Mosque versus state

The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

THE mosque in Pakistan is now no longer just a religious institution. Instead it has morphed into a deeply political one that seeks to radically transform culture and society. Actively assisted by the state in this mission in earlier decades, the mosque is a powerful actor over which the state now exercises little authority. Some have been captured by those who fight the government and military. An eviscerated, embattled state finds it easier to drop bombs on the TTP in tribal Waziristan than to rein in its urban supporters, or to dismiss from state payroll those mosque leaders belonging to militant groups.

Very few Pakistanis have dared to criticise the country’s increasingly powerful mosque establishment although they do not spare the Pakistan Army and the country’s political leaders for their many shortcomings. For example, following the Army Public School massacre, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s promise to regulate the madressahs was immediately criticised as undoable. Had he instead suggested that Pakistan’s mosques be brought under state control as in Saudi Arabia, Iran and several Muslim countries, it would have been dismissed as belonging to even beyond the undoable.

The state’s timidity was vividly exposed in its handling of the 2007 bloody insurrection, launched from inside Islamabad’s central mosque, Lal Masjid, barely a mile from the heart of Pakistan’s government. It was a defining point in Pakistan’s history. The story of the Lal Masjid insurrection, its bloody ending, and subsequent rebound is so critical to understanding the limitations of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism that it deserves to be told once again.


Very few Pakistanis have dared to criticise the country’s increasingly powerful mosque establishment.


In early January 2007, the two head clerics of the Lal Masjid demanded the immediate rebuilding of eight illegally constructed mosques knocked down by the civic authorities. Days later, an immediate enforcement of Sharia in Islamabad was demanded. Armed vigilante groups from Jamia Hafsa and nearby madressahs kidnapped ordinary citizens and policemen, threatened shopkeepers, burned CDs and videos, and repeated the demands of tribal militants fighting the Pakistan Army.

At a meeting held in Lal Masjid on April 6, 2007, it was reported that 100 guest religious leaders from across the country pledged to die for the cause of Islam and Sharia. On April 12, in an illegal FM broadcast from the mosque’s own radio station, the clerics issued a threat to the government: “There will be suicide blasts in every nook and cranny of the country. We have weapons, grenades and we are expert in manufacturing bombs. We are not afraid of death….”

The brothers Abdul Aziz and Abdur Rashid Ghazi, who headed the Lal Masjid, had attracted a core of militant organisations around them, including the pioneer of suicide bombings in the region, Jaish-e-Mohammad. Their goal was to change Pakistan’s culture. On April 12, 2007, Rashid Ghazi, a former student of Quaid-i-Azam University, broadcast the following chilling message to our female students:

“The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses. They will have to hide themselves in hijab otherwise they will be punished according to Islam…. Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it.”

For months, unhindered by Gen Musharraf’s government, Lal Masjid operated a parallel government. Its minions received the Saudi Arabian ambassador on the mosque premises, and negotiated with the Chinese ambassador for the release of his country’s kidnapped nationals. The showdown came in July 2007. Copious TV coverage showed armed madressah students with gas masks firing away into the dense smoke. The final push left 10 of Pakistan’s crack SSG commandos dead, together with scores of madressah students. A tidal wave of suicide attacks — as promised by the cleric brothers — duly followed.

Amazingly Pakistan’s civilian courts exonerated Abdul Aziz and Umme Hassan (his wife, who headed Jamia Hafsa). Ignoring TV footage, the court ruled that possession of heavy weaponry by the accused could not be proven. Today Abdul Aziz remains firmly ensconced in Lal Masjid and hundreds pray behind him. He has threatened to unleash a force of 8,000 students from nearby madressahs if he is again arrested. At the behest of the then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, the destroyed Jamia Hafsa was awarded 20 kanals of choice land in sector H-11 of Islamabad for rebuilding. The land tycoon, Malik Riaz, lavishly reconstructed the damaged mosque.

How many other Abdul Aziz’s does Pakistan have? Clerics who propagate Taliban and Daesh (Islamic State) views to their followers and who, like Aziz, are unmoved by the Peshawar massacre? No one knows even the number of mosques in Pakistan, where they are located, and, most importantly, what their khutbas (sermons) contain. This must change if Pakistan is to make any progress towards containing religious violence.

