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.

 

 

Reflections and Lessons

Reflections and Lessons
PTI Chief Imran Khan’s decision to postpone the lockdown of federal capital Islamabad on November 2 is a welcome step. The Supreme Court of Pakistan earlier gave PTI the much needed face-saving and the government a respite today after it asked the councils of the two parties to submit TORs for the formation of the commission before November 3 or else it will decide on them itself. The nation at large will also find itself at ease at last as the final outcome of PTI’s stubbornness to hold and the government’s strong resolve to stop the Dharna could be devastating for economy and democracy in the country.
Now that tension has subsided for the time being and the law is likely to take its course, there should be a reflection on what was being, and what needs to be, done for the last few weeks. That the Panama Leaks issue and corruption needed to have been addressed earnestly, quickly and comprehensively, no one could deny. A wayout between the opposing viewpoints of the government and opposition on the TORs and modalities of the investigation for the purpose would have been possible if there had been a genuine desire to do that. Unfortunately, the government opted for delaying tactics while the opposition wanted to make it PM-specific which was both immoral and unjust. The important issue of fighting, investigating and eradicating corruption justly and fairly was thus forgotten and made into an issue to settle scores against one’s political opponent (s).
And while the PM and his government could have enacted legislation and sent its own TORs for the commission or written again to the CJP to expedite the process for the formation of the commission, it played its own part in vitiating the political atmosphere by unleashing its media tigers on the equally resolute PTI leadership which had decided to hold a dharna in Islamabad neglecting the security threats facing the country as well as the norms of genuine democratic political struggle
The political leadership of the country will do extreme good to the country’s stability, prosperity and future if it decides to take care of a few principles. One, democracy demands more restraint, respect and sobriety when it comes to human rights. Two, there should be no more repetition of any unsubstantiated accusations. Three, no person can be punished or condemned unless proven guilty. Fourth, no one can be allowed to become an accuser and judge himself. Fifth, in a polity and democracy, it is the judiciary and not street power that is the ultimate third umpire between a plaintiff and an accused. Sixth, decisions of the judiciary must be respected even if it is against one’s expectations. Seventh, democratic forces need to talk in parliament and media and never take to dharnas for a few years to come.
TAHIR ALI

Qital in Pakistan?

Genesis of the Jamaat
Tahir Ali November 30, 2014

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/genesis-of-jamaat-e-islami/#.VaDmAomxVK0 Nov 30,2014

Is Jamaat-e-Islami switching over from its peaceful democratic struggle to violent means to achieve its objectives?

Genesis of the Jamaat
Does Munawar Hasan know the implications of his views?Tahir-Ali2

Addressing last week’s Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) annual gathering in Lahore, former JI Ameer Munawar Hasan said that it was beyond the system based on elections to overcome the challenges being faced by Pakistan. “The problems of the society… can only be resolved through adopting and promoting the culture of jihad and qataal in the country. We need to wage jihad in the way of Almighty Allah along with democratic struggle to eliminate oppression and injustice from society.”
Does Munawar Hasan know the implications of his views? Will this qataal be against Pakistani security forces, political and religious leadership, parties or the entire system? Is the state on the wrong side and Taliban on the right or vice versa? Does JI support al-Qaeda?
It is ironical that he was the Ameer of JI and a successor of Maulana Maududi. Did Maududi write his famous book Aljehad Fil Islam on the strategy of qataal in a Muslim society? Munawar Hasan himself has never visited the battlefield himself or allowed his family members to go to the frontline. His assertion is likely to be misconstrued as an invitation/permission for violent reformation struggle.
Munawar Hasan represents a narrative in Pakistan that has many buyers. This narrative looks at democracy and electoral system as a hurdle in change. He dreams of an Islamic revolution, favours use of force to coerce compliance to Shariah, doesn’t accept the state boundaries and believes in Ummah as a political concept, sympathises with militants and considers them Mujahideen, thinks suicide attacks and terrorism are planned and executed by local agencies or Raw, CIA, Blackwater and attributed to Muslims to malign Islam, opposes military operations against militants and urges talks with them and so on.
Also read: The ameer and his party
He is not alone in these views. And there are many reasons — our dysfunctional system of justice and social services delivery system has disillusioned the masses. Private TV channels, intellectuals, religious class and state institutions have played their role to perpetuate and expand this disillusionment. Anti-democracy sentiments have spread especially in religious parties which have traditionally received negligible electoral success. The JUI F talks of democracy, for it has enjoyed sufficient electoral benefits.
JI at a crossroads
Earlier, Munawar Hasan had said that JI shared the same ideology with TTP and that the difference was in the tactics that JI employed. But how could JI, a political party that believes in democracy and constitutional rule within Pakistan, and al Qaeda and TTP, militant violent outfits that work for global khilafat, have same ideology.
Munawar Hasan represents a narrative in Pakistan that has many buyers. This narrative looks at democracy and electoral system as a hurdle in change. He dreams of an Islamic revolution.
There is no room for violent means in the JI strategy. Article 5 of the JI Constitution spells out that for the desired reform and revolution, the Jamaat shall use democratic and constitutional means, i.e., the use of advice and propagation of thought for reforming the mind and character, and preparing public opinion for accepting the desired changes and that this struggle for the realisation of its objectives shall be open and public, and not on the pattern of secret movements.
JI has several advantages vis-à-vis its rivals — discipline, countrywide support, internal democracy and simplicity. Even though Sirajul Haq, Ameer JI, says ballot paper is the only source of power and reformation, JI is at a crossroads. It has to decide whether it prefers the successful peaceful democratic Turkish model or the failed reactionary/violent Algerian and Egyptian models.
It has to decide whether it has to maintain status quo in its targets, ideology, structure and strategy. Or it has to become an ultra right militant group like al-Qaeda and TTP, or it reviews its plans and performances in the light of careful analyses of failure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, to shape anew its political vision and mission and become a modern party.
Private jihad not allowed
Jihad is not synonymous with terrorism but opinions differ on what constitutes true jihad. For example, al-Qaeda and TTP assert that they fight for Islam; what is jihad for them is terrorism for others. There is no concept of war without state permission. War has only to be declared and managed by the state and government.
Similarly, administration of justice and execution of punishment is also the sole authority of the state. Women, sick people, children, animals, crops and non-combatants cannot be targeted. And desecration of bodies and targeting of religious places is not allowed.
All big religious schools of thought agree over this. There is no exemption for anyone.
Maulana Maududi never approved of jihad by private outfits. He had even outlawed jihad in Kashmir in 1948 for Pakistan had infiltrated private fighters there without any formal declaration of war. Had he been alive, he certainly would not have liked JI’s militant leanings.
Covert war against state(s) having diplomatic relations with Pakistan?
Maulana Maududi refers to Surah Anfaal 8:72, which says that Muslims are not allowed to indulge in secret subversive activities against infidels. He explains: “If we get into a dispute with a nation we are associated in a treaty with, and we realise that dialogue or international arbitration is not helpful in resolving the conflict or that it is bent on using force, it is legitimate for us to use force for its resolution. But this verse makes us morally bound that this use of force should come after clear and open declaration. To undertake covert armed activities, which we are not ready to admit openly, is an immorality which is not taught by Islam.”
Muslim states responsible only for their own citizens
In this verse, it has also been mandated that Islamic state is in no way responsible for the Muslims living outside its border. Maududi explains: “The responsibility of the Islamic states, as per this verse, is restricted to those living inside its borders….thus Islam has uprooted the very dispute that often originates from international complexities because when a country takes it upon itself to support some minorities living in other countries, it creates such anomalies that cannot be even solved by recurrent wars.”
What is Ummah?
Ummah is a spiritual concept but it is unfeasible as a political ideology. Unity is witnessed in Hajj which is a religious gathering. However, when Muslims come together in UN, OPEC, OIC, ECO etc which are political or economic entities, each country tries to safeguard its own interests for the ruler of each is the guardian of his nation who is accountable to/for his subjects. And when religious sects/parties cannot tolerate their rivals in other sects and in political struggle/fields and don’t unite into one, how could they argue for global Muslim Ummah neglecting state boundaries.
Muslims live in different countries and though they have sympathies with Muslims, every state pursues its own national interests first.
Sirajul Haq as a political leader prefers his party interests. As KP Finance Minister, he is not ready to share KP benefits with other provinces. At individual level, a Muslim doesn’t let stranger “Muslim brothers” enter his house or let them construct house on his land. Can he travel to another country without a valid visa issued by the other state from the Muslim ummah? Where is ummah in this equation?
Confusion?
Religious parties are confused over the genesis of terrorism. Terrorism can either be the work of foreigners/non Muslims or of extremists who are unhappy with the foreign policy. It cannot be two things at the same time. If it is the work of the former, there should be no reason to attribute the rise of terrorism to our alliance with the West and to suggest withdrawal from the coalition or talks with them as the prerequisite for peace in the region. And if it is committed by extremists, foreign agencies get automatically absolved of the blame.
Even if, as they say, Pakistan’s alliance with the West is the only reason for terrorism in Pakistan, does this justify the violence perpetrated by the extremists? They are yet to openly declare the TTP’s strategy unjust and un-Islamic.

