9 reasons why Pakistan should ban under 18 marriages


This article was originally published in The Friday Times  on 10th Nov, 2017. child Marriage

Many legislators have unsuccessfully tried to put an end to the discrimination of child marriage. The last such attempt was made by Marvi Memon, a member of the National Assembly, in early 2016. This year, it is heartening to see that a brave senator, Sehar Kamran, has moved another bill to amend the Child Marriages Restraint Act 1929. She has proposed to increase the minimum permissible age to 18 years bringing it at par with the limit set for boys. The Child Marriages Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2017 has been cleared by the Senate Standing Committee, and is about to be tabled in the upper house for approval. It is expected to generate a heated debate.

Here are nine reasons why it is important to bring the age limit for girls at par with that of boys when it comes to marriage:

One: legal

Article 25 (2) of the Constitution of Pakistan states, “There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex”. The Constitution of Pakistan was approved with consensus; it is a sacred document, and the State needs to follow the constitution and do away with this discrimination based on gender.

Two: international

Pakistan has made international commitments by signing international conventions including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the United Nation’s Convention on Child Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Pakistan needs to honor its commitments.

Three: personal

We violate our daughters’ other rights by committing the offence of child marriages. Their rights to education, leisure, and to marry a person of their own informed choice are violated.

Four: double standard

We do not consider a 16-year-old girl mature enough to drive a vehicle, manage a bank account, cast her vote in elections, or enter into any other kind of contract, but we think it is alright for her to contract a marriage?

Five: health

Probably the most serious problem with child marriage is how it puts at risk the health of the girl child. A teenage girl is twice as likely to die from complications in pregnancy and delivery than an adult woman. Children born of teenage mothers are 50% more likely to either be stillborn (dead at birth) or to die within a few weeks after birth. Even if she survives pregnancy and delivery, she develops physical complications like fistula.

Six: pressure

The same effect is seen on a child bride’s psychological health. She is not a grown-up woman, yet she is expected to take care of not only her husband’s needs but also those of his entire family. She is too young to deal with the conflicting demands of her relatives, and she has no one to turn to for advice. She loses confidence, and may start thinking that she is incapable or suffer from low self-esteem. This leads to depression, anxiety and many more psychological complications.

Seven: vulnerability

A child marriage is often an unequal relationship between the partners. The power equation is highly tilted against the young child bride. She is not yet equipped with a good education, she has very little or no exposure to the world and its ways. She is not capable of earning anything. On the other hand, the husband most likely has more education, has exposure to the world outside, and is financially independent. This power equation creates space for abuse, and torture with the young girl unable to defend herself.

Eight: financial

Another difficulty may arise if the husband dies, or divorces her; the young girl has nowhere to go, she has no education, no exposure, and may have a child or two to take care of. In such situations, the girl is made all the more vulnerable to suffer more abuse, harassment and blackmail at the hands of society.

Nine: religion

Though I believe the arguments given above should be enough to persuade any thinking person that it is the right decision to raise the age to 18 years for girls, there are many who believe that the religion can be used to end the debate. However, even that argument does not hold much water because the Organization of Islamic Countries has already endorsed this proposition.

Article 26 of the Khartoum Declaration (approved in 2009) states, “Take the necessary measures to eliminate all forms of discrimination against girls and all harmful traditional or customary practices, such as child marriage…” This is a consensus declaration issued by an organization that represents 57 Muslim countries. We can safely assume that the OIC would have looked into the Islamic teachings before signing such a declaration.

There are quite a few Muslim countries which have set the marriage age for girls at a minimum of 18 years. They include Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Algeria, Uganda, Oman, Syria, and Albania.

Islam has not set any specific age for marriage – neither for girls, nor for boys – nor has it specifically barred anyone from setting an age limit. Hence, setting an age limit would not be going against any specific injunction.

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The Christian Guy with a Muslim Name


bachon-ke-duniyaI was hurrying to the shop – the book shop. I wanted to see Zubair, and hoped that the owner would have left. Zubair is a salesman working on that small bookshop situated in a narrow street off the main bazaar. I started walking faster. It was open. I could see a few customers on the counter. Oh! the owner was still around. That means I will have to wait. Cold winds were blowing. It was difficult to wait outside but I had no other option.

