CIVIC SENSE

What is civic sense? Do Pakistanis have/lack civil sense? Why do Pakistanis lack civic sense? What is needed for promoting civic sense?

By Tahir Ali

The writer is an academic who blogs at www.tahirkatlang.wordpress.com and can be reached at tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

 

While being interviewed by a panel at the Federal Public Service Commission, I was, inter alia, asked these questions, “What do you understand by the term civic-sense? What are the causes of lack of civic sense in Pakistan and what are your suggestions for ensuring widespread civic sense in Pakistan?

I answered the questions and the subsequent counter questions put by the interviewers in detail.  I had then resolved to write a comprehensive article on the issue but the idea could not materialise for my pressing engagements. It might have delayed it further but an interaction with one of my friends last week pushed me to go for it.

Last week, the friend Islam Ghani visited me and in the course of our discussion, he told me. “Every day when I leave home for my office, I see the drainage system blocked by polythene bags/garbage because one of my neighbours is in the habit of sweeping out all his garbage into the drain. I often clean the drain myself. The person and his children usually see me doing that. I request them to be sensitive to the neighbours but to no effect. And last week, the person had this to tell me: “I have done that. Do what you want/can. Do you think my garbage was to lie in my house? Why don’t you approach the municipal workers to come and clean the mess instead of becoming sweeper yourself or asking me to?” says Islam Ghani.

Throwing out your garbage this way and the subsequent response by the guilty speaks a lot of our public morality and an acute lack of civic sense in our society, he adds.

WHAT IS CIVIC SENSE?

The word ‘Civic’ means of or related to a city or people who live there or the duties and responsibilities of citizens, and the word ‘Sense’ means sound practical judgement or awareness about something. The term, therefore, literally means an understanding of the way how people should live and behave in a society.

Civic sense is a consideration for the norms of society. It includes respect for the law and for the ease and feelings of others and maintaining etiquettes while dealing and interacting with others. For example, if we visit someone’s house, ethics demand that we knock at the door, ask for permission to go inside or that we avoid visiting someone at the time of meals or at bed/rest time.

It means we respect and help others, avoid spitting on roads, streets and public places, avoid listening to loud music, refrain from blowing pressure horns, adhere to traffic rules, obey laws, park vehicles at nominated places, avoid wall chalking, ensure economical use of the natural resources and public facilities, help reduce leakage/wastage/misuse of gas/water/electricity, pay taxes and utility bills, wait for our turn, be tolerant towards opposing views, respect minorities and ensure religious harmony and devote ourselves to welfare/community services.

One is considered to have Civic Sense if he is caring and sensitive towards the elderly, women, children, disabled persons, the poor, the needy, neighbours, companions, subordinates, officers, public and private property, the environment, the animals, natural resources, or in short is behaving better with everyone and everything everywhere. It is about keeping lane while driving, desisting from rash driving or from driving while not in senses, throwing garbage but in a dustbin or designated places and avoiding smoking at public transport/places.

DO PAKISTANIS HAVE or LACK CIVIC SENSE?

Pakistan has been abundantly bestowed with natural resources. It has a highly fertile land. It has plenty of water. Its people are very intelligent and hard-working who have proved their worth and competence in every corner of the world. But the lack of civic sense is tarnishing our image as a respectable nation in the comity of nations and making the country an inhospitable place for both humans and animals. Instead of utilising the abundant natural and physical resources with care, these are being destroyed/wasted with impunity.

Good manners are exceptionally important in life and at the workplace. Unfortunately, most Pakistanis lack civil sense. They generally spit here and there, throw litters on and dirty the roads/public parks/platforms, disturb others by playing high-pitched music; we don’t care for others; we freely tease and harm others if we can escape getting caught/punished; we want to please our Lord by doing Naat-Khaani on loudspeakers even if it does adds to the woes of the neighbours or the sick; we waste natural resources with impunity and do not pay the utility bills; we violate laws, especially the traffic rules; we drive recklessly–one-wheeling on motorbikes is frequently seen; we write advertisements/graffiti on walls especially those of the toilets; we give bribes; we smoke in public places/vehicles; we ridicule the poor; we are intolerant towards others; and suspect and abuse others for nothing; hardly a few amongst us have the courtesy to offer their seat to a woman or an old person in public transport; the heaps of garbage in public parks, sea views, lakes and gardens, waste of food in functions and profuse use of polythene bags in our society display how acutely we lack civic sense. The polythene bags are not only creating health hazards but have the potential to disturb life in cities and destroy agriculture by blocking the sewerage and irrigation systems.

The scourges of extremism and terrorism are extreme manifestations of this lack of civic sense. Extremism has been resulted by the lack of due regard and tolerance for opponents and opposing ideologies. And terrorism is the result of a callous and ruthless mindset which divides the world between “us and them” and where there right of security of life and property is available only to ‘us’ while death is reserved for ‘them’, the opponents. Obviously, a man having civic sense –or regard for the life, honour, peace, happiness and ease of others- can neither be an extremist nor terrorism.

We often see people parking their vehicles in front of ‘No Parking’ signboards and at the footpaths. Materialism, terrorism, sectarianism, extremism, intolerance, racism, mud- slinging and quarrelling on petty issues, a mad race to excel others in money and prestige and disregard for the rule of law are both causes and manifestations of this lack of civic sense. Instead of listening carefully and respectfully to what others say, most of us resort to taunting and vandalism. As a nation, it seems, we are ruled more by our emotions than mind.

We claim having a strong culture of discipline and decency but then our people forget everything when it comes to eating and swarm the food in festivals and programmes.

WHY DO PAKISTANIS LACK CIVIC SENSE?

The familiar stereotyped perception is that the illiterate and the poor have no civic sense but it is erroneous to associate the lack of civic sense to wealth or poverty as the rich and the mighty also display lack of civic sense. For example, they delay flights with complete disregard for other passengers.

Lack of civic sense could be either due to lack of education and awareness. It could also be resulted by the lack of sensitivity and disregard for one’s obligations either for sheer arrogance or for the fact that there is monitoring/accountability structure in a given society that is required for forcing compliance to law. It is rightly said that people who have no sense of duties also have no civic sense and they usually violate not only laws but ethical obligations as well.