Tahir Ali
tahir ali
The author is an academic and a freelance columnist. He blogs at tahirkatlang.wordpress.com and can be reached at tahir_katlang@yahoo.com.

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ORIGINAL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE

Jihad and Qital and democracy

By Tahir Ali

Addressing last week’s Jamaate Islami’s (JI) annual gathering in Lahore, Munawar Hasan, Ex Amir JI, ruled that it was beyond the system based on elections to overcome the challenges being faced by Pakistan. “I won’t mince my words in declaring that the problems of the society in which we live can only be resolved through adopting and promoting the culture of Jihad and Qital (war) in the country. “We need to wage Jihad in the way of Almighty Allah along with democratic struggle to eliminate oppression and injustice from society.”

When MH says Jihad and Qital is needed to support democratic dispensation which alone doesn’t suffice to solve problems, does he know what could be the implications of his views? Will this Qital be against Pakistani security forces, political and religious leadership, parties or the entire system? Is the state on the wrong and Taliban on the right or vice versa? Does JI support Alqaeda? Is it legitimate to wage war against Pakistan and its citizens? The nation awaits clarification.

It is ironical he was the Amir of JI and a successor of Maulana Madoodi who was famous for his constitutional mind. Did Maulana Maudoodi write his famous book Aljehad Fil Islam on the strategy of Qital in a Muslim society? And then MH has passed almost his entire life in the peaceful democratic political struggle. He doesn’t seem ever to have visited battlefield himself or allowed his family members to go to the frontline of Qital. Then why this assertion which could be misunderstood by Pakistani youth as an invitation/permission for violent reformation struggle.

By persisting with intermittent statements that often trigger controversies, Munawar Hasan has shown that the leftwing activist in him who joined the National Students Federation – a student body with a communist ideology- and was elected its President in 1959 is very much still there. In NSF, he seems to have contracted an extreme hatred for the ‘US Imperialism’ that still overwhelmingly shapes his thoughts. Whosoever that fights or claims to fight with the US becomes his hero. An acute hatred of this kind often leads one to deviate from the path of justice and fair-play.

Munawar Hasan represents a narrative in Pakistan that has, nevertheless, many buyers here. This narrative looks at democracy and electoral system as a hurdle in change’; dreams of an Islamic revolution; favours use of force to coerce compliance to Shariah; doesn’t accept the state boundaries and believes in Ummah as a political concept; sympathises with  militants and considers them Mujahideen in Allah’s path; thinks suicide attacks and terrorism are planned and executed by local agencies or Raw, CIA, Blackwater and attributed to Muslims to malign Islam; opposes military operations against militants and urges talks with them and so on.

He is not alone in these views. Many do so. Reasons thereof are many. Our dysfunctional system of justice and social services delivery system has disillusioned the masses. Private TV channels, intellectuals, religious class and state institutions played their role to perpetuate and expand this disillusionment. Anti-democracy sentiments have spread enormously especially in religious parties which have traditionally received negligible electoral success. JUI F talks of democracy for it has enjoyed sufficient benefits from its democratic manoeuvres so far.

JI at a crossroads

Earlier, Munawar Hasan had said that JI shared the same ideology with TTP and that the difference was in the tactics that JI employed. But how could JI, a political party that believes in democracy and constitutional rule within Pakistan, and Alqaeda and TTP, militant violent outfits that work for global khilafat, have same ideology, one fails to understand.

There is no room for violent means in JI strategy. Article 5 of the JI Constitution spells out that for the desired reform and revolution, the Jamaat shall use democratic and constitutional means, i.e., the use of advice and propagation of thought for reforming the mind and character and preparing public opinion for accepting the desired changes and that this struggle for the realisation of its objectives shall be open and public, and not on the pattern of secret movements.

JI has several advantages vis-à-vis its rivals like discipline, countrywide support, internal democracy and simplicity. Even though Sirajul Haq, Amir JI, says ballot paper is the only source of power and reformation, JI is at a crossroads. It has to decide whether it prefers the successful peaceful democratic Turkish model or the failed reactionary/violent Algerian and Egyptian models.

It has to decide whether it has to maintain status quo in its targets, ideology, structure and strategy. Or it has to become an ultra right militant group like Alqaeda and TTP, or it reviews its plans and performances in the light of careful analysis of failure of Egypt’s Muslim brotherhood and turkey’s  Justice and Development Party, to shape anew its political vision and mission and become a modern party.

Muslims should obey their rulers

Religion doesn’t prescribe a particular political system but it gives broad principles that the government of the Muslims be formed and run through consultations, that it should be obeyed in all matters except vices, that disobedience to it is a sin and revolt against it is not allowed unless a kufre bawah (open heresy like denouncing Quran or prayer or Haj for example) is witnessed, that baaghi (mutineers) and fasadi (mischief-mongers) will be with dealt severely etc.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “If someone ever hears some disgusting things from his ruler, he should observe patience because if anyone went out even a hand sized distance from the obedience of his government and died thus, he died in a state of jahiliant (ignorance) [Bukhari 7053]. But if he is ordered to commit a sin, he will neither listen to him nor obey him [Muslim 4763].