The first baby step towards bringing an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 mosques under state control requires tasking local authorities at the district and tehsil level with documentation: mosque locations, sizes, religious affiliation, and known sources of funding. The second is to monitor Friday sermons, a possibility offered by modern technology. Many worshippers have mobile phones capable of recording audio. A sermon, once recorded, could be uploaded to a website operated by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Readers wishing to see how this might be done should visit http://imams.mashalbooks.org/ where sermons from scores of mosques in rural Punjab have been recorded, transcribed, and categorised for full and free public access.

A crisis is said to be a terrible thing to waste. Before the horror of the Peshawar atrocity fades from our collective memory let the state act decisively — albeit in small steps — to restore its right to regulate religious activities within its boundaries. Else the people of Pakistan shall continue to suffer terribly.

The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2015

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ARMY architects of disasters and disgrace go scot-free

The merchants of menace

Those questioning this dogma are instantly labelled traitors and ostracised while the architects of disasters and disgrace go scot-free
His clients ranged from Libya to North Korea and properties from Timbuktu to Dubai. At the height of his power his net worth was reportedly $ 400 million. His face, with a Hilteresque moustache, appeared on the February 14, 2005 Time magazine cover captioned ‘The Merchant of Menace’. That man was Dr Abdul Qadir Khan and his trade was nuclear proliferation. While everyone on his trail was convinced that Dr Khan could not have run a sprawling network of aeroplanes and yachts shuttling his P-1 and P-2 centrifuges across international airspace and maritime borders all by himself, the Pakistani authorities insisted that he was a lone wolf. The recent revelations by the former spokesman of the Pakistani armed forces, General (retired) Athar Abbas about the ex-army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, make it sound as if Kayani — like Dr A Q Khan — alone was responsible for the monumental mess Pakistan made in the North Waziristan Agency and the terrorist menace it peddled in the region.
Dovetailing with General Abbas’ disclosures about his former boss is a slew of panegyrics praising the incumbent Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif as the ‘soldier’s soldier’ by the same coterie of analysts and anchors who once celebrated General Kayani as the ‘thinking soldier’ who alone had ostensibly changed the army’s doctrine and identified domestic jihadism as the existential threat to the country. The chief has retired; long live the chief! How convenient indeed except that General Kayani did what his institution had trained and required him to do, like the chiefs before him. Was General Ayub Khan alone in staging the 1958 coup d’état? Did he not have Lieutenant Generals Mohammad Azam Khan, Wajid Burki and K M Sheikh with him all the way? Did General Yahya Khan pull off his putsch all by himself? Did Major Generals Ghulam Umar and Sher Ali Khan Pataudi not prod the deep-in-the-cups dictator? Was that most evil of them all, General Ziaul Haq, the sole architect of so-called Operation Fair Play on July 4, 1977? Did Generals Faiz Ali Chishti, Sawar Khan, Iqbal Khan, Jehanzeb Arbab, Fazl-e-Haq, Rahimuddin Khan and K M Arif not go the whole hog with Zia? And was the commando dictator General Musharraf not airborne still when Generals Aziz Khan, Mahmud Ahmad and Muzzafar Usmani wrapped up Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his government on October 12, 1999? Barring a handful of honourable exceptions during the army’s brutal campaign in Bangladesh, did any general ever refuse to carry out unlawful orders and resign?