Then, we Pakistanis are always in a hurry so lining up and waiting for one’s turn is rarely seen. Again, materialism is fuelling the mad race for self-aggrandisement and account for the vices of corruption, nepotism, favouritism and other malpractices in government departments and private/public dealings.

Many dream of bringing change in Pakistan. But hardly a few are ready to change themselves. We want to bring change but only by criticising/correcting others. We are least prepared for introspection and self-reformation. The basic principle –that we cannot bring change unless we change ourselves, our attitudes and our mindsets –is generally forgotten

There is a memorable quote that best describes our style of religiosity. It read: “Pakistan is facing problems because everyone here wants a hearty share from the temporal bounties for himself/herself but is worried for the life-hereafter of others”.

The media, the intelligentsia and the education curricula could have been more helpful in bringing home the importance of civic sense. It has, unfortunately, been neglected thus far.

WHAT IS NEEDED FOR PROMOTING CIVIC SENSE?

NOT GOVERNMENT ALONE?

All responsibilities and tasks should not be left to government. Citizens need to perform their due role in each walk of life. We will have to shun the mentality that we have the right to throw garbage and spit anywhere and that it is the government’s duty to clean it.

INTROSPECTION AND SELF-IMPROVEMENT

For things to change, we must change. For things to get better, we must get better. We need to change ourselves first if we want change, reform and improved services. Setting a good example is better than teaching/preaching others what to do and what not to do. The Quran also declares: “Do you ask others to do the right things and forget about yourself?”

EMPATHY

We must be empathic. Empathy is trying to feel what somebody else is feeling or look at something through someone else’s eyes so as to understand, help and console him/her if needed. We should always have capacity and penchant to put ourselves in other place and think what would I have felt if this and that had been done to me. We need to be more civilized and caring for others. He/she must respect and facilitate others at home, schools, offices, hospitals, parks, transport and thoroughfares and in dealings, interactions, engagements and functions.

RIGHTS IMPLY DUTIES

It must never be forgotten that rights imply duties. Our rights are duties for others and others’ rights are duties for us. If we have a right to good, clean and peaceful environment, resources, security of life and property, and to be treated respectfully, these rights also imply duties on our part towards others. We must remember that every citizen has the right to enjoy civic amenities like drinking water, electricity, transport facilities etc. It is the duty of every citizen to use these civic amenities properly/carefully and pay the bills and other taxes imposed by the government so that welfare –development and repair/maintenance expenditures of public facilities –could be financed.

CONCERTED EFFORTS BY DIFFERENT STAKEHOLDERS

Different stakeholders –government, law enforcement agencies, media, religious scholars, civil society, professionals, the intelligentsia, and all others –should be involved and need to play their roles in promoting civic sense among the people.

ADVOCACY/ AWARENESS CAMPAIGNS

There is a great need to educate/motivate people, organize training sessions, and run advocacy campaigns. There print and electronic media, the ulema, the civil society and the intelligentsia should spread more awareness on the demands of urbanisation, social ethics and conservation of natural resources and our duties as predecessors to our successors –the next generations.

INCORPORATING CIVIC SENSE IN TEXTBOOKS

Government should include reading material regarding civic sense in textbooks. By educating the youngsters in schools through textbooks, pictures and videos on civic sense, we will not only be making him a better human being but also help rebuilding the country.

PICTURES AND VIDEOS ON CIVIC SENSE

Media could promote civic sense by telecasting/broadcasting short clips about positive and negative behaviours. There are quite a lot of useful and impressive videos already available on the internet on civic sense. In one of them, a person spit in front of neighbour’s door. The neighbour cleans it daily and smiles back whenever the guilty one passes by. At last, the guilty person repents and gives up the bad habit. In another, four youngsters dirty a wall. Usually, passersby warn and try to beat the boys and they disappear but reappear soon to start dirtying the wall again. This practice goes on until a boy with civic sense appears. He brings water and duster to cleanse the wall dirtied by the boys. He is soon joined by many passersby in his effort. At last, the trouble-makers too come and help wash/cleanse the wall.

COMPETITIONS ON CIVIC SENSE BETWEEN PERSONS, TOWNS, CITIES

The government and civil society should announce competitions on different aspects of civic sense like cleanliness, courtesy, humility, cooperation, following the law, paying taxes, helping the needy, caring for others, respecting others, tolerance, awareness and sensitivity to others’ rights, sense of duty and service to humanity etc. These competitions could be used to ascertain and reward the person with the best civic sense in offices, departments, institutions, localities. Similarly, this competition could be used to determine the best cities, villages, wards, Union councils, tehsils and districts on any of the above aspects.

BAN ON POLYTHENE BAGS

As regards the abundant use of polythene bags, the government should prohibit the carrying of daily items in plastic bags. The ban is already there but it needs to be implemented.

BAN ON ONE-WHEELING

One-wheeling has resulted in countless tragedies but it, nevertheless, continues. It is not only insensitivity for one’s own but also for others’ lives. Merry-making at the cost of human lives cannot be tolerated.

ACCOUNTABILITY MECHANISM

Government should announce that the shopkeepers and residents of a particular locality would have to dump their garbage at identified points only. It must also ensure that if someone is not throwing garbage in its proper place, he/she will have to pay a specific fine. The administration should bring to book the culprits destroying the natural resources and playing havoc with the lives and peace in society.

 

 

Schools under watch

 http://tns.thenews.com.pk/schools-watch-education-monitoring-units-kpk/#.U1wh4KzOXp8

Will the Independent Monitoring Unit help improve attendance and performance of teachers and education administrators in KPK?

Schools under watch
Anything but a school.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has launched an Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU) to improve attendance and performance of teachers and education administrators in the province. The IMU has been established under a three-year project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. Rs500 million have been allocated for the initiative this year and more funds will be set aside for it in the next budget(s). The project will be extended if found useful after a third-party verification. Rs100 million have also been earmarked for establishing a third-party monitoring mechanism.