 

Private Jihad not allowed

Jihad is not synonymous with terrorism but opinions differ on what constitute true Jihad. For example, Alqaeda and TTP assert that they fight for Islam. What is Jihad for them is terrorism to others. There is no concept of war without state permission. War has only to be declared and managed by the state and government. Similarly administration of justice and execution of punishment is also the sole authority of the state. Women, the sick, the children, animals, crops and Non-combatants cannot be targeted which are. And desecration of bodies and targeting of religious places is not allowed. All big religious schools of thought agree over this. There is no exemption in this principle for anyone. When Allah didn’t even confer on His prophets the right to declare war without first gaining state/sovereign power, how can it be given to the Mujahideen of today?

Maulana Maudoodi never approved of Jihad by private outfits. He had even outlawed Jihad in Kashmir in 1948 for Pakistan had infiltrated private fighters there without any formal declaration of war. Had he been alive, he certainly would not have liked JI militant leanings. It is incomprehensible that MH learnt from his 40plus years of association with Maulana Maudoodi and JI that a culture of Qital needs to be spread in Pakistan. It deserves a better future than being subjected to and degenerated to be like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Labya by recourse to militancy?

Covert war against state(s) having diplomatic relations with Pakistan?

Muslims, in Anfaal 8:72, are not allowed to indulge in secret subversive activities against infidels, what to talk of Muslim governments. Maulana Maudoodi explains: “If we get into a dispute with a nation we are associated in a treaty with, and we realise that dialogue or international arbitration is not helpful in resolving the conflict or that it is bent on using force, it is legitimate for us to use force for its resolution. But this verse makes us morally bound that this use of force should come after clear and open declaration. To undertake covert armed activities, which we are not ready to admit openly, is an immorality which is not taught by Islam.”

Suicide attacks are also wrong and illegitimate from Islamic perspective for in a suicide attack, the attacker kills himself first with his own hands which is prohibited in Islam.

Muslim states responsible only for their own citizens

In this verse, it has also been mandated that Islamic state is in no way responsible for the Muslims living outside its border. Maudoodi explains: “the responsibility of the Islamic states, as per this verse, is restricted to those living inside its borders….thus Islam has uprooted the very dispute that often originates international complexities because when a country takes it upon itself to support some minorities living in other countries, it creates such anomalies that cannot be even solved by recurrent wars.”

Democratic and peaceful struggle

The situation is Pakistan is that to the extent of statute book, all laws (except the interest based bank transactions) are in consonance with traditional Islamic jurisprudence. If our system has failed to deliver it is because the laws are not being rightly followed, plaintiff and defendant lie in courts, witnesses either decline to give testimony or give wrong one, the police is corrupt, the lawyers use delaying tactics and the court officials seek bribes. There is room for improvement but the only way to remove the shortcomings and bring improvement in the government and individuals is the peaceful non-violent way comprising strategies of education, incitement, persuasion, encouragement, giving good tidings and informing/cautioning on vices. The violent strategy for that purpose leads only to disunity, injustices, anarchy and destruction.

Democracy may have its shortcomings but its benefits outnumber its drawbacks. It provides opportunity for gradual improvement. When peaceful change is possible (MMA, PTI mandate) why resort to illegal violent means?

Is coercion allowed?

 

Extremists advocate Jihad increases compliance with Islamic laws. But Muslims are not bound or entitled to force people or governments to come to the right path. Even the prophets of Allah were bound to preach and not to be dictators and force compliance. How could others be? Preaching should be done slowly, gradually, peacefully, affectionately and patiently. All the great Scholars of all Islam- Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, Imam Ahmad, Imam Shafi, Imam Bukhari etc never resorted to armed struggle against Muslim rulers who were more vicious and sinful than the rulers of today.

What is Ummah? Where is Ummah

Ummah is a spiritual concept but it is unfeasible as a political ideology. Unity is witnessed in Hajj which is a religious gathering. However when Muslims come together in UN, OPEC, OIC, ECO etc which are political or economic entities, each tries to safeguard its own interests for the ruler of each is the guardian of his nation who is accountable to/for his subjects. And when religious sects/parties cannot tolerate their rivals in other sects and in political struggle/fields and don’t unite into one, how could they argue for global Muslim ummah neglecting state boundaries. Muslims live in different countries and though they have sympathies with Muslims, every state pursues its own national interests first. Sirajul Haq as a political leader prefers his party interests and as KP finance minister is not ready to share KP benefits with other provinces. At individual level, a Muslim doesn’t let stranger “Muslim brothers” enter his house or let them construct house on his land. Can he travel to another country without a valid visa issued by the other state from the Muslim ummah? Where is ummah in this equation?
Gradual reformation?

Many Islamists who are eager and impatient to bring revolution are confusing two things: first, to desire and work for reformation; two, to be able to realise the dream. While Muslims are asked to work for bringing reformation, they are not bound to ensure it at any cost. They have to work for that and if they fail, they still will be rewarded for their sincere efforts. Forgetting this difference leads one to resort to hasty violent means for achieving objectives.

A collective system and its continuous reformation is the prerequisite for a civilised life but there is disagreement over whether reformation of society should precede that of the political system or follow it. One viewpoint argues when society and its people are reformed, governmental system will improve. The other says a competent and honest government automatically entails a transformed and honest society.

Confusion?

 

Religious parties are confused over genesis of terrorism. Terrorism can either be the work of foreigners/non Muslims or of extremists who are unhappy with the foreign policy. It cannot be two things at the same time. If it is the work of the former, there should be no reason to attribute rise of terrorism to our alliance with the west and to suggest withdrawal from the coalition or talks with them as the pre-requisite for peace in the region. And if it is committed by the extremists, foreign agencies get automatically absolved of the blame.

Even if, as they say, Pakistan’s alliance with the west is the only reason for terrorism in Pakistan, does this justify the violence perpetrated by the extremists? They are yet to openly declare the TTP’s strategy unjust and un-Islamic.

Tahir Ali

The author is an academic and a freelance columnist. He blogs at tahirkatlang.wordpress.com and can be reached at tahir_katlang@yahoo.com

KP Development budget 2014-15

No change in sight

Will the KP government be able to meet ambitious development targets set in the budget?

 
No change in sight
 
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government presented its budget for 2014-15 with an outlay of Rs404.8 billion last week. The Rs139.8 billion annual development programme is 20 per cent higher than the current year. It also includes Rs39 billion foreign component of which 79 per cent are grants.

KP Finance Minister Sirajul Haq says the province has abundant human and natural resources but its population is living under poverty and backwardness due unfair distribution of resources and lack of good governance.

Major revenue receipts include Rs227.12 billion federal tax assignments, Rs12 billion net hydel profit plus Rs32.27 billion as NHP arrears, Rs29.26 billion oil/gas royalty, Rs27.29 billion war on terror grant, Rs35.35 billion as foreign assistance besides some others sources.

KP’s own revenue receipts estimated at Rs29 billion (up by 70 per cent against the current year) include Rs19.45 billion tax receipts and non-tax receipts of Rs9.3 billion. Rs12 billion as GST on services which rose by 100 per cent is inclusive of tax receipts. The province also earns Rs2.85 billion from own power plants. Current expenditure (welfare and administrative) will be Rs265 billion.

The government’s development priorities are right, people say, but they doubt it will be able to meet its defined goals. Our successive governments have failed to create jobs thus leaving Pakhtuns searching for even menial jobs in other provinces or abroad, they argue. Most of the development funds for the outgoing year largely remain unutilised, claims an industrialist.