The owner is an arrogant person, but Zubair the salesman is a nice person. His name is an enigma for me, I don’t understand it, but I never asked him about that. For me it is simple. He is a Christian with a Muslim name.
He is my class fellow. He opens this shop early in the morning at 6, cleans it, and then the owner arrives at 7. Zubair, then, leaves for school. In the afternoon, he would come back to the shop, and would work there till 9 PM.
Thank God, the owner is leaving. I wait till the owner is out of the small street, and has stepped on to the main street. I rush to the shop.

“There you are” Zubair says on seeing me. I don’t say a single word. He knows what I need. He takes out the newly arrived magazines, ‘two more have arrived, but I will give you one today; the second you can get when you return this one’. I nod in affirmative. It is a routine matter. I already know all the terms and conditions, but he would repeat it anyway.
I get hold of the newly arrived magazine ‘Phool aur Kaliyan’, and before I run away, he shouts again. Remember! not a single scratch or stain or any kind of mark. Return it in mint condition. I want you to be here at 7 before I open the shop’. I run with the magazine and shout back ‘yeah, yeah, don’t worry’. I run towards my home.

I have to go through the whole magazine in one night, and return it to the shop in mint condition early morning so that it can be sold to someone else. If I keep my promise, I will get another magazine tomorrow. and I keep praying to the God that the owner doesn’t find out about this arrangement.

This happened way back in 1989-90. There were no cell phones, no Internet, no Facebook or Twitter. I have earned a lot of money since then, and don’t need to borrow books or magazines anymore. But that Christian boy with Muslim name … I can’t forget him. He made it possible for me to go places, do things, and earn money. I wish I could reconnect with him, and see how he was doing in life. May be, I could help him a little bit.

————–

Note: It is a true story. This shop was situated in a market in Malir Cantt.

Advice to Pakistani girls who ‘commit’ love marriage


If you have married the man of your own choice (as opposed to the man your parents selected for you), never ever trust your parents who ask you to come back and they would arrange your marriage with the person of your choice. Never every go back to your parents. Never ever get emotionally blackmailed. You will not remain alive. I have come across so many cases in my 8 years association with Bedari (an organization that provides support to women/girls facing gender based violence) that I have lost count.
Zeenat

Zeenat murdered for committing the crime of marrying the person of her choice.

The girl is emotionally blackmailed and convinced into returning to her parents’ home. She is often promised that a proper marriage ceremony would be held, and she would be sent with her groom as per the customs and traditions of the society. Thus the family’s honor would be safe. However,  in every such case, the girl is killed – sometimes immediately, sometimes later on. In one case the girl was killed almost 2 years later by her male cousin in Chakwal. In another case in Depalpur (District Okara), a girl was killed 3 years later by her male relatives. Saba - The Girl in The River

This happened to Zeenat, who returned to her parents, and her own mother allegedly burnt her alive. This happened to Saba (the girl whose story is depicted in the Oscar winning documentary ‘A Girl in the River’. I have yet to come across a case in which such a girl returned to her parents, and she remained alive afterwards.
It is ironic to note that parents usually swear by Allah and the Holy Quran while promising her safety, but as soon as the girl returns home, they forget about Allah and the holy Quran, and kill her.