Muhammad Atif Khan, Provincial Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department, says 475 IMU monitors — 303 men and 172 women — have been appointed on merit for boys and girls schools respectively. They receive a fixed pay of Rs30,000 a month. Male monitors have been given motorcycles with Rs10,000 fuel allowance.

Each KP district has been divided in groups, each consisting of up to 60 schools and every monitor is responsible for visiting all the schools in his group. He/she has to visit a school at least once a month.

On the terms of references (ToRs) and standard operating procedure (SoP) of monitors, the minister says they are basically real-time data collectors and transmitters. “They have been trained for the purpose. They will collect, physically verify and send immediately data on the attendance of teachers, enrolment/dropout rate of students, needs and deficiencies of teachers and other school paraphernalia etc.”

The monitors will also collect data on the inspection of officers to schools, the distribution of free textbooks, stipends to the female students and the parents-teachers’ council (PTC) and other school funds. He says monitors have been given smart-phones with a proper format for feeding data and a general packet radio system (GPRS) to collect and transmit real-time data of/from the concerned schools to the IMU head office in Peshawar.

Asked what measures have been taken to guard against the misuse of powers by monitors, Khan says, “The monitors have been trained to be polite to principals/teachers, not to indulge in reasoning and avoid meddling in the teaching learning process. Their performance will also be monitored and action will be taken if any genuine complaints come to surface against them. The IMU is independent of the department’s control. They have to submit data immediately from the school they visit. This has been done to save the system from data/record-tampering.”

Lack of basic facilities at schools is a big problem. Over 20 per cent of the functional public schools in KP still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities.

The KP Chief Minister, Pervez Khattak, recently issued directives of handing over the monitoring of all hospitals and basic health units to the IMU. But the system has been put in place in the education department only. The IMU has been empowered to monitor only schools in the public sector while education offices and private schools are still out of its ambit.

It is hoped the IMU will help pinpoint “ghost schools and proxy teachers” (the IMU, as reported, has detected 12 proxy teachers, four women among them, in government schools in Buner district recently), improve teachers’ attendance and make it easy/possible to take action against the corrupt and negligent elements in the department.

Most of the principals and head-masters of the E&SE Department support the initiative. They say teachers’ attendance and punctuality have improved significantly ever-since the launch of the IMU.

Mumtazuddin, a principal of a government higher secondary school, is all praise for the IMU. He says the IMU is a sort of an external counter-check upon the internal supervision system of the department. External or a third-party check, he says, is done everywhere in the world. “Officers fail to visit schools even in years. With teachers and internal monitors (administrative officers) mostly shirking responsibilities, the IMU is the need of the hour,” he says.

“Intra-district shuffling of monitors is being carried out every month to prevent the problems/dangers of familiarity/rapprochement between teachers and monitors. These dangers could be further minimised by inter-district shifting of monitors,” according to another principal.

Tahir Ali2

Some teachers support the move: “One of the biggest problems is the flawed monitoring system. Exceptions apart, our departmental monitoring system is too politicised, powerless and under-funded. One hopes the IMU will be kept safe from political interference, corruption, and data-delaying/tampering for whatever reasons. Much will depend also on whether its recommendations will be executed,” a teacher says.

But some term it ‘an unwarranted and inapt’ move that would ultimately bring little/no change. They say schools and teachers are monitored by head masters, and inspected by cluster heads, district education officers, directors, local bodies members, national and provincial assemblies’ members and chairman and members of the PTCs.

“There was no need to establish the IMU. Rather, the government should have strengthened/empowered the internal monitoring system. Schools should be left to the district education officers. Principals and officers should be empowered and political intervention in appointments and postings should be eliminated. Good administrators could do wonders,” says a teacher.

“Principals and administrators would also definitely give good results if facilities like smart-phones with GPRS connection and powers are provided to them and they are also made to report their inspection report immediately. Biometric attendance system at schools can also improve teachers’ punctuality. But teachers’ performance also needs to be improved. Principals should be explicitly authorised to hire new teachers from PTC or other school funds,” he argues.

Another teacher complains that earlier principals/headmasters and the district officers used to report on deficiencies and requirements of teachers, chairs, desks, books and other basic facilities regularly but these were scarcely fulfilled. Now monitors do the same, but will the government act upon their reports/recommendations? Khan responds the government will ensure speedy action on their reports and recommendations concerning administrative and financial matters and will allocate resources.

Khan says: “Rather it is a quest for excellence. Why would one have gone for this if the earlier internal monitoring system had been successful during the last 65 years? Our history proves and no one can contest that it has failed to deliver and that a change was needed.”

Another teacher, wishing anonymity, says: “The monitors visit a school once or twice a month. What if a teacher, who is otherwise punctual and dutiful, is on-leave or late on the monitor’s arrival date(s). Won’t that cause a negative and wrong perception about him in the IMU system?” He adds: “Educational monitoring is too technical a job to be left to inexperienced monitors. This is bound to fail.”

The KP E&SE Department possesses over 168000 employees with 133750 sanctioned and 119274 functional teachers who teach 3.9 million students in 28472 total and 27975 functional government primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools.

It means a monitor will check around 250-280 teachers and 58-60 schools. The monitor-employee ratio will be 1:350 if education offices also come under their oversight.

Besides weak monitoring mechanism, crowded classrooms, indifference of teachers and administrators and political interference, lack of basic facilities at schools is a big problem. Over 20 per cent of the functional public schools in KP still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities.