Various hydel and alternate energy projects are being launched — Rs7 billion have been allocated to construct 350 small dams, while 400 megawatts of electricity will be produced through gas whose cheap energy will be given to industries.

The public-private partnership act has been approved. The private sector would be involved in the construction and maintenance of public sector development projects. New industrial zones will be established but there is no plan for the revival of the sick industrial clusters like Gadoon Industrial estate.

Various hydel and alternate energy projects are being launched — Rs7 billion have been allocated to construct 350 small dams, while 400 megawatts of electricity will be produced through gas whose cheap energy will be given to industries.

Zahidullah Shinwari, the president of the KP Chamber of Commerce and Industry, terms the budget a status-quo budget devoid of any vision and reform agenda. “KP is beset with flight of capital, rising unemployment, terrorism and energy shortage. Joblessness is on the rise — there is 14.8 per cent unemployment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against around 9.5 per cent at national level.”

“Emergency steps were needed for economic growth, industrial revival, infrastructure development, energy supply, revival of sick industrial units and improvement in law and order, but there is no proper roadmap. The government has failed to give new mineral, industrial, hydel, oil/gas and tourism policies reflective of its change agenda,” he said.

There is contradiction in the figures. The finance minister said the current ADP has 611 on going and 378 new projects of which 209 will be completed this fiscal. The remaining and ongoing project are therefore 780. But he said the next budget will have 1251 projects including 611 ongoing and 540 new projects.

In education sector, the government will upgrade schools, establish IT laboratories in high schools, provide furniture to 2300 schools, provide sports facilities in 2400 schools, provide scholarships to talented students and offer free education to special persons in all colleges of the province.

Agriculture is the mainstay of livelihood for over 70 per cent of KP people, acknowledges the minister, but for 46 projects, only Rs1.58 billion have been allocated. While the allocation has been marginally increased, it has in fact come down as percentage to the ADP — while the current year’s allocation was 1.8 per cent of local ADP, the new apportionment is 1.5 per cent.

In Rs39 billion foreign component of ADP, education again was the major beneficiary with Rs11.7 billion, followed by Rs7.6 billion for roads for five projects but agriculture gets only Rs0.8 billion, energy Rs2.6 billion and industries Rs1.6 billion.

The poverty and inability of farmers to use enough quality inputs to raise their produce is the biggest hitch, the minister says, but he comes up with only loans on easy terms for them.

The PTI fans and even some ministers are taking pride in ‘a record increase’ in education spending to Rs111 billion but critics say most of the allocation (over Rs80 billion) comprises current budget which is but natural for being the biggest employees-wise department of the province.

The detailed expenditure report for the current year also reveals that vital social and economic sectors of the ADP like social welfare, education, agriculture, energy/power and industries had been allocated Rs0.6 billion, Rs24 billion, Rs1.53 billion, Rs2.2 billion and Rs4.4 billion respectively, but actual utilisation remained at Rs.2 billion, Rs3.72 billion, Rs0.63 billion, Rs0.65 billion and Rs1 billion in this fiscal.

In a bid to increase KP’s own revenue receipts, the government intends to raise the ratio of provincial taxes and fees on stamp duty, professionals and professional institutions, business establishments, agriculture income and salaries. The rise in taxes/fees is expected to hit the consumers ultimately for it will be passed on to them. Strangely, a PTI-led government is to tax educational institutions including medical, engineering and law colleges.

As per the Finance Bill 2014-15, an annual tax of Rs330 will be levied on a person in any profession and trade who earns between Rs10,000-Rs20,000. While a person earning between Rs200,000-Rs500,000 will pay tax of Rs10,000.

The employees of grade 1-5 have been exempted from the tax and the minimum professional tax threshold has been increased from Rs6000/pm to Rs10000 a month which, the finance minister said, will provide relief to low income class. But does the assertion hold any ground on the face of the fact that minimum monthly pay has been already fixed at Rs12000/pm.

Twelve categories are suggested for urban immovable property (UIP) tax. For technical education, Rs3.7 billion have been allocated and a technical university will be established. Rs2.7 billion have been earmarked to give interest-free loans of Rs50,000-200,000 to jobless youth on their personal guarantee.

The government proposed ‘several austerity measures’ to bring down expenditure. No foreign treatment/training, no new cars and no posts to be allowed unless approved by the chief minister.

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ORIGINAL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE AS IT WAS SENT TO THE NEWS

KP budget 2014-15

By Tahir Ali

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government presented its balanced budget for 2014-15 with an outlay of Rs404.8bn last week.

The Rs139.8bn annual development programme is 20 per cent higher than the current year. It also includes Rs39bn foreign component of which 79 % are grants.

The KP finance minister Sirajul Haq says KP has abundant human and natural resources but its population is living under poverty and backwardness for unfair distribution of resources, flawed planning, joblessness, illiteracy, corruption, nepotism, weak accountability system and lack of good governance. He pledged making KP free of social, political and economic exploitation.

Major revenue receipts include Rs227.12bn federal tax assignments, Rs12bn net hydel profit plus Rs32.27bn as NHP arrears, Rs29.26bn oil/gas royalty, Rs27.29bn war on terror grant Rs35.35bn as foreign assistance besides some others sources.

KP’s own revenue receipts estimated at Rs29bn (up by 70 per cent against the current year) include Rs19.45bn tax receipts and non tax receipts of Rs9.3bn. Rs12bn as GST on services which rose by 100 per cent is inclusive of tax receipts. The province also earns Rs2.85bn from own power plants.

Current expenditure (welfare and administrative) will be Rs265bn. It needs to be checked or it will in future restrict room for development portfolio.

The government’s development priorities are right, people say, but they doubt it will be able to meet its defined goals. Our successive governments have failed to create jobs thus leaving Pakhtuns searching for even menial jobs in other provinces or abroad, they argue.

Most of the development funds for the outgoing year largely remains unutilised, claims an industrialist.

The public private partnership act has been approved. The private sector would be involved in the construction and maintenance of public sector development projects.

New industrial zones to be established but there is no plan for the revival of the sick industrial clusters like Gadoon estate.

Various hydel and alternate energy projects being launched. Rs7bn have been allocated to construct 350 small dams. 400 megawatts of electricity will be produced through gas whose cheap energy will be given to industries.

To bring down poverty and accountability, the government has promulgated the right to information law and established a commission for access to information, access to services’ commission and conflict of interest commission, ihtesab commission, a complaint cell in CM secretariat. And a public procurement regulatory authority established to make the procurement system of hiring of services, goods and construction transparent and corruption free and introduced the market rate system instead of the composite scheduled rates to ensure transparency in development schemes. .

Zahidullah Shinwari, the president of the KP chamber of commerce and industry terms the budget a status-quo budget devoid of any vision and reform agenda.

“KP is beset with flight of capital, rising unemployment, terrorism and energy shortage. Joblessness is on the rise –there is 14.8 percent unemployment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against around 9.5 percent at national level. Emergency steps were needed for economic growth, industrial revival, infrastructure development, energy supply, revival of sick industrial units, improvement in law and order, focus on technical and IT education but there is no proper roadmap for the areas. The government has failed to give a new mineral, industrial, hydel, oilg/gas and tourism policies reflective of its change agenda,” he said.