General Kayani may be an easy punching bag but he, his predecessors and his successor are chips off that same old block, which avoids accountability like the plague. An institution that produced four overtly adventurist chiefs, suffered humiliation in four wars, brutalised the Bengalis and Baloch, meddles incessantly in civilian affairs and has no culture of accountability has a lot to answer for. Instead, stonewalling civilian inquiries into debacles like Kargil or forcing politicians to suppress damning findings like the Hamoodur Rehman or the Abbottabad Commissions’ reports is the military’s standard operating procedure. Even internal inquests into military disasters like the 1965 twin operations Gibraltar and Grand Slam are scarce and read more like a biography or a travelogue than a professional analysis of the rout. Rather than acknowledging and rectifying institutional shortcomings, the military has, for decades, commissioned analysts to write a revisionist history in which even the 1971 resounding defeat is portrayed as a betrayal by the “untrustworthy and Hindu-ised” Bengalis who had “conspired with India”. This poppycock is then taught as the gospel truth in Pakistani schools and, along with other fairytales, passes for history. Those questioning this dogma are instantly labelled traitors and ostracised while the architects of disasters and disgrace go scot-free.
Whatever General Athar Abbas has said is merely partial truth. The key question is if it was Kayani or the outfit he headed that incubated the jihadist legions in North Waziristan. As discussed in this column for years now, General Kayani refused to act against the jihadists in North Waziristan because that risked disrupting the security establishment’s meticulously crafted ‘good/bad’ Taliban tactic — a bedrock of Pakistan’s Afghanistan policy before the good jihadists could be let loose on Afghanistan come 2014’s US withdrawal. Kayani, along with Musharraf, was the architect of the establishment’s good/bad Taliban ruse to keep the US off their backs. The security establishment stoked anti-US sentiments through its assets in the media and the religio-political parties, and then used it as an excuse not to act in North Waziristan ‘under US pressure’ lest it provoke a hyper-nationalist and jihadist backlash. Kayani could not have carried out this convoluted narrative management without his top media manager who has suddenly spoken out now.
The series of operations conducted under Kayani’s command left the good Taliban unscathed and the Zarb-e-Azb offensive is no different. All major operations were announced with fanfare, giving advance warning to the jihadists to flee, as has happened in North Waziristan now. Other than netting Muslim Khan of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through a talks ploy, no top good or bad jihadist ringleader has been captured or killed in any of the grand sounding military operations conducted to date. The US drones have taken out almost all the TTP and Haqqani network leaders killed thus far. The bravado in the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) communiqués notwithstanding, reports from the locals suggest that Zarb-e-Azb’s outcome will be no different. Two weeks into the ground assault there is no independent verification of the army’s claims of killing hundreds of terrorists. The handpicked embedded journalists are en route to croak victory from North Waziristan soon. Another round of the mock whack-a-mole with the jihadists nears its completion. Unfortunately, the tremendous human cost of this eyewash is being paid by the 800,000 Pashtun civilians uprooted from their homes.
Shifting blame for past disasters to political governments, General Kayani or for that matter even the ISI is a mere diversion to insulate the military establishment against domestic and international criticism for allowing the domestic, regional and transnational jihadists consort freely in North Waziristan resulting in the deaths and maiming of thousands of innocents. The buck in this instance stops not with General Kayani but with his institution. General Raheel Sharif’s pronouncement to fight terrorists of all shades is welcome indeed but without ushering in a robust and transparent institutional accountability that assembly line will keep producing more merchants of menace who, contrary to whatever anyone says, have never acted alone.