Tahir Ali

tahir ali
The author is an academic and a freelance columnist interested in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s politics, peace, education and economy. He may be reached at tahir_katlang@yahoo.com.
…………………
Original text of the article.
Impartial School Monitors
Or Independent Monitoring Unit
By Tahir Ali
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has launched the Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU) to improve attendance and performance of teachers and education administrators in the province.
The IMU has been established under a three years project funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. Rs500mn have been allocated for the initiative this year and more funds will be set aside for it in the next budget (s). The project will be extended if found useful after third party verification. Rs100mn have also been earmarked for establishing a third party monitoring mechanism.
Muhammad Atif Khan, provincial minister for Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) department, says 475 IMU monitors -303 male and 172 female –have been appointed on merit for boys and girls schools respectively. They receive a fixed pay of Rs30000/pm. Male monitors have been given motorcycles with Rs10000 fuel allowance while female the latter.
Each KP district has been divided in groups –each consisting of up to 60 schools and every monitor is responsible for visiting all the schools in his group. He/she has to visit a school at least once a month.
About a question on the terms of references (ToRs) and standard operating procedure (SoP) of monitors and whether they could monitor the teaching-learning process, he said they are basically real-time data collectors and transmitters. “They have been trained for the purpose. They will collect, physically verify and send immediately data on the attendance of teachers, enrolment/dropout rate of students, needs and deficiencies of teachers and other school paraphernalia etc,” he said.
Monitors will also collect data on the inspection of officers to schools, the distribution of free textbooks, stipends to the female students and on the parents-teachers’ council (PTC) and other school funds.
For this purpose, he said, monitors have been given smart-phones with a proper format for feeding data and a general packet radio system (GPRS) to collect and transmit real-time data of/from the concerned schools to the IMU head-office in Peshawar.
Asked what measures have been taken to guard against the misuse of powers by monitors, Khan said. “Monitors have been trained to be polite to principals/teachers, not to indulge in reasoning or misbehaviour with them and avoid meddling in the teaching learning process. Their performance will also be monitored and action will be taken if any genuine complaints come to surface against them. The IMU is independent of department’s control. They have to submit data immediately from the school they visit. This has been done to save the system from data/record-tampering.”
KP chief minister Pervez Khattak recently issued directives of handing over the monitoring of all hospitals and basic health units to IMU. But the system has been put in place in the education department only partially: It has been empowered to monitor only schools in the public sector while education offices and private schools are still out of its ambit.
It is hoped IMU will help pinpoint “ghost schools and proxy teachers” (The IMU, as reported, has detected 12 proxy teachers, four women among them, in government schools in Buner district recently), improve teachers’ attendance and make it easy/possible to take action against the corrupt and negligent elements in the department.
Most of the principals and head-masters of the E&SE department support the initiative. They say teachers’ attendance and punctuality have improved significantly ever-since the launch of IMU.
Mumtazuddin, a principal of a government higher secondary school, was all praise for the IMU. He said IMU was a sort of an external counter-check upon the internal supervision system of the department. External or third-party check, he said, is done everywhere and is vital for bringing improvement.
“Officers fail to visit schools even in years. With teachers and internal monitors (administrative officers) mostly shirking responsibilities, IMU –an external monitoring system –was the need of the hour,” he said.
“Intra-district shuffling of monitors is being carried out every month to protect against the problems/dangers of familiarity/rapprochement between teachers and monitors. These dangers could be further minimized by inter-district shifting of monitors,” according to another principal.
Some teachers support the move: “One of the biggest problems is the flawed monitoring system. Exceptions apart, our departmental monitoring system is too politicized, powerless, underfunded, busy in file-work or lacklustre to properly monitor the schools under their jurisdiction. One hopes the IMU will be kept safe from political interference, corruption, and data-delaying/tampering for whatever reasons. Much will depend also on whether its recommendations will be impartially executed,” a teacher said.
But some oppose it terming it as ‘an unwarranted and inapt’ move that would ultimately bring little/no change. They say schools and teachers are monitored by head masters, and inspected by cluster heads, district education officers, directors, local bodies members, national and provincial assemblies’ members and chairman and members of the PTCs.
“There was no need to establish the IMU. Rather, the government should have strengthened/empowered the internal monitoring system. Schools should be left to the district education officers. Principals and officers should be empowered and political intervention in appointments and postings should be eliminated. Good administrators, like Mushtaq Ahmad, the ex-DEO Mardan, who comprehensively inspected all the schools of the district within a short span of three months, could do wonders,” said a teacher.
“Principals and administrators would also definitely give good results if facilities like smart-phones with GPRS connection and powers are provided to them and they are also made to report their inspection report immediately. Biometric attendance system at schools can also improve teachers’ punctuality. But teachers’ competencies also need to be improved. Principals should be explicitly authorized to hire new teachers from PTC or other school funds,” he argued.
Another teacher said that earlier principals/headmasters and the district officers kept reporting the deficiencies and requirements on teachers, chairs, desks, books and other basic facilities regularly but these are scarcely fulfilled. Now monitors do the same but will the government act upon their reports/recommendations and fulfil the deficiencies? Khan responded the government will ensure speedy action on their reports and recommendations concerning administrative and financial matters and will allocate resources.
When asked whether the step/body was tantamount to a distrust on the existing monitoring mechanism and shouldn’t the age-old system have been reformed/strengthened rather than establishing a new system, Khan said: “Rather it is a quest for excellence. And why would one have gone for this if the earlier internal monitoring system had been successful during the last 65 years? Our history proves and no one can contest that it has failed to deliver and that a change was needed.”
Another teacher, wishing anonymity, said: “Monitors visit a school once or twice a month. Now what if a teacher who is otherwise punctual and dutiful is on-leave or late on the monitor’s arrival date(s). Won’t that cause a negative and wrong perception about him in the IMU system?”
“PTI has rewarded the youth with jobs as monitors. But educational monitoring is too difficult and technical a job to be left to inexperienced fellows. This is bound to fail. It will, however, create hatred for PTI amongst teachers as disputes surface later.”
The KP E&SE department possesses over 168000 employees with 133750 sanctioned and 119274 functional teachers who teach 3.9mn students in 28472 total but 27975 functional Government Primary, middle, high, and higher secondary schools.
It means a monitor will check around 250-280 teachers and 58-60 schools. The monitor-employee ratio will be 1:350 once education offices also come under their oversight, something impossible.
Experts say weak monitoring mechanism, teachers’ absenteeism, crowded classrooms, indifference of teachers and administrators, political interference and schools sans facilities, etc are some of the problems facing education in the province.
Distressingly, 20 per cent of the functional public schools still have no boundary walls, 30 per cent no water supply, 42 per cent no electricity and 16 per cent no toilets facilities. As for other facilities like library, computer and science laboratory, the report says, only 1205, 254 and 1152 off the 3092 male and 451, 154 and 561of the 1810 girls middle to higher schools have these facilities respectively. The rest have no such facilities and so are the GPSs.