There is contradiction in the figures. The finance minister said the current ADP has 611 on going and 378 new projects of which 209 will be completed this fiscal. The remaining and ongoing project are therefore 780. But he said the next budget will have 1251 projects including 611 ongoing and 540 new projects.

In education sector, the government will upgrade schools, establish IT laboratories in high schools, provide furniture to 2300 schools, provide sports facilities in 2400 schools, provide scholarships to talented students and offer free education to special persons in all colleges of the province.

In Rs100bn provincial ADP, Education got Rs15bn but important economic sectors have been allocated paltry sums: Rs3.4bn for power sector against Rs1.4bn in current year, Rs4.7bn against Rs3.28bn for irrigation and agriculture Rs1.58bn against Rs1.53bn in current year.

Agriculture is the mainstay of livelihood for over 70 per cent of KP people, acknowledges the minister, but for 46 projects, only Rs1.58bnn have been allocated. While the allocation has been marginally increased, it has in fact come down as percentage to the ADP – while the current year’s allocation was 1.8 per cent of local ADP, the new apportionment is 1.5 per cent.

In Rs39bnforeign component of ADP, education again was the major beneficiary Rs11.7bn, followed by Rs7.6bn for roads for five projects but agriculture gets only Rs0.8bn, energy Rs2.6bn and industries Rs1.6bn.

The poverty and inability of farmers to use enough quality inputs to raise their produce is the biggest hitch, the minister says, but he comes up with only loans on easy terms for them.

The PTI fans and even some ministers are taking pride in ‘a record increase’ in education spending to Rs111bn but critics say most of the allocation (over Rs80bn) comprises current budget which is but natural for being the biggest employees-wise department of the province.

The detailed expenditure report for the current year also reveals that vital social and economic sectors of the ADP like social welfare, education, agriculture, energy/power and industries had been allocated Rs0.6bn, Rs24bn, Rs1.53bn, Rs2.2bn and Rs4.4bn respectively but actual utilisation remained at Rs.2bn, Rs3.72bn, Rs0.63bn, Rs0.65bn and Rs1bn could be utilised in this fiscal.

In a bid to increase KP own revenue receipts, the government intends to raise the ratio of provincial taxes and fees on stamp duty, professionals and professional institutions, business establishments, agriculture income and salaries. The rise in taxes/fees is expected to hit the consumers ultimately for it will be passed on to them. Strangely, a PTI-led government is to tax educational institutions including medical, engineering and law colleges.

As per the Finance Bill 2014-15, an annual tax of Rs330 will be levied on a person in any profession and trade who earns between Rs10,000-Rs20,000. While a person earning between Rs200,000-Rs500,000 will pay tax of Rs10,000. There are such slabs.

The employees of grade 1-5 have been exempted from the tax and the minimum professional tax threshold has been increased from Rs6000/pm to Rs10000 a month which, the finance minister said, will provide relief to low income class but does the assertion hold any ground on the face of the fact that minimum monthly pay has been already fixed at Rs12000/pm.

Twelve categories are suggested for urban immovable property (UIP) tax. An owner of upto 5 marlas house (other than self-occupied) in category A, B and C will pay Rs1000, Rs 900 and Rs750 in UIP respectively. Owners of over 5 marlas will pay UIP tax of Rs1700, Rs1600 and Rs1500, owners of 10 marlas will pay Rs2200, Rs2100 and Rs2000, owners of 15 marlas house will deposit Rs3300, Rs3200, and Rs3000 while those with 18-20 marlas houses and flats will pay UIP tax of Rs10000, Rs9000 and Rs8000 in the three categories respectively. Similarly other eight categories have different tax slabs for the immovable properties.

For technical education Rs3.7bn have been allocated and a technical University will be established. Rs2.7bn have been earmarked to give interest free loans of Rs50,000-200,000 to jobless youth on their personal guarantee.

The mineral sector could be used for poverty alleviation but only Rs0.62cbn have been allotted to it in the ADP.

The government intends to set up stock exchange in Peshawar to support the progress of industry and trade sectors.

The government proposed ‘several austerity measures’ to bring down expenditure. No foreign treatment/training, no new cars and no posts to be allowed unless approved by CM. But he didn’t specify what happened to similar measures in the current budget. The minister said the government has formed committees for monetization and economy which are working with far reaching consequences, though he failed to identify any.

The construction of houses for officials and ministers on 20 marlas and 110 per cent raise in salaries of minister, advisors etc however is being resented.

Rs7.9bn has been allocated for a pro-poor initiative under which various welfare programs, such as health insurance, long-term loan for development of industries, and provincial youth technical education scheme etc would be launched. Rs6bn more allocated for a special relief package program for giving subsidized edible items to the poor.

The education budget was Rs13.87bn in current fiscal while this year it will be Rs14.31bn for the next year.

 

 

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.

English medium education in KP

A medium of change
Tahir Ali
February 2, 2014

http://tns.thenews.com.pk/medium-change/#comment-4938

Pashto, Urdu, Arabic and now English.

Will the changeover from Urdu/Pashto to English-medium schooling in KP take the intended course?

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is going to introduce English-medium schooling and a uniform curriculum in all the public sector schools from the upcoming academic session. The shift from Urdu/Pashto medium to English-medium textbooks will be completed in several phases. In the first stage commencing from this April, the students of grade one, besides English, will also study Mathematics and General Knowledge in English. With the promotion of these students to grade two, English-medium textbooks/education will also move up the ladder, if not earlier. The process will take about four to five years to reach up to secondary level.
Official sources say the government is fully prepared for the shift. “First, 400 master trainers were trained who are now busy training primary school teachers for grade one. The process will continue till mid-March and 36000 teachers will be trained this year. One teacher from each primary school will be guided on the new textbooks in ten-day workshops. For more classes later, more master trainers will be trained who would then train all the 120000 teachers in KP,” says an official privy to the process.
He says the government has prepared/printed textbooks and these will be provided well before the start of the session.
Teachers and parents say English medium education was long overdue. It will bring public sector schools at par with their private counterparts which have seen a mushroom growth in recent years. In the absence or shortage of quality English medium government schools, parents go for private schools which are increasingly getting costlier and unaffordable, they argue.
Naming them Centennial model high schools, the government had earlier converted a few government high schools to English medium status throughout the province. These schools proved a great success and have gained parents’ confidence.
The PTI activists say it will help end the decade-old class-based education, bring a uniform curriculum, remove disparities between the education standards in urban and rural areas, ensure equal opportunities for competition and progress to both the rich and the poor and will augment enrolment in government schools.
Nevertheless, changeover from Urdu/Pashto to English-medium schooling is, however, easier said than done. It is likely to bring several problems for both the students and teachers overwhelmed by an English-phobia of an extreme kind. But nothing is impossible for a resolute mind and hardworking administration. Though the government seems conscious of the gigantic challenges lying ahead, some precautions must be made.