Aziz Ihsan

Listen Mr. Taqi, the self proclaimed father of all the truth and nothing but the truth since you know damn everything which happens on this green earth.

Not sure but since Maj-Gen ® Athar Abbas was of Maj-Gen rank but his
rank doesn’t make him privy to decisions made in the Corp Commanders /formation commanders meetings, where the normal rank is of Lt-Gen.

AQK is the BIGGEST FRAUD and TRAITOR Pakistan has ever seen.

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    What is it that you disagree with the writer? The writer is just pointing the obvious. he is trying to open eyes like yours. Counter his points with what you got. A media manager is indeed privy to everything.

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      I replied in a statement second para which contradicts the validity of Maj-Gen (R) Athar statement. He was not part of Corp/formation commanders meetings. Only officers with rank level of Lt-Gen are present in these meetings. Therefore, how did he come to know that what Kiyani was thinking out loud?

      As so called media manager is not present in these meetings. At the end of the meeting one of the Lt-Gen gives out his sanitized notes to the ISPR DG.

      Second this Taqi, with a intellectual level of cab driver knows everything about everything.

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        Aziz Ihsan! your comments are not worthy to replied to. They are merely based on malicious rejection of the obvious. People of your sort and ilk bring the sky down to earth when it comes to Israel and India…condemnable as they are for their atrocities…but you will never say a word about the blood shed of Pashtun being shed under the shadow of Afghan policy being engineered by the Generals.

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    Congratulations, Dr. Taqi – couldn’t have been written more succinctly! Is there anyone listening?

Walled City of Lahore Authority officially launched on Sunday its guided tours inside the Walled City

http://www.dawn.com/news/1074226/guided-tours-to-walled-city-begin
LAHORE, Dec 15: The Walled City of Lahore Authority officially launched on Sunday its guided tours inside the Walled City after it trained over 20 tourist guides in its first Tourist Guide Course held in June this year.

According to officials, the WCLA conducted a guided tour for “Amateur Gardeners Club” (AGC). Almost 180 members of the club participated in the tour which started from Delhi Gate.

The tourists were taken through the narrow streets, recently restored by the WCLA, including Sabeelwali Gali, Gali Surjan Singh, Mohammadi Mohallah, Phoolonwali Gali, Gali Mian Sultan, Koocha Gubarchiyan, Gali Mian Sultan, Quraishiwali Gali, Katra Jawala Singh and Katra Neemwala. The tourists were taken to Masjid Wazir Khan and Delhi Gate.

Activities of interest were also made available on the site so that the tourists could get familiar with the culture of Walled City. Stalls of cultural and traditional items were put up in Sabeelwali Gali for the tourists. Colorful dhamal and monkey show fascinated the tourists.

Officials said the WCLA would regularly conduct these tours in order to attract domestic tourists to the rich city within a city. “The restoration work on Shahi Guzargah is near completion and a patch from Delhi Gate to Masjid Wazir Khan has been opened up for public,” an official said.

Pakistan for years secretly approved of US drone attacks on its territory

2013-10-24 – Pakistan secretly endorsed drone strikes: report
http://www.dawn.com/news/1051470/pakistan-secretly-endorsed-drone-strikes-report

WASHINGTON: Pakistan for years secretly approved of US drone attacks on its territory despite public denunciations, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing secret documents.

The purported evidence of Islamabad’s involvement came as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the White House and urged an end to the attacks, which are widely unpopular with the Pakistani public.

Pakistani support for drone attacks has long been widely suspected, although strikes reported by the Post involved several years up to 2011 — before a slowdown in strikes and Sharif’s election in May.

The newspaper said that top-secret documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos showed that the Central Intelligence Agency had drafted documents to share information on drone attacks with Pakistan.

The report by the Washington post comes just days after a separate UN report suggested that there was  “strong evidence” that top Pakistani military and intelligence officials approved US drone strikes on Pakistani soil during 2004 and 2008.

At least 65 drone strikes were marked for discussion with Pakistan, including through briefings at its embassy in Washington and in materials sent physically to senior officials in Islamabad.

In one case in 2010, a document describes hitting a location “at the request of your government.” Another file referred to a joint effort at picking targets.

The article — co-written by Bob Woodward, one of the two journalists who broke the Watergate scandal in the 1970s — said that the documents also showed that the United States raised concerns that extremists were linked to Pakistan’s powerful intelligence service.

In one incident, then secretary of state Hillary Clinton confronted Pakistan about cell phones and written materials from dead bodies of militants that showed links to the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

In turn, a Pakistani memo gave the names of 36 US citizens believed to be CIA agents and urged the embassy in Washington not to issue visas to them, the newspaper said.

The report came a day after Amnesty International said that the United States may have broken international law by killing civilians with drones.

It pointed to an October 2012 attack that killed a 68-year-old grandmother as she picked vegetables. For the first six months of 2011, 152 combatants were killed, according to a table cited by the Post that did not list any civilian casualties.

The Obama administration has defended drone strikes as a better way to avoid civilian casualties, saying that it carefully selects Al-Qaeda-linked extremists in lawless parts of Pakistan.