Welcome to Swat

revival
Welcome to Swat
Thousands of tourists thronged the scenic valley of Kalam to attend the summer festival
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/jul2012-weekly/nos-22-07-2012/foo.htm#1

The influx of thousands of tourists to the scenic valley of Kalam to attend the recently-held summer festival was a rather welcome sign for the tourism industry in Swat, the Switzerland of Pakistan.

The festival was organised in Kalam and Mahodand simultaneously by the Pakistan Army from July 12-16. Programmes were held in Mahodand during the day and at the grassy ground near the Kalam bazaar at night.

According to the Inter Services Public Relations Swat in-charge Colonel Arif, thousands of tourists visited the valley following the return of peace and construction of roads — and sent a message to the world that Swat is now open for tourism.

Mahodand is a scenic resort located some 35km north-east of Kalam. There is a big natural lake where boats and other water vehicles were available on rent.

On the way, a traveller came across stunning glaciers, waterfalls and hydropower stations, and could devour some delectable snacks. Emergency medical camp had been established too. Accommodation in tents was available but several tourists had brought their own tents. Horse riding, free-fall and other athletic activities were also arranged.

However speeding cars and vans created a lot of dust as the road has not been carpeted yet — though it was negotiable even by small Suzuki cars. Some adventurous youngsters had reached the valley on motorbikes in groups.

Unlike previous years, when the Bahrain-Kalam road was navigated only by 4-wheel drives, this year public transport was available to Kalam from Mingora. However, no public transport was available between Kalam and Mahodand. Tourists either travelled by their own vehicles or hired taxi from Kalam at Rs2000-2500 for two way journey to and from Mahodand.

“I have been to various tourists resorts round the world but Mahodand is simply wonderful… The area has all the potential to attract tourists,” said Muneeza Hashmi, a tourist from Sialkot.

In the grassy ground of Kalam, tourists enjoyed festivities at night. Hayatullah Khan, another tourist, recollected it was the same ground where a militant in April 2009 had openly challenged the state — “It is heartening to see that today a multitude of tourists are attending the festivities”.

At night, dozens of tourists went up and down the road dancing to the noisy beat of music played in cars or that of drums played by local men.

The presence of vast number of female tourists was encouraging in the Kalam bazaar.

Unfortunately, no foreigner was seen strolling in Kalam or Bahrain or Miandam or other attractive valleys in the area. Are they not allowed or do they prefer not to come here, one wondered. But Col Arif said foreign tourists are not barred from visiting the area.

Tourism in Swat has been badly impacted by militancy, indifference of government and raging poverty. Kalam, Bahrain and Madyan were devastated by floods. Of the total 136 hotels swept away by floods in 2010, 50 were in Kalam. It still wears a deserted look. But friends and couples were sitting besides the river on boulders, charpoys and standing in the crystal clear water of the river Swat, enjoying snacks and chatting endlessly.

Details about the identity of tourists are registered at several checkposts between Kalam and Mahodand, which most tourists found to be time consuming. Zulfiqar Ali, a tourist, said he counted 17 checkposts from Dargai to Mahodand. “The number of checkposts could be reduced without any compromise on security by opening a big registration camp at Landaki Swat where the visitors are registered and issued special passes,” he said.

Zahid Khan also said though these are meant for public safety, there should be no more than 5 checkposts from Dargai to Kalam.

Col Arif however said that the number of checkposts was reduced from 29 last year to 15 this year to facilitate tourists. “Some tourists’ information and facilitation centres may have been mistaken as checkposts,” he said.

Though the hoteliers haven’t announced any special discount for the tourists unlike last season, Iftikhar Ahmad, a hotel manager in Bahrain, said room fares were far cheaper than other tourist resorts in Murree or Kaghan.

He was all praise for the USAID which he said offered in-cash and in-kind support to the hotel industry in Swat.

“Earlier communication to Kalam and other upper Swat areas would remain suspended for days. But last winter, for the first time in history, traffic to Kalam didn’t stop even for a day. Hopefully, the coming season will be the best in terms of winter tourism,” Col Arif added.

Zahid Khan, the president of Swat hotel association, said funds allocated for the roads should be released without delay. “Former Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani had promised he would release funds for the Swat expressway linked to Peshawar motorway but its fulfilment is still awaited. The Tourism Corporation KP should construct roads or provide chairlift facilities to far off valleys in Swat,” said Khan.

Though tourism is part of the productive sectors, the sector was allocated just Rs0.67billion or one per cent of the provincial annual development plan (ADP) in 2010. The next year, the sector’s budget was increased to Rs1.22bn or 1.4 per cent of ADP but has been slashed to Rs0.68billion this fiscal year.

There is however no foreign funded project in the ADP for the tourism sector in successive budgets.

Tourism has been devolved to the provinces, yet the PTDC hotels and motels are yet to be handed over to the province. If devolved, the resourceful PTDC would suffice the province to run the ministry from its own revenues.

Jamal Garhi’s Buddha site

Buddha’s footsteps

The sites of Jamal Garhi and Sawal Dher in NWFP are an archaeological treasure that needs more attention

By Tahir Ali

After crossing the Rashakai Bridge on Nowshera-Mardan road, you enter Mardan with a billboard saying ‘Welcome to Mardan: The land of Gandhara.’ Mardan has been the heart of ancient Gandhara and has a huge presence of the remains of Buddhist Civilization at Takht Bai, Jamal Garhi, Shahbaz Garhi, Therelli (Sawal Dher), Mekha Sanda, Chanakai Dheri, Aziz Dheri, Sehri Bahlol and so on. Sculptures excavated from here are displayed in various museums of Pakistan and around the world.