Too ambitious for schools with no infrastructure.
Planners will not only have to select and train qualified and competent master trainers and teachers in the later stages, they also will have to prepare/supply books in time and a permanent monitoring mechanism will also have to be developed.
“We need hardworking and proficient master trainers and teachers to be able to teach maths and science in English. Without qualified and committed trainers and teachers and a robust oversight mechanism and competent monitors, the move will come to nothing. One hopes the government will be able to publish/provide textbooks in time and will induct, train and provide competent teachers for this purpose,” says Zubair Ahmad, an educationist.
“Training of teachers continues province-wide. To make the process successful, the concerned officials should ensure that a trainee teacher nearing his retirement or likely to be promoted in near future is not selected. Or at least two teachers should be trained for a class,” says a teacher.
“Some of the trainee primary teachers can hardly speak a simple sentence in English for grade one. The trainee teachers must be young, energetic, qualified (preferably graduate) and must be selected on merit without any interference from teachers’ union and politicians,” says a master trainer. “Also, primary teachers whose promotion to high schools is due shortly must never be considered for training as their departure would deprive their erstwhile schools of a teacher trained for grade one while his training would be of no use in high schools. The government should also plan and ensure follow-up activities so that teachers continue to teach to the class they were trained for,” says the trainer.
“Almost all the teachers at my centre are young. They take keen interest in the training. They are happy that English medium textbooks will improve enrolment and prospects of their students and augment their own prestige,” says another master trainer.
English-medium education is being started from grade one (Awal Aala). It means two preceding classes — the preparatory class (called Awal Adna locally) and the other called Kachi have been left out, says a teacher, Shafiq Khan. The KP government, however, recently announced playgroup classes will be started in public schools from the upcoming session.
Most developed countries have uniform system of education. But different curricula in the public and private sectors and religious madaris (seminaries) have sharply divided Pakistan. A modern/uniform curriculum is necessary to strengthen national unity and promote moderation and tolerance in the country. The PTI, in its 6-points education policy, too had promised a uniform education system if voted to power.
It requires huge funds, time, personnel, incessant work and cooperation from all the private schools and religious seminaries to have a uniform curriculum province-wide. So, the PTI has decided to bring uniform curriculum in government schools through English-medium textbooks for the moment. Private schools may be covered later. The PTI leaders argue the government and private schools follow the same syllabus for class 9 and 10, so why can’t it be the same in other classes.
One hopes the move will lead to healthy competition between the public and private schools. The government should also promote spirit of cooperation and coordination between the two.
The PTI opponents accuse it of being ‘secular’ having pro-west agenda (JUI-F leaders harp on the theory) while some analysts accuse it of taking the KP towards fundamentalism.
Following the landmark 18th Constitutional Amendment that devolved education and curriculum design to provinces, the KP government can modify its curriculum and textbooks. Textbooks lessons have been usually changed by successive governments and the PTI government is also expected to follow suit. But its leaders say they would do so in strict compliance with the 2006 national curriculum. It means there will be no major changes in curriculum introduced by the previous ANP-led government.
The ANP government had included lessons on local heroes in curriculum such as famous poets Rehman Baba, Khushal Khan Khattak and Ghani Khan. They also included lessons on human rights, peace and religious tolerance and removed historic distortions, hate material and harsh sentiments against non-Muslims. The ANP activists say the Jamaat-e-Islami is now bent on reversing these changes.
The KP Elementary and Secondary Education Minister, Muhammad Atif Khan, as per newspaper reports, said Islamic ideology would be the basis of his government’s steps regarding curriculum. He said the PTI government would accept no bar on religious education and won’t tolerate external interference in this regard. He also vowed to rectify the ‘mistakes’ in present curriculum introduced by the ANP government.
The KP Information Minister Shah Farman reportedly said the KP would revise and develop curriculum as per Islamic teachings and the country’s cultural norms. He termed criminal the changes brought about by the ANP-led government (some changes he and Khan cited included the removal of Quranic verses on Jihad, mention of Kashmir as disputed land and replacement of lessons on Voice of God, Hazrat Umar and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with those on ‘The Man Who Was a Giant’, ‘Helen Keller’ and ‘Quaid-e-Azam’ etc).
“While its coalition partner — The JI — wishes to Islamise syllabi by expunging some ‘secular’ lessons from them and limit the donors’ role in policy/decision making, the civil society, opposition parties and donor agencies may dislike the move. How will the PTI deal with these conflicting viewpoints, remains to be seen,” says an ANP activist.

……………………

ORIGINAL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE

English-medium education in KP
Or
Uniform curriculum’ in KP
By Tahir Ali
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf led-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is going to launch a process of introducing English-medium schooling and a uniform curriculum through it, in all the public sector schools from the upcoming academic session.
The shift from Urdu/Pashto medium to English-medium textbooks will be completed in several phases. In the first stage commencing from this April, the students of grade one, besides English, will also study Mathematics and General Knowledge in English. With the promotion of these students to class 2, English-medium textbooks/education will also move up the ladder, if not earlier. The process will take about four to five years to reach up to secondary level.
Official sources say the government is fully prepared for the shift. “First, 400 master trainers were trained who are now busy training primary school teachers for grade one. The process will continue till mid-March and 36000 teachers will be trained this year. One teacher from each primary school will be guided on the new textbooks in ten-day workshops. For more classes later, more master trainers will be trained who would then train all the 120000 teachers in KP,” said a source.
He said the government has prepared/printed textbooks and these will be provided well before the start of the session.
Teachers and parents say English medium education was long overdue. It will bring public sector schools at par with their private counterparts which have seen a mushroom growth in recent years. In the absence or shortage of quality English medium government schools, parents go for private schools but which are increasingly getting costlier and unaffordable, they argue.
Naming them Centennial model high schools, the government had earlier converted a few government high schools to English medium status throughout the province. These schools proved a great success and have gained parents’ confidence.
PTI activists say it will help end the decade-old class-based education, bring a uniform curriculum, remove disparities between the education standards in urban and rural areas, ensure equal opportunities for competition and progress to both the rich and the poor and will augment enrolment in government schools.
Nevertheless, changeover from Urdu/Pashto to English-medium schooling is however easier said than done. It is likely to bring several problems for both the students and teachers overwhelmed by an English-phobia of an extreme kind.
But nothing is impossible for a resolute mind and hardworking administration. Though the government seems conscious of the gigantic challenges lying ahead, some precautions must be made.
Planners will not only have to select and train qualified and competent master trainers and teachers in the later stages, they also will have to prepare/supply books in time and a permanent monitoring mechanism will also have to be developed.
“We need hardworking and proficient master trainers and teachers to be able to teach maths and science in English. Without qualified and committed trainers and teachers and a robust oversight mechanism and competent monitors, the move will come to nothing. One hopes the government will be able to publish/provide text books in time and will induct, train and provide competent teachers for this purpose,” said Zubair Ahmad, an educationist.
“Training of teachers continues province-wide. To make the process successful, the concerned officials should ensure that a trainee teacher nearing his retirement, having poor eye-sight or likely to be promoted in near future is not selected. Or at least two teachers should be trained for a class,” said a teacher.
“Some of the trainee primary teachers can hardly speak a simple sentence in English for grade 1. The trainee teachers must be young, energetic, qualified (preferably graduate) and must be selected on merit without any interference from teachers’ union and politicians. Also, primary teachers whose promotion to high schools is due shortly must never be considered for training as their departure would deprive their erstwhile schools of a teacher trained for grade one while his training would be of no use in high schools. The government should also plan and ensure follow-up activities so that teachers continue to teach to the class they were trained for,” said a master trainer.
“Almost all the teachers at my centre are young. They take keen interest in the training. They are happy that English medium textbooks will improve enrolment and prospects of their students and augment their own prestige,” said another master trainer.
English-medium education is being started from first grade one (Awal Aala). It means two preceding classes – the preparatory class (called Awal Adna locally) and the other called Kachi have been left out, said a teacher Shafiq Khan. The KP government however recently announced playgroup classes will be started in public schools from the upcoming session.
Most developed countries have uniform system of education. But different curricula in the public and private sectors and religious madaris (seminaries) have sharply divided Pakistan. A modern/uniform curriculum is necessary to strengthen national unity and promote moderation and tolerance in the country. PTI, in its 6-points education policy, too had promised a uniform education system if voted to power.
It requires huge funds, time, personnel, incessant work and cooperation from all the private schools and religious seminaries to have a uniform curriculum province-wide. So, PTI has decided to bring uniform curriculum in government schools through English-medium textbooks for the moment. Private schools may be covered later. PTI leaders argue the government and private schools follow the same syllabus for class 9 and 10, so why can’t it be the same in other classes.
Once hopes the move will lead to healthy competition between the public and private schools. The government should also promote spirit of cooperation and coordination between the two.
Will KP change curriculum?
PTI opponents accuse it of being ‘secular’ having pro-west agenda (JUI-F leaders harp on the theory) while analysts (e.g. Najm Sethi) accuse it of taking KP towards fundamentalism.
Following the landmark 18th constitutional amendment that devolved education and curriculum design to provinces, the KP government can modify its curriculum and textbooks. Textbooks lessons have been usually changed by successive governments and PTI government is also expected to follow suit. But its leaders say they would do so in strict compliance to the 2006 national curriculum. It means there will be no major changes in curriculum introduced by the previous ANP-led government.
The ANP government had included lessons on local heroes in curriculum such as famous poets Rehman Baba, Khushal Khan Khattak and Ghani Khan, on human rights, peace and religious tolerance and removed historic distortions, hate material and harsh sentiments against non-Muslims but, its activists say, Jamate Islami is now bent on reversing these changes.
KP elementary and secondary education minister Muhammad Atif Khan, as per newspaper reports, said Islamic ideology would be the basis of his government’s steps regarding curriculum. He said the PTI government would accept no bar on religious education and won’t tolerate external interference in this regard. He also vowed to rectify the ‘mistakes’ in present curriculum introduced by the ANP government.
KP information minister Shah Farman reportedly said KP would revise and develop curriculum as per Islamic teachings and country’s cultural norms. He termed as criminal the changes brought about by the ANP-led government (some changes he and Khan cited included the removal of Quranic verses on Jihad, mention of Kashmir as disputed land and replacement of lessons on Voice of God, Hazrat Umar and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with those on The man who was a giant, Helen keller and Quaid-e-Azam etc).
“While its coalition partner JI wishes to Islamise syllabi by expunging some ‘secular’ lessons from them and limit the donors’ role in policy/decision making, the civil society, opposition parties and donor agencies may dislike the moves. How will PTI deal with these conflicting viewpoints, remains to be seen,” said an activist.

