in terms of manufacturing of agricultural tools. “The agriculture tools manufactured here are even exported to other countries. The government and my organisation would do whatever possible to promote this cluster,” he said.

“We would open common facility centre at the cluster soon. Modern machineries would be provided to industrialists on rent basis. We would also facilitate group based raw-material procurement to diminish the cost of transportation. We would arrange a skill development component for the cluster workers. The government would also provide them support for their capacity enhancement and standardisation of their products which will help them meet bulk-demands in future and increase their market attraction,” Khatak added.

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