POLIO – Pakistan – Fatwa

Fatwa declares polio vaccine Islamic  –
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\25\story_25-10-2013_pg1_2

LAHORE: The Darul Afta (fatwa council) of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has issued a fatwa, saying that the administration of polio drops to children is not forbidden in Islam. It says prominent scholars and experts of the Muslim world are convinced that polio drops do not contain anything that is harmful to health or against sharia. The fatwa issued from the PUC’s central office refers to Shaykh Al-Azhar of Jamia Al-Azhar Egypt, Maulana Samiul Haq of Darul Uloom Haqqania, Mufti Rafi Usmani, Maulana Zahid Mahmood Qasmi, Mufti Muhammad Naeem, Maulana Abdul Bari of Qabail Ulema Council, Maulana Anwarul Haq Mujahid, PUC Central Chairman Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi and other Islamic leaders. The fatwa says that the holy Quran and Sunnah command us to provide proper medication to our children. It notes that polio is an incurable disease once infected. There are only three Islamic countries where polio still exists and one of them is Pakistan. Therefore, Islamic scholars have urged parents to administer polio drops to their children. The fatwa also demands the UN formulate laws to ensure global spies are kept away from healthcare organisations. It strongly condemns the actions of Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani physician who helped CIA track al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and says that people in tribal regions and many areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have refused to administer polio drops to their children to protest against the actions of Shakil Afridi. staff report

 

 

Pakistan polio outbreak puts global eradication at risk

Pakistan polio outbreak puts global eradication at risk – Dailytimes Report 19 Oct 2013

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\19\story_19-10-2013_pg1_6

* Taliban attacks, vaccine ban leave many children exposed

* Dozens of children paralysed in Waziristan outbreak

* Dramatic progress towards wiping out polio in jeopardy

LONDON: A Taliban ban on vaccination is exacerbating a serious polio outbreak in Pakistan, threatening to derail dramatic progress made this year towards wiping out the disease worldwide, health officials say.

Health teams in Pakistan have been attacked repeatedly since the Taliban denounced vaccines as a Western plot to sterilise Muslims and imposed bans on inoculation in June 2012.

In North Waziristan, a region near the Afghan border that has been cordoned off by the Taliban, dozens of children, many under the age of two, have been crippled by the viral disease in the past six months.

And there is evidence in tests conducted on sewage samples in some of the country’s major cities that the polio virus is starting to spread beyond these isolated pockets and could soon spark fresh polio outbreaks in more densely populated areas.

“We have entered a phase that we were all worried about and were afraid might happen,” Elias Durry, head of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) in Pakistan, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“The risk is that as long as the virus is still circulating, and as long as we have no means of reaching these children and immunising them to interrupt virus transmission, it could jeopardise everything that has been done so far – not only in Pakistan, but also in the region and around the globe.”

Polio is a highly infectious disease that invades the nervous system and can cause irreversible paralysis in a matter of hours. A $5.5 billion global eradication plan was launched in April with the aim of vaccinating 250 million children multiple times each year to stop the virus finding new footholds, and stepping up surveillance in more than 70 countries.

The virus has been cornered to just a handful of areas in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the three countries where polio is endemic. Global cases have dropped by more than 99.9 percent in less than three decades, from 350,000 in 1985 to just 223 last year, according to the GPEI.

But so far in 2013, there have already been 296 cases worldwide. Forty-three were in Pakistan, the vast majority in children in the semi-autonomous Pashtun lands along the Afghan border known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which include North Waziristan.

Accusations that immunisation campaigns are cover for spies were given credence when it emerged that the United States had used a Pakistani vaccination team to gather intelligence about al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was found and killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.

The Taliban ban, and associated security threats, mean the polio virus could easily escape and spread back into previously cleared areas.

Tariq Bhutta of the Pakistan Paediatric Association said there was little prospect that the militant Islamist group would change its stance. He said attacks on health teams attempting to reach children to immunise them were becoming both more frequent and more violent.

“The vaccination teams are still going out, but at risk to their lives,” he told Reuters. “People can come up on motorbikes and shoot them, and they’ve also started attacking the police put there to protect the vaccination teams.” A Taliban bomb that exploded earlier this month near a polio vaccination team in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed two people and appeared to target police assigned to protect the health workers.