Electing competent and honest leadership

The article was published on May5, 2013 before elections. Sorry for delayed posting.

Voting values
While the ECP and several advocacy groups are encouraging voters to cast their votes, what are the merits and demerits voters should consider before choosing their future representatives?
By Tahir Ali

http://jang.com.pk/thenews/May2013-weekly/nos-05-05-2013/pol1.htm#3

A week later, on May 11, 2013, 86.18 million Pakistani voters — 48.59 million male and 37.59 million female — will elect their representatives for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies who would subsequently choose the next federal and provincial executives.

This exercise carries immense repercussions for over 180 million people as their fate will be left at the discretion of these elected representatives. This necessitates both quantitative and qualitative improvement in voting standard.

While tax evaders, defaulters and the corrupt couldn’t be sifted during the scrutiny process, voters are now the only hope to block their entry into power corridors. They will have to come out in large numbers and elect the best amongst candidates.

However, for multiple reasons — rampant corruption, joblessness, insecurity, poverty, maladministration, unawareness, corrupt practices that manipulate elections, terrorism and the like — voters stand disillusioned with political system that has resulted in low voters’ turnout in previous elections, coming as low as 20 per cent in different constituencies.

In the 2008 general elections, though voters’ turnout was 50 and 48 per cent in Islamabad and Punjab, it was 44 per cent for the country and only 31, 31 and 33 per cent in Balochistan, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively. Women comprise around 44 per cent of the registered voters but have been mostly kept from using this basic right in the past.

The total number of voters has gone up from 80.7 million in 2008 to 86.1 million this year, but analysts foresee a low turnout due to terrorist attacks/threats, ban on transportation facility for voters by the candidates and voters’ distrust in elections and disappointment with politicians.

But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and several advocacy groups are encouraging voters to cast their votes. With increase in the number of overenthusiastic young voters, the emergence of the PTI on the electoral landscape, a comprehensive security plan put in place for polling day, chances of massive women polling (candidates and parties concluded written agreements inhibiting women from casting votes in the past. But this time no intra-parties’ agreement has surfaced so far) and with almost all the parties participating in elections, hopefully the turnout would be good enough, between 50-55 per cent in this election.

Voters generally look at the candidate’s personal caste, character or performance, his party and its manifesto or his own personal interests at the time of voting.

Some, especially diehard workers, say parties’ performances and manifestos, rather than candidates’ characters, should be the main concern for voters because parties form governments and ultimately decide things. But the rest — the swinging majority — have their own priorities.

“The problem is parties are run by their leaders and their selected buddies. If the party is in wrong hands, they would violate rules, its manifestos and national interests for their political interests and will ruin institutions by nepotism and favouritism and use the national exchequer senselessly for self/party aggrandisement. So, a party shouldn’t be supported if its leadership and candidates’ character and competency are questionable,” says Shakirullah Khan, a lecturer.

“Some parties seek votes over slogans of religious revolution, sectarianism or support terrorists in one way or the other. Supporting them is tantamount to dividing the state and society on the basis of sects, religions or creed. Can we endure such an environment,” he argues.

Others say development work, provision of jobs and contracts, financial assistance to the needy, personal liaison with the constituents or good oratory skills should be the basis for supporting a candidate.

“But what if all this is done by a corrupt politician. Obviously, this support is driven by selfishness. Pakistan owes its retarded growth, rampant poverty and financial weakness to these flawed priorities on part of the voters. By supporting such candidates, one may end up getting benefits but this will leave the country’s resources, people and fate in the hands of senseless rulers, so it cannot be a choice of a patriotic voter,” says Muhammad Iqbal, another voter.

Independent candidates were the fourth largest group in 2008. They polled 11 per cent votes in National Assembly and 26 and 24 per cent votes in Balochistan and KP assemblies. Being the main source of horse-trading, they must never be voted for. There are always some persons with good reputation amongst the candidates, but they come from parties whose performances were dismal.

“But even if a noble fellow who is contesting from a bad party is sent to his/her parliamentary party and parliament, he/she will be a misfit there amongst most of the self-centred colleagues. Party discipline is another hindrance. If the party decides on a thing that he/she finds obnoxious, he will either have to conform or risk expulsion. If he accepts, corruption will continue as earlier,” according to Shah Hasan, another voter.