The archaeological site at Jamal Garhi lies to the northeast of Mardan City at a distance of 15 kilometres on the Mardan-Katlang road. This road has been renamed as Rahimullah Yousafzai’s Route after the great son of the soil who has achieved worldwide fame in journalism. Located between the villages of Jamal Garhi and Shikray Baba on top of a hill at an elevation of 122 metres, this site is called ‘The Jamal Garhi Kandarat’ by the locals. The remains at the site are traced back from 1st to 5th century A.D. It is said that Kushans, Little Kushans and Hindu Parthians had inhabited the place. With the end of the Kushan rule in 225 A.D., the Gandhara civilization gradually declined. The invasion of White Huns around 450-500 A.D. put an end to this era. The Huns virtually destroyed monasteries and killed its inhabitants. Little is known about this period. But a Chinese Pilgrim Fa Hsein, who travelled through the Peshawar valley in 400 A.D. said that the Gandhara region was flourishing then. When his successor Sung Yen came to the region in 520 A.D. he reported that the Huns had destroyed the country.

A company ‘Sappers and Miners’ explored this site first in 1873. As told by Yasir Ali, the site attendant, a statue of Buddha — known as the Fasting Buddha — recovered from here in 1907 was taken to the Lahore Museum where it is kept with the information that it was excavated from a village near the site. The Chinese Pilgrims say nothing about this important place. A Kharoshti inscription discovered from the excavation conducted during 1907-08 revealed Samavat 359, which corresponds to 275 A.D. In 1836 Sikh General made it Gandaparas. The site was excavated in 1876 and later on in 1910-11, it was again excavated.

The site comprises a main round stupa, circumscribed by chapels that are closely packed together. According to Sir John Marshal, a famous archaeologist, the round stupa at Jamal Garhi is one of the oldest from the Gandhara period. There are many votive stupas which were built by votaries who had got their wishes fulfilled here at the main round stupa. The Kitchens, courtyards, meditation rooms, secret wall, a meeting hall, general and guests’ dining hall and monks’ quarters are some of the important constructions at this complex. A distinctive feature of the site is the separate quarters, probably meant for the visiting scholars and monks. All the constructions are stone-made and are still intact in some of the cases. Another salient feature of the complex is the path in the middle.

The Jamal Garhi’s archaeological site is situated in the middle of Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi — the two other important Buddhist centres — at an equal distance of 12 kilometres from each side. The site is some eight kilometres away from another historical place of Therrelli (Sawal Dher) which is situated to its east and which also has many archaeological remains though they are in a very dilapidated condition and seem to have been forgotten. The Theralli Establishment was excavated by Japanese and Pakistani experts in three sessions — in 1964, 1966 and 1967. This is a large complex comprising main stupa, many surrounding votive stupas, residential rooms and other sections. This site also dates back to 1st to 5th century AD. and many of the remains have been destroyed by illegal excavators.

This monastery is easily accessible from each side. From Shahbaz Garhi you may approach it via Charguli to Sawal Dher to Katlang road. If you are at Takht Bhai, it is better you take up the Takht Bhai to Jamal Garhi route to reach here; and if you want to come straight to Jamal Garhi from Mardan, take up the Katlang-Mardan road. Here you will enjoy an easy drive right up to the site as Department of Archaeology and Museum, Government of Pakistan, has constructed a beautiful zigzagging passage with the help of Japanese engineers.

The Jamal Garhi and the Sawal Dher sites are not as yet on the world’s heritage list of UNESCO, which must be ensured. Visitors in the site told The News on Sunday that a tuck-shop, a police-post, a park, lavatories and seating arrangements with sun-cover are the immediate requirements of the place. They also urged an awareness campaign on the media about the site. Sajjad Haider, a visitor, called upon the department of Archaeology and Museums to expedite the repair work and save many of the remains from further damage. “It is our heritage. We must join hands with the government to preserve and develop the historical sites,” said a man Qayyum Khan. Bakht Raziq from Katlang suggested that power and water must necessarily be provided at the site without any further delay.

The Jamal Garhi’s site is ideally located for a picnic. It has a stream of fresh water flowing below on its northern side while the famous Lower Swat Canal and one of its subsidiaries flows close to it in the east. Despite the hot weather, cool breeze makes the weather pleasant throughout the summer.

The site affords an impressive view of the picturesque district of Mardan. Stand anywhere in the site and you will get a handsome panoramic view of Mardan and its surrounding areas. An excursion here especially at the time of sunrise and sunset is an excellent idea.

The hill on which the structures stand is part of a vast mountainous range and many tiers of mountains can be seen. Far in the west and east, the hills that house the Takht Bhai and Shahbaz Garhi’s archaeological remains are visible if the sky is blue and clear. Looking down below at the plain in the south is refreshing. But no less amusing and wonderful is the sight of the vast mountainous range in the north, east and west.

(The News, 18-05-08)

Takht Bhai’s magnificent Buddhist remains

Magnificent Buddhist remains

Text and Photos By Tahir Ali

The North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) (now renamed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) has been lavishly bestowed with various precious resources. It has plenty of water and a big power generation capacity, snow covered mountains, thick forests, gas reservoirs, vast gemstone deposits and other minerals. The presence of archaeological sites in Mardan, Swat and other areas adds further charm to its pristine beauty.

Mardan, the Frontier’s second largest city, is called the land of Gandhara as it was the heart of the ancient civilisation. Several remains of the civilisation can be seen at Takht-i-Bahi, Sehri Bahlol, Shahbaz Garhi, Jamal Garhi, Sawal Dher, Mekha Sanda, Chanakai Dheri, and Aziz Dheri.

The Takht-i-Bahi archaeological site is one of the most magnificent of Buddhist remains in Pakistan. It is situated on the Mardan-Swat road some 13km north of the city. The complex is accessible from Islamabad by a two-hour drive while from Peshawar it is some 80km away and is accessible in about an hour, thanks to the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway.

Located 2km east of Takht-i-Bahi bazaar, this Buddhist complex stands 500 feet above the ground and is built on a hilltop, as is common with all Buddhist structures.

As you go up the mountain you get a spectacular panoramic view of the plains in the east, south and west. Even more refreshing is the sight northwards of the beautiful Malakand pass and the Hindu Kush mountainous range.

The monastery and the near by village, some say, have been named after the two wells located on top of the hill that the complex is situated on. Others think Takht means ‘throne’ and Bahi or Bhai stands for ‘water’ or ‘spring’ in Persian. There is still a spring of fresh water present on the left side of this Buddhist site.