“This will only be solved if the polio teams can get access to those children – either inside FATA, or when the children move out into other areas,” Bhutta said. “Without that I don’t see how things can improve. Rather I think things might get more serious when the polio virus gets out into settled areas.”

The GPEI says the FATA is the area with the largest number of children being paralysed by wild poliovirus in all of Asia.

Four polio cases in children in Pakistan were reported in the last week. Because the virus spreads from person to person, the World Health Organisation says as long as any child remains infected, children everywhere are at risk. reuters

Shahbaz expresses sorrow over KP law minister’s death

Shahbaz expresses sorrow over KP law minister’s death


* CM stresses need for forging unity to counter terrorism

LAHORE: Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over the death of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa law minister Israrullah Gandapur and the loss of other precious lives in a suicide attack in Kolachi area of Dera Ismail Khan.

Shahbaz Sharif telephoned Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khatak and strongly condemned the suicide attack. He offered his sympathies over the death of Israrullah Gandapur and others in the tragic incident.

Earlier, on the Eid day, Shahbaz offered prayers at Jaati Umra, Raiwind.

Special prayers were also offered on this occasion for the solidarity, progress and prosperity of the country. Later, the chief minister exchanged Eid greetings with the people. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Member of National Assembly Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, elected representatives and other leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz also offered Eid prayers at Jaati Umra.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Sharif said that Pakistan had been facing the serious issue of terrorism for the last several years, and besides officers of the Pakistan Army and the police, common citizens had also offered sacrifices in the war against terrorism. He said that more than 50,000 Pakistanis had embraced martyrdom so far. He said under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the federal government had formulated a policy – with the consultation of all political parties – to curb terrorism, and its implementation would yield positive results, as the situation of law and order would improve in the country.

He was talking to reporters after distributing Eid gifts among under-treatment children at the Children Hospital on the second day of Eid.

Speaking on the occasion, he said that enemies of Pakistan were engaged in conspiracies to destabilise the country, and it was the need of the hour that the whole nation should unite to root out terrorism. He said that Pakistani nation would have to stand as a rock against anti-Pakistan elements, and that collective efforts were needed to check the incidents of terrorism.

The chief minister distributed Eid gifts among the under-treatment children and inquired from their attendants about the medical facilities being provided at the hospital.

He extended heartiest felicitations to the entire nation on the occasion of Eidul Azha and prayed for the development and prosperity of Pakistan.

He said that it was lamentable that the enemies of humanity, Islam, Pakistan and peace shed the blood of innocent people even on the occasion of Eid.

He said that terrorism had caused an immense loss to national economy and it was his Eid message to the nation to counter terrorism and the evil designs of anti-Pakistan forces by forging unity.

In reply to a question, Shahbaz Sharif said that the federal government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif furthered the process of negotiations with the Taliban with due sincerity and invited them to talks.

He said that the Taliban should also respond positively to the offer of dialogue. In response to a question about the arrest of the accused involved in molestation of a minor girl of Mughalpura, the chief minister said that he was getting information about the pace of investigation into the case and substantial progress had been made. He said the culprit would not be able to escape punishment. pr

 

 

 

‘Overseas Pakistanis’ contributions towards country’s economy vital’

Oct 16, 2013
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\16\story_16-10-2013_pg5_5
‘Overseas Pakistanis’ contributions towards country’s economy vital’

ISLAMABAD: Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Speaker National Assembly has said the government was facing variety of challenges that would be overcome with the help of the Pakistani nation and support of friendly countries like Britain.

Addressing Pakistani community in Birmingham, UK he said the country was on the way of democracy and heading towards development.

He urged the overseas Pakistanis to play their role in making the country self- reliant in economic field. He called upon them to remit their foreign exchange through legal channels.

Overseas Pakistanis are the assets for Pakistan and we will address their issues on priority basis. The present government gives them a meaningful role in the nation building process. Sarwar as a Governor of Punjab is the best example.