But Iqbal responded the personal abilities and character rather than the candidate’s party affiliation should be the guiding factor for voters. Ignoring all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases while voting, they must vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence.

Vote is a sacred trust and casting vote is mandatory. By voting someone, we testify to his character and abilities and authorise him to decide and work on our behalf. It is as if we engage a lawyer who obviously cannot be a person who can be bribed, intimidated and bought, Iqbal said. “Even if they have been nominated by popular and reputable parties, voters should reject candidates who are corrupt, loan-defaulters and tax-evaders. And they should support competent persons even if they are contesting on tickets of ‘bad/corrupt’ parties.”

Voters should continue with their determination not to send corrupt elements to parliament. This obviously is a long route. But slowly and gradually it will become a norm and most of the electorate will follow suit.

People are heard criticising corrupt leaders, but they too are equally guilty of preferring them over the incorruptible, competent and trustworthy substitutes. If parties ensure awarding tickets to ‘electables’ (not necessarily competent and honest candidates), it is because the electorate too has been accepting their nominees. It’s very shameful that electorate goes on to elect the very candidates, who were disqualified for having fake degrees. This practice of siding with the corrupt must end.

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Original text of the article

Election: choosing competent & honest representatives

By Tahir Ali

A week later, on May 11, 86.18 million Pakistani voters –48.59mn male and 37.59 female – will elect their representatives for National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies who would subsequently choose the next federal and provincial executives.

This exercise carries immense repercussions for over 180mn people as their fate will be left at the discretion of these elected representatives. This necessitates both quantitative and qualitative improvement in voting standard.

While tax evaders, defaulters’ and the corrupt couldn’t be sifted during the scrutiny process, voters are now the only hope to block their entry into power corridors. They will have to come out in large numbers and elect the best amongst candidates. 

However, for multiple reasons – rampant corruption, joblessness, insecurity, poverty, maladministration, unawareness, corrupt practices that manipulate elections, terrorism and the like – voters stand disillusioned with political system that has resulted in low voters’ turnout in previous elections, coming as low as 20 per cent in different constituencies.

In the 2008 general elections, though voters’ turnout was 50 and 48 per cent in Islamabad and Punjab, it was 44 per cent for the country and only 31, 31 and 33 per cent in Baluchistan, Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa respectively.

Women comprise around 44 per cent of the registered voters but have been mostly kept from using this basic right in the past.

Total number of voters has gone up from 80.7mn in 2008 to 86.1mn this year but analysts foresee a low turnout for terrorist attacks/threats, ban on transportation facility for voters by the candidates and voter’s distrust in elections and disappointment with politicians.

But the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and several advocacy groups are encouraging voters to cast their votes. With increase in the number of overenthusiastic young voters, the emergence of PTI on the electoral landscape, a comprehensive security plan put in place for polling day, chances of massive women polling (Candidates and parties concluded written agreements inhibiting women from casting votes. But this time no intra- parties’ agreement has surfaced so far) and with almost all parties participating in elections as against 2008 when several boycotted the process, hopefully the turnout would be good enough, between 50-55 per cent in this election.

Voters generally look at the candidate’s personal caste, character or performance, his party and its manifesto or his own personal interests at the time of voting.

Some, especially die-hard workers, say parties’ performances and manifestos, rather than candidates’ characters, should be the main concern for voters as it is parties that form governments and ultimately decide things. But the rest -the swinging majority- have their own priorities.

“The problem is parties are run by their leaders and their selected buddies. If the party is in wrong hands, they would violate rules, its manifestos and national interests for their political interests and will ruin institutions by nepotism and favouritism and use the national exchequer senselessly for self/party aggrandisement. So, a party shouldn’t be supported if its leadership and candidate’s character and competency are questionable,” says Shakirullah Khan, a lecturer.

“Some parties seek votes over slogans of religious revolution, sectarianism or support terrorists in one way or the other. Supporting them is tantamount to dividing the state and society on the basis of sects, religions or creed. Can we endure such an environment,” he argues.  

Others say development work, provision of jobs and contracts, financial assistance to the needy, personal liaison with the constituents or good oratory skills should be the bases for supporting a candidate.

“But what if all this is done by a corrupt. Obviously, this support is driven by selfishness. Pakistan owes its retarded growth, rampant poverty and financial weakness to these flawed priorities on part of the voters. By supporting such candidates, one may end up getting benefits but this will leave the country’s resources, people and fate in the hands of senseless rulers, so it cannot be a choice of a patriotic voter,” says Muhammad Iqbal, another voter.

Independent candidates were the fourth largest group in 2008. They polled 11 per cent votes in National Assembly and 26 and 24 per cent votes in Baluchistan and KP assemblies. Being the main source of horse-trading, they must never be voted for.

There are always some persons with good reputation amongst the candidates but they come from parties whose performances were dismal.

“But even if a noble fellow who is contesting from a bad party is sent to his/her parliamentary party and parliament, he/she will be a misfit there amongst most of the self-centred colleagues. Party discipline is another hindrance. If the party decides on a thing that he/she finds obnoxious, he will either have to conform or risk expulsion. If he accepts, corruption will continue as earlier. If he doesn’t, he’ll be sent packing for indiscipline,” according to Shah Hasan, another voter.

But Iqbal responded the personal abilities and character rather than the candidate’s party affiliation should be the guiding factor for voters. Ignoring all ethnic, linguistic and sectarian biases while voting, they must vote solely on the basis of honesty, sincerity, merit and competence.

Vote is a sacred trust and casting vote is mandatory. By voting someone, we testify to his character and abilities and authorise him to decide and work on our behalf. It is as if we engage a lawyer who obviously cannot be a person who can be bribed, intimidated and bought, he said.

 

“Even if they have been nominated by popular and reputable parties, voters should reject candidates who are corrupt, loan-defaulters, tax-evaders, are themselves rascals or are supported by rogues, run illegal businesses, use abusive language against opponents, are incompetent, known violators of law or support the extremists and terrorists. And they should support competent persons even if they are contesting on tickets of ‘bad/corrupt’ parties,” he said.

“Of course initially, the men of character will face tough resistance in their parliamentary parties’ meetings and parliament. Perhaps they would be asked to remain quiet or quit the seat. Suppose he/she resigns or is forced to quit over principles, the electorate in the bye-elections must reject the party’s candidate if he/she is not as competent and honest as that one or better support another whose one is better.”

According to him, this will be a lesson for all. “The corrupt will never dare compete elections in future. Parties too will never award tickets to candidates on the basis of their electability but would decide on the basis of their character and capabilities to impress the transformed electorate. The men of character so elected will then be in majority. It will bring a soft revolution in the country’s political and economic landscape. Decisions will then be taken on the basis of merit. Parties’ leadership will no more be in the hands of the corrupt but in competent and honest hands.”

Voters should continue with their determination not to send corrupt elements to parliament. This obviously is a long route. But slowly and gradually it will become a norm and most of the electorate will follow suit.

People are heard criticising corrupt leaders but they too are equally guilty for preferring them over the incorruptible, competent and trustworthy substitutes. If parties ensure awarding tickets to ‘electables’ (not necessarily competent and honest candidates), it is because the electorate too has been accepting their nominees. It’s very shameful that electorate go on to elect the very candidates, who were disqualified for having fake degrees. This practice of siding with the corrupt must end.