General Court, the French officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, first mentioned the site in 1836. Later it was explored in 1852, 1864, and 1869-70. General Maclagan’s deputed men found several sculptures here afterwards. Sergeant Wilcher of the company Sappers and Miners excavated it in 1871 and found innumerable sculptures,  some of these depicted stories from the life of Buddha, while others were related to worship.

In 1907-8, the curator of Peshawar Museum, Dr DB Spooner systematically excavated the site. Later, in 1910-11, Mr Hargreaves, another curator, discovered the famous and beautiful thin Siddhartha in three parts. A large number of stone and stucco sculptures have been excavated since then which are now on display in Peshawar and Mardan museums. Many, however, were wasted due to recklessness of excavators or were stolen.

According to some historians, the Takht-i-Bahi monastery was destroyed by the Huns of Central Asia along with many other Gandhara sites in the region. Their king Mihiragula, according to an account, destroyed 1600 stupas, monasteries and killed two thirds of Gandhara’s inhabitants and this complex also suffered heavily as a result.


According to some historians, the Takht-i-Bahi monastery was destroyed by the Huns of Central Asia along with many other Gandhara sites in the region.


Until 2001, only about 15% area of the whole site was exposed. In 2004-5, the department of archaeology discovered a huge-block on the western and southwestern sides of the site, which added new charm to it. Some famous statues of Buddha and Gandhara art pieces were excavated. The newly discovered part is many times bigger than the one previously exposed.

The site presents architectural diversity and beauty combined. It dates back to 2nd century BC and has a covered area of 650 canals. It comprises the main stupa and votive stupa courts, the kitchens and dinning hall, meditation cells, monastic quadrangle, covered underground passages, the monastery, conference hall, the low-level chambers, open courtyard, the court of three stupas, remains of hundreds of rooms and prison cells.

There is a small museum where a few statues and relics are displayed. The court of stupas, experts say, contained statues of Buddha in sitting and standing postures but were removed later. A statue of the Buddha is on display in the centre of the complex. The sight of the sculpture reminded me of my earlier visit here in 1995 when almost each stupa had statues in it. An official informed me that some of them are now either kept in Peshawar or in a safe location within the complex.

Walking around, you cannot help but wonder about the acumen of the architects of this complex. You can see that the monastery had cells for the monks on four sides, a veranda in front, and assembly hall and storerooms which gives an idea about the lifestyle of the monks.

There is plenty to explore here. Going down into the meditation rooms, you enter the various cells. The underground passage between the eastern and western and the central and western sections of the monastery atop the hill to the south are no less interesting.

Due to its historical significance and amazing architectural features, UNESCO has placed the site on its World heritage list. The Sahri-Bahlol remains that date back to the same period and are located a couple of kilometres away to its south, have also been awarded the status.

Zulfiqar Ali, a teacher who had come here with his students, told this writer that despite the fact that huge funds have been spent to attract visitors, still tourist facilities like cafeteria, tuck shop, and tourist information are not available. Another visitor felt annoyed that Takht-i-Bahi municipal committee was dropping garbage collected from the city near the site. Naveed, 30, a visitor from Mardan underlined the need for stopping illegal excavation and hill cutting near the site, arguing that it posed potential threat to the remains.

A few site attendants guide and facilitate the tourists as well as look after the site. One of them, Amjad Ali, told this writer that he was proud to be looking after this magnificent structure. He informed that tourists were on the decline since 9/11.

Major repair work at the site started in 2001 though it had been initiated by the British before partition. At present, the second five-year phase of repair work is underway. But several parts are on the verge of collapse and are being supported with iron bars to hold them up. However, more attention on the part of the federal and NWFP governments and UNESCO is needed for the conservation and restoration of this precious and rare remain site as well as others in the area. It remains to be seen if they will come to its rescue before it is too late.

tahir_katlang@yahoo.com
(DAWN, Jan 24,2008))


Above: Some brooken statues on display at the site
Left: A view of the Takht-i-Bahi complex
Below: Another view of the complex with one section supported to guard against collapse
Bottom left: The central part of the complex

Swat Peace/tourism festival

Peace festival and tourism in Swat
By Tahir Ali
(DAWN, Monday, 05 July, 2010)

BEFORE winter every year, Muhammad Rahim would shift his family fromthe cool climate of Kalam to Mardan. But no sooner did the spring season start, he would leave for his home town to serve in hotels there.

“Tourists, both local and foreign, come here in thousands and spend lavishly. I earn a handsome amount that is enough for me and my family for the rest of the year,” he used to say.

But since Swat ceased to be a tourist destination, he didn’t come to Mardan for he had no money to bear the expenses of his family’s temporary transportation and stay there.

Similar is the fate of millions of other Swatis who used to earn their livelihood directly or indirectly from the tourism industry who plunged into abysmal poverty as militancy started taking its toll in the area.

With the Aman festival, being arranged by the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority (PaRRSA) in collaboration with the Pakistan army, tourism industry in Swat is expected to gain momentum. Locals, however, say a vigorous media campaign is needed for the purpose.

“The success of the campaign hinges on the dissemination of as much information about the event as possible. Besides, information to tourists in several places and the levelling of Bahrain to Kalam road, though temporarily, is also required,” argued Zahid Khan, the president of Swat Hotel Association.

The first phase of the festival started in Mingora from June 29 while the second phase will begin in Kalam from July 11 to 18.

“There will be a 50 per cent discount on stay in hotels including PTDC and Serena. Besides, there would be a discount of about 20 per cent on local handicrafts. A 10 per cent discount on fare to Swat in Daewoo buses has also been announced. There would also be a 50 per cent discount on PTDC transportation and a 30-50 per cent discount on stay expenses in hotels. Food will also be served on reduced rates. We would run this years’ business on non-profit basis,” added Khan.

According to Adnan Khan, media coordinator for the PaRRSA, the festival is a versatile programme.

“During the festival, several programmes such as peace and car rallies, industrial and cultural events, mushaira, dance and musical night, circus, photo exhibitions, cricket and volley ball tournaments, boating and trout-fishing, paragliding will be organised,” he said.

