LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has summoned a representative of Bargad, a non-government organisation, for October 18 on a petition seeking action against the group and Education Department officials for handing out school books in Gujranwala that contain “objectionable material”.
Justice Nasir Saeed Sheikh of the LHC issued this order on Tuesday on a petition filed by Muhammad Tanzeem Arif, a retired school teacher from the area.
The judge summoned the Bargad coordinator of the programme under which the books were distributed after hearing the statements of two former Gujranwala executive district officers for education on Tuesday.
Former EDO Ghazanfar Ali Sani told the court that while the books were circulated in schools during his tenure, the memorandum of understanding under which this was done was signed while Chaudhy Riaz was EDO.
Riaz confirmed this. He said that the memorandum was for the NGO to initiate a programme to teach “life skills” at schools.
According to the petitioner, the “objectionable” book Ba Ikhtiar Larkian, Badla Hua Samaaj (Empowered Women, A Changed Society) – had been made mandatory for grades 6 to 8 at all government schools for girls in Gujranwala.
He said the book contained material telling girls about the use of contraceptives and “how to have friendships with boys”. He said in a Muslim society, sex education could not be taught at schools. He said that in signing the memorandum with the NGO, government officials were guilty of misconduct and should be punished.
He said that he had complained to government officials after learning about the book and the chief minister had set up an inquiry committee headed by Punjab Education Foundation Chairman Raja Anwar. He said the committee’s findings had not been made public.
He said that the only action apparently taken on the committee’s findings had been the transfer of Sani, the former EDO. He said that the inquiry report must be made public.
Former Gujranwala district coordination officer Nabeel Ahmed Awan, the serving DCO, the education secretary, the PEF chairman, and the Gujranwala EDO (education) are named as respondents in the petition.
Bargad Executive Director Bushra Shaheen told The Express Tribune that the NGO had ended the project and disposed of the books shortly after Gujranwala citizens had raised objections to the content.
Sarmad Raza Naik, Bargad’s operations manager, said that the project was initiated in good faith and through the proper channels. He said that other books had also been provided to students under the project.
He said that the books in question had been handed out at schools in Sanghar district in Sindh too, but there had been no objections. He said that the inquiry committee set up by the chief minister had exonerated Bargad officials of wrongdoing.
He said that Bargad had been working with the Punjab government since 1997 and had most recently helped draft its new youth policy.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2012.