We sleep while our girls’ schools are blown up

Published: November 23, 2010
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The writer is a PML-Q MNA 
marvi.memon@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a PML-Q MNA [email protected]

Whilst traveling from Islamabad to Karachi for an event commemorating literacy graduates in Thatta, I came across a news item on a school being blown up in Landi Kotal. Addressing students, I mentioned the blowing up of a school in Fata. This was not the first time such an incident took place — in fact this November alone, nine schools have been blown up!

I will mention each one of them individually so that they are not a mere statistic. On November 22, a girls’ school in Landi Kotal was hit. On November 15 and November 11, militants blew up two government schools in Mohmand Agency. A day before, two primary schools for girls in the same agency were blown up. On November 6, a high school at Sulemankhel Budh bher was blown up. And on November 5, a government girls’ school was blown up in the settled district of Bannu. Two days earlier, two more girls’ schools were blown up – again in Mohmand.

The question arises as to what the rest of Pakistan is doing about the matter. There have been no significant protests which have managed to protect these schools. In fact, ironically, 800 employees of the education department in Fata have been suspended and terminated by political agents under the Frontier Crimes Regulations for not protecting government schools against militants. Over 100 female staff members are among the punished employees.

Research on this subject motivated me to make a call to my alma mater, St Joseph’s Convent High School. I wanted to drop by to discuss the possibilities of brainstorming for solutions on how to protect girls’ schools. I happened to be at my old school on a very important day. It was the first death anniversary of Ms Shafiqa Fikree, an institution unto herself. As I sat and listened to all that was wholesome about her, and thus our upbringing at such a prestigious institution, I kept thinking of the girls in Mohmand. Later over tea, in a discussion with my teachers, I realised it was education which taught women like myself a sense of fighting for justice. And people like myself who are able to attend such schools were the lucky ones since not all children are fortunate enough to receive this kind of education.

All schools across Pakistan must be invited to participate in brainstorming a solution so that there is ownership of the problem from a wide spectrum of schools. As one of my favourite teachers from school pointed out, a start could be a silent protest in all schools; a few minutes of silence on a chosen day everywhere in Pakistan marking our condemnation of the targeting of girls’ schools.

It was about time we began fixing things that are broken. And we need to do this by adopting a bipartisan approach, by jointly raising our voices against injustices and by trying to solve these problems by joint action. Of course, hurdles will be put in our way and there will be vilification campaigns by those who do not want us to succeed. But leadership and sincerity to our Pakistaniat demand that we ignore these and march on.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • Dave
    Nov 24, 2010 - 12:40AM

    Carving a country on religious lines out of Indian subcontinent was a big failure. The people are paying the price this.Recommend

  • Talat
    Nov 24, 2010 - 5:38AM

    O yeah? can you , assuming you are an indian, justify the massacre of muslims in gujrat by hindu extremists a few years back? It is a problem in all developing countries. Rich countries like America can make sure these things don’t happen to them again, even if it means invading other countries. Education and prosperity (poor people don’t learn because they have to earn) in these far flung areas of Pakistan will certainly help.Recommend

  • muhammad faraz
    Nov 24, 2010 - 8:00AM

    our men like to have the female population ignorant & uneducated so they themselves can appear to have all the knowledge,wisdom & information.This is the reason that men can’t stand well educated,independent,self confident women as this is a threat to their male egos.

    There’s a huge tendency in our society to marry young girls who haven’t yet completed their education as these girls are easily impressed & easily duped as due to their lack of higher education these girls believe everything coming out of the mouths of their husbands.

    The majority of our male population needs to get rid of its insecurities & let the female population get their education & careers & stop feeling threatened by strong,intelligent & self earning women.Recommend

  • SUB
    Nov 24, 2010 - 11:09AM

    Perhaps some people should set down and identify how many schools use to get blown up before Musharraf’s war on terror initiated. And what did you do during Musharraf years to deal with this issueRecommend

  • Saadia Ch.
    Nov 24, 2010 - 12:05PM

    I am confused why female education is still a question mark or taboo?Do we have any choice whether to educate the girls or not? This is in context with blowing of schools specially those of girls by Talibans. Although they have been “kind enough” to hit boys’ schools too, but special “attention” on girls schools is evident of the general perception of majority of men and even a large number of women, that education is harmful for girls, it spoils them and if they are educated they will stand against the man , who is the ruler of the house, or they will bring shame to family’s name. There is no law in Islam which forbids female education.