“The event aims at revival of the tourism sector and allied industries, promotion of economic activities and creation of awareness about Swat at the national and international levels. We are hopeful that the event would revive tourism by 30- 50 per cent,” he added.

Zahid Khan also hopes that the festival will attract visitors and revive the badly impacted tourism in the region. “The Mela (fair) being arranged at the famous grassy ground has already attracted thousands of locals and hundreds of tourists. Advance bookings are being made in local hotels. As against the recent past, when life would come to halt after evening, thousands of people are enjoying themselves till late 2am these days,” he said.

“This is phenomenal change. It was the same ground where the militants last gathered in April 2009 and threw an open challenge to the government. It is now a place where beats of music reverberate,” said Nasir Khan, a local student.

“The flocking local females, youngsters, elders and children will not only get an opportunity to enjoy the mela being held after 25 long years and with their shining faces, they will also send positive signals about Swat and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.

“The local fruit and vegetable vendors earned a lot when the tourism industry flourished there. This year the famous Swat peaches are being sold at Rs20 per kg as against over Rs100 per kg when tourism flourished,” he said.

Before the rise of militancy, there were around 900 hotels and restaurants in the valley. Most of these were looted or destroyed in bomb blasts and shelling. Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs. Allied businesses also suffered heavily.
According to an estimate, the tourism industry suffered over $400 million in Swat in the last nine years. Around Rs8 billion, according to Zahid Khan, was directly lost by the hoteliers.

“But we are yet to get the promised compensation. We didn’t expect that our losses would be compensated. We do hope that the government would offer at least 20-30 per cent of that money so that we could repair, rebuild and refurbish our hotels for the next season,” he added.

…………………

This is How the article was printed in Business Recorder

Revival of tourism in Swat
TAHIR ALI

WEEKEND MAGAZINE (July 10 2010): Thousands of tourists are flocking to attend the Aman Festival in Swat. The festival is arranged by the Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) in collaboration with Pakistan army, tourism in Swat. The Switzerland of Pakistan, that had been badly impacted by years of militancy, once again gaining momentum.

Revival of tourism in the scenic valley of Swat is central to the defeat of terrorism and extremism and rehabilitation of people in Swat as millions of them are directly or indirectly dependent upon the sector but it requires a robust media campaign to achieve the goal. “The success of the campaign hinges on the dissemination of as much information about the event as possible. Full pledged and continuous advertisement campaign on print and electronic media is urgently needed. Besides, information to tourist about different places is also required,” argued Zahid Khan, the president of Swat Hotel Association.

The first phase of the festival has started in Mingora from June 29 while the second phase will begin in Kalam from July 11 and will continue till 18th July. The festival is a versatile programme in which there is something for every person according to their taste. “During the festival, several programmes would be held such as peace and car rallies, industrial and cultural events such as basant, puppet shows, mushaira, sufi dance and musical night circus, photo exhibitions, cricket and volley ball tournaments, boating and trout-fishing, paragliding will be organised,” informed Adnan Khan, media coordinator for PaRRSA.

The event aims at revival of tourism sector and allied industries, promotion of economic activities and creation of awareness about Swat at the national and international level. PaRRSA being the primary rehabilitation body, see the festival as a step towards the ultimate rehabilitation of the people. It is hoped that the event would revive badly affected tourism by 30-50 percent” by attracting foreign and local tourists.

“The Mela (fair) being arranged at the famous Grassy ground has already attracted thousands of locals and hundreds of tourists. Advance bookings are being made in local hotels. As against the recent past, when life came to halt after evening, thousands of people are enjoying themselves late till 2.am these days,” he said.

“This is phenomenal change. It was the same ground where the militants last gathered in April 2009 and hurled an open challenge to the government. It is now a place where beats of music reverberate,” said Nasir Khan, a local student.

“The flocking local females, youngsters, elders and children will get an opportunity to enjoy the mela and circus, which is being held after 25 long years. With their shining faces, they will also send positive signals about Swat and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said. Zahid Khan wants the countrymen to visit Swat and help them revive tourism there on which livelihood of millions depends. Tourists would buy food, fruits, embroideries and other local goods and thus help in reviving the economy and therefore alleviate poverty in the region.

The local fruit and vegetable vendors earned a lot of money when the tourism industry flourished as their yields had more buyers when tourists visits and consumption became high in local hotels. “This year the famous Swat peaches are being sold at Rs 20 per kg as against over Rs 100 per kg when tourism was rampant. This is why we say that development of tourism is pre-requisite for the financial prosperity of the locals,” Nasir Khan informed.

The landscape of Swat is suitable for adventure tourism, eco-tourism, culture/heritage tourism, spiritual tourism, sports tourism, commercial tourism etc but the potential needs to be utilised. Tourism has had fetched the province billions annually until 2000. But militancy has brought about devastations to all sectors of economy including tourism.

There are around 900 hotels and restaurants in the valley. Most of these hotels were looted or destroyed in bomb blasts or shelling. Hundreds of thousands lost jobs. Allied businesses also suffered heavily.

According to an estimate, the tourism industry suffered over U$400 million in Swat in the last nine years and around Rs 8bn of the money, according to Zahid Khan, was directly lost by the hoteliers. “But we are yet to get the promised compensation. We didn’t expect that our losses would be compensated. But we do hope that the government would offer at least 20-30 percent of that money so that we could repair, rebuild and refurbish the hotels for next season,” he added.

The Sarhad Tourism Corporation, a source claimed, is giving no support for the Aman festival. The STC’s website doesn’t have any information on the event. Instead, it has an advertisement on the Shindur festival, which is scheduled to start on July 9 and which is being boycotted by the Gilgit Baltistan government on the plea that it falls within its jurisdiction and that the STC should not meddle into its affair.

Community involvement in the management and security of tourists should also be ensured. “Malamjabba ski resort should be reinstated. Another place Gabinajabba near Kabal, which is covered by snow even in mid June/July should also be developed. Buddhist and Hindu festivals can be arranged. A ski resort at Bishay Kalam can also be developed. There are several natural lakes spread over vast areas but access to them should be made easy and secure,” demanded a Kalam-based hotelier.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2010

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