He urged the Pakistani community in Britain to play an effective role for the projection of soft image of Pakistan. He called upon overseas Pakistani that the victims and affectees of earthquake in Balochistan direly need support and help at this moment of disaster. ppi

Population Control is no Shame – Pakistan has no oil and Electricity or Gas

fertility in check

-Photo by Fayyaz Ahmed
-Photo by Fayyaz Ahmed

While contraceptives do help with family planning, what really helps is preventing women from marrying very young.A survey in Pakistan revealed that women under 19 years of age at marriage were much more likely to give birth to five or more children than those who were at least 19 years old at marriage. The same survey also revealed that visit by family planning staff did not have a significant impact on reducing fertility rates. Instead, women who watched family planning commercials on TV were much less likely to have very large families.

Being the sixth most populous nation in the world, Pakistanis are also exposed to disease, violence, and natural disasters, which increase the odds of losing children to accidents or disease. At the same time, many consider the use of contraceptives to be un-Islamic. In addition, the preference for a male offspring is also widespread. As a result, Pakistani parents are inclined to have several children. The immediate task for the governments in Pakistan is to ensure that the rate of decline in fertility rates observed over the past two decades continues. At the same time, the governments in Pakistan should learn from Bangladesh that has made significant progress in stemming the population tide.

Source: The World Bank (2013) – Graph generated by Murtaza Haider.
Source: The World Bank (2013) – Graph generated by Murtaza Haider.

Getting down to two children per family may seem an elusive target, however, Pakistanis have made huge dents in the alarmingly high fertility rates, despite the widespread opposition to family planning. Since 1988, the fertility rate in Pakistan has declined from 6.2 births per woman to 3.5 in 2009. In a country where the religious and other conservatives oppose all forms of family planning, a decline of 44 per cent in fertility rate is nothing short of a miracle.

A recent paper explores the impact of family planning programs in Pakistan. The paper uses data from the 2006-07 Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey, which interviewed 10, 023 ever-married women between the ages of 15 and 49 years. The survey revealed that only 30 per cent women used contraceptives in Pakistan. Though the paper in its current draft has several shortcomings, yet it still offers several insights into what contributes to high fertility and what the effective strategies are to check high fertility rates in Pakistan.

The survey revealed that the use of contraceptives did not have any significant impact for women who had given birth to six or more children. While 24 per cent women who were not using any contraceptives reported six or more births, 37 per cent of those who used contraceptives reported six or more births. At the same time, 27 per cent of women who were not visited by the family planning staff reported six or more births compared with 22 per cent of women who had a visit with the family planning staff.

Meanwhile, demographic and socio-economic factors reported strong correlation with the fertility outcomes. Women who were at least 19 years old at marriage were much less likely to have four or more births than those who were younger at the time of marriage. Similarly, those who gave birth before they turned 19 were much more likely to have four or more births.

Education also reported strong correlation with fertility outcomes. Consider that 58 per cent of illiterate women reported four or more births compared to 21 per cent of those who were highly educated. Similarly, 60 per cent of the women married to illiterate men reported four or more births compared to 39 per cent of the women married to highly educated men. The survey revealed that literacy among women mattered more for reducing fertility rates than literacy among their husbands.

The underlying variable that defines literacy and the prevalence of contraceptives in Pakistan is the economic status of the households. The survey revealed that 32 per cent of women from poor households reported six or more births compared to 21 per cent of those who were from affluent households.

The above results suggest that family planning efforts in Pakistan are likely to succeed if the focus is on educating young women. Educated young women are likely to get married later and will have fewer children. This is also supported by a comprehensive study by the World Bank in which Andaleeb Alam and others observed that cash transfer programs in Punjab to support female education resulted in a nine percentage point increase in female enrollment. At the same time, the authors found that those girls who participated in the program delayed their marriage and had fewer births by the time they turned 19.

“In fact, women in Punjab with middle and high school education have around 1.8 fewer children than those with lower than middle school education by the end of their reproductive life. Simple extrapolations also indicate that the 1.4 year delay in marriage of beneficiaries associated with the program could lead to 0.4 fewer births by the end of their childbearing years.”

The religious fundamentalists in Pakistan will continue to oppose family planning programs. They cannot, however, oppose the education of young women. The results presented here suggest that high fertility rates could be checked effectively by improving young women’s access to education. At the same time, educated mothers are the best resource for raising an educated nation.