    It is about our mentality, our ignorant approach. It is not Islam, it is the insecurity and complexes hidden in the male minds( as Muhammad Faraz has rightly pointed out). We(the general majority) are proud when TV shows female leaders, pilots, Prime Minister, Speaker Assembly, but we are ashamed, angry or reluctant when our daughter or sister asks for admission in higher studies. This is what is happening for decades, when there were no taliban to blow schools. Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 24, 2010 - 12:28PM

    @Talat,

    There is absolutely no justification for Gujrat. But, the Taliban phenomena has to do something with the Islamic character of the Pakistani state.

    Taliban say Pakistan is an Islamic country according to constitution but it is not completely Islamic in character. Thus, they want to weaken the state and possibly take over it like they did it in Afghanistan.

    India never claimed to be a Hindu country and consequently nobody questions the fact that a non-Hindu is the PM now, whose community form only 5% of the population.

    Get the difference in approach?Recommend

  • Nov 24, 2010 - 12:36PM

    I would like to say a few words regarding blowing of schools, colleges, abduction of teachers, professors and now the vice-chancellors particularly in the federally adminsitered tribal areas and the KP province.

    Marvie- I appreciate your efforts to highlight the issue but i really don’t agree with your brainstorming strategy.. This is not the real issue, the real issue why is these happenings for so many months…

    In fact we should come to the ground realities and must accepts the ground realities. Blowing of schools is not the problem ,the problem is why and who is behind this agenda and what they are trying to pursue..This is the only thing that can be solved only when the high ups (the government and LEAs) should come in front and to move forward with the best traditional and local customs practices…

    Sitting in Islamabad is mere a fraud while discussing the issue of FATA and KP.

    I will much appreciate your efforts when you come across to one of FATA’s Agency and organize the elders, officials, teachers, youth and other stake holders for brainstorming on the issue..Otherwise all efforts made in other cities of the country is useless…..

    ThanksRecommend

  • Talat
    Nov 25, 2010 - 2:02PM

    @MR. Anoop .It is a misconception brother. Pakistan has had this character ever since it was formed. Innocent Pakistanis were never on their list of targets. It is only when the talibans got displaced from their safe heavens in Afghanistan that they started killing innocent civilians. Talibans don’t in fact need a motive to fight. They love to fight.

    It can not be denied that secularism has helped India avoid many problems. However, it is also true that a significant proportion of Hindu population are intolerant toward Muslims and other minorities.

    I personally believe that Miss. Sonia Gandhi has appointed a Sikh as the prime minister to embarrass the sikh population. I think it is a fact that a Sikh assassinated her husband. I could be wrong.

    I Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 25, 2010 - 4:33PM

    @Talat,

    “I personally believe that Miss. Sonia Gandhi has appointed a Sikh as the prime minister to embarrass the sikh population.”

    –> Democracy works on symbolism. But, that doesn’t mean her choice is not the right one. He was finance minister in 1991 and he is given the credit for reforms which started then. He has more degrees on his Resume than most leaders in India’s neighbours put together. He is an ideal choice.

    You say Sikh population was embarrassed. Look at the 2009 parliamentary elections in Punjab, which is a majority Sikh state in India. Congress, if your theory is correct Congress should not have won a single seat or atleast should have not won many.

    http://www.travelindia-guide.com/elections-indian-lok-sabha/election-results/punjab/

    It won 8 out of 13 seats there. You are wrong in this count, brother.

    “It can not be denied that secularism has helped India avoid many problems. However, it is also true that a significant proportion of Hindu population are intolerant toward Muslims and other minorities”

    –> Well, for one India, a country of 80% Hindus, re-elected a Sikh Prime Minister based on performance alone. That indicates Religion does not play a major part in politics anymore. Read about the Bihar election results announced yesterday. BJP-JDU combine got most of the Muslim votes. Who would think Muslims will vote for BJP! There is a huge misconception in Pakistan about most things Indian.

    Besides, tell me one country where there aren’t right-wing forces? Europe which is considered an example of Secularism, elected majority right-wing parties recently. Probably, the Right-wingers will come to power in US next time. In UK the BNP(I hope I have the correct initials) got a significant number of seats.

    The law and the Constitutions in all the above countries make sure equal,yet limited space is giving to all, even the Right-Wingers. It is what makes all these countries so successful in Democracy.Recommend

  • Talat
    Nov 26, 2010 - 6:49AM

    “Democracy works on symbolism. But, that doesn’t mean her choice is not the right one. He was finance minister in 1991 and he is given the credit for reforms which started then. He has more degrees on his Resume than most leaders in India’s neighbours put together. He is an ideal choice.”

    Well, one does not have to be a phd to be a good politician. Politicians need to have common sense, academic qualifications are a secondary thing. Since you have mentioned economic reforms, please read the following article to share your views.

    http://www.dawn.com/2010/11/22/india-s-cozy-ties-between-corruption-and-corporate-fascism.html

    “You say Sikh population was embarrassed. Look at the 2009 parliamentary elections in Punjab, which is a majority Sikh state in India. Congress, if your theory is correct Congress should not have won a single seat or atleast should have not won many.

    http://www.travelindia-guide.com/elections-indian-lok-sabha/election-results/punjab/

    It won 8 out of 13 seats there. You are wrong in this count, brother.
    It’s good know that sikhs don’t let past occurrences influence their decision on voting.

    It can not be denied that secularism has helped India avoid many problems. However, it is also true that a significant proportion of Hindu population are intolerant toward Muslims and other minorities.

    Well, for one India, a country of 80% Hindus, re-elected a Sikh Prime Minister based on performance alone. That indicates Religion does not play a major part in politics anymore. Read about the Bihar election results announced yesterday. BJP-JDU combine got most of the Muslim votes. Who would think Muslims will vote for BJP! There is a huge misconception in Pakistan about most things Indian.”

    I can’t believe muslims voted for BJP. May be the BJP has done some good work there or that they are treated more badly by congress.

    Besides, tell me one country where there aren’t right-wing forces? Europe which is considered an example of Secularism, elected majority right-wing parties recently. Probably, the Right-wingers will come to power in US next time. In UK the BNP(I hope I have the correct initials) got a significant number of seats.

    Conservative parties get their chances.

    The law and the Constitutions in all the above countries make sure equal,yet limited space is giving to all, even the Right-Wingers. It is what makes all these countries so successful in Democracy.Recommend

  • Anoop
    Nov 26, 2010 - 3:40PM

    @Talat,

    I am not saying corruption is rooted out. But, I am saying now the right economic policies are being followed. Corruption is more of a structural issue than economic. India has to restructure its bureaucracy and how its various arms function.

    If you have a PM who is one of the highly rated economic it certainly helps. This decade India has grown double the speed of Pakistan. Obama himself has said during the G20 forum when Dr.Singh talks about World Economy other leaders listen.

    Show me one leader in Pakistan who is half as educated and half as honest as PM Singh.

    “I can’t believe muslims voted for BJP. May be the BJP has done some good work there or that they are treated more badly by congress.”

    –> Ofcourse they have. Gujrat of Narendra Modi is THE most developed state in India. And, before he first arrived my state, Karnataka.again a BJP ruled state, was ahead of Gujrat. Now, look at it. It is also the fastest growing state in India.

    Economics dont recognize Religion, bro. If Gujrat flourishes the Muslims of Gujrat too flourish. Same with Bihar, which is again the 2nd fastest growing in India. It grew at a mind-boggling 16% 2 years ago. 16%! My Goodness. Everybody expected BJP-JDU to win and win they did. Even the Muslims recognized that their best bet is the present government.

    http://www.indiaelections.co.in/

    They have wont 4 times the seats as their nearest rivals.Recommend

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