Trip to Netherlands – Some Interesting Observations


DSC_0750Recently, I had a chance to spend a few days in the Netherlands. It was my first ever visit to any European country. So here are some interesting observations:
  1. Everybody knows English: What I have heard from my friends about European countries is that people do not speak English (or they don’t want to). However, in Netherlands, it was different. I think I can’t recall any person who could not speak English. I had no problem in communicating with the people on the street, asking for directions, or sharing a comment. However, the sign boards usually do not have English.
  2. Orange is yellow: On breakfast table, I found a jug of juice. The liquid was of yellow color, so I assumed it to be mango juice. However, it turned out to be orange juice. Mango was not found anywhere. It seems the Netherlands needs to import mangoes from Pakistan. Mango exporters! Did you hear me?
  3. It is the winds: The sunlight is quite unbearable, but the cold winds keep blowing all the time, and keep everything cold. If you sit in behind a glass wall (so that sunlight can reach you but you are safe from wind), you would not be able to bear the heat. I did this experiment in a building in Amsterdam.
  4. Water .. it seems nobody drinks water in Netherlands. Here in Pakistan, water is a taken-for-granted thing. Hotels/guest houses would most probably provide free (or at least one bottle/day) water to its guests even without asking for it. We can’t even think of having no water on dining table at lunch/dinner. But there in the Netherlands, you need to ask for it. May be, it is because Pakistan is a hot country, and Netherlands is a very cold place. Still you need to drink water. I shared my observation with my hosts at ICDI, and they agreed that their water in-take is usually low. It was interesting to note that the next day at least one of the employees at ICDI was keeping a jug of water on her desk.
  5. Very Few Pakistani Immigrants: There are very few Pakistani immigrants, and they are scattered. So you don’t find a mini Pakistan anywhere in the Netherlands. My Pakistani host in Amsterdam thought that it was consciously designed policy of their government to keep immigrants scattered, so that they mingle with the local people rather than create their own exclusive communities (it was just his opinion, he had no solid information about such policy). However, Pakistanis have created their own exclusive communities in other European countries including England. My host told me an interesting anecdote: ‘Once I visited England, and saw that the locality had exclusively Pakistani people. I asked my host if there were any English people living in that particular locality; my host replied in Punjab that there were no “foreigners” in that locality’.
  6. Pakistani Philanthropists: Many Pakistanis living abroad want to contribute to the betterment of the society back home, but have been facing problems. It is especially the case with Pakistanis who want to contribute to worldly betterment as opposed to religious charity. Those who want to do religious charity have plenty of opportunities as they can support religious schools (madrassah) or mosques of their own sect. But those who want to contribute to education, health, disability etc. are thoroughly constrained. Pakistanis in the Netherlands particularly asked me to develop some reliable system for them. I told them I am already working on an online platform to connect needy people in Pakistan with philanthropists around the world.

Shattering Myths about Partition


Voice of Partition LogoMany myths about ‘Independence’ or partition were shattered. I had the honor of being part of a wonderful project Voices of Partition’ (VoP) – a project of Theatre Wallay (TW) funded and supported by many institutions and individuals including US Embassy in Islamabad, USEFP, Fulbright Commission, State Department (USA), and many individuals who contributed in cash or kind. The details of the project can be seen on TW website. Here I will give you a brief overview.
Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 2.29.13 pm

Scene from the Play – People migrating to unknown land

VoP team went out to cities and villages in search of people who had migrated from India to Pakistan at the time of Partition of India (1947), and recorded their interviews. We interviewed nearly 100 persons – men and women from various backgrounds now in their 70s and 80s. Quite a few of them passed away since we interviewed them. (We had no means to record stories of people who had migrated from Pakistan to India.)

Their true stories were, then, turned into a play, and performed in Islamabad, Lahore, New York, Boston, and Washington DC. In Pakistan, it was performed in Urdu, while in USA it was performed in English.
It was an intense experience for me. Being a resident of Kohat, Pakhtoonkhwa, I (or my family) was not much affected by partition. Yet I could not remain aloof to partition as it was there all over my textbooks. Additionally, most of my schooling was done in Punjab, and stories of Partition were everywhere around me.
As we progressed with our project, it turned out that all the stories written in our textbooks were just myths. The real stories told by these old men and women shattered those  myths, and changed our perception of the partition completely. It helped break the stereotypes like:
  1. Muslims and Hindus were always at each others’ throat. We interviewed about 100 people, and almost all of them started their stories by narrating that they enjoyed good relations with their Hindu/Sikh neighbors. In our textbooks, this peaceful co-existence is never mentioned. They did mention some tensions occasionally, but the situation would normalize within days, and sometimes it remained confined to a two families, and did not affect the whole community. This happens almost everywhere – wherever two communities live together. No matter the communities are divided on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or any other.
  2. The Muslims of India were dying to migrate to Pakistan. From each story, it is very clear that nobody wanted to leave the land where they were born and raised. They had strong bond with those areas, and they wanted to stay, but the riots, arson, looting, and killings, forced them to leave. So many of them originally planned to go back to their ancestral towns/villages after the situation normalized. But international borders were drawn, and return was made impossible. Some old men and women, during these interviews, recalled their ancestral villages as their ‘watan’. Most of them had not come to terms with their new homeland.
  3. People living in same villages turned against each other. During riots, people of different faiths living in the same villages/communities did not attack one another.  In fact, they tried their best to protect their neighbors irrespective of their faith. Muslim migrants told us of stories of how their Hindu/Sikh neighbors tried to protect them from other Hindus/Sikhs, and similarly Muslims on this side of the border told us stories of how they tried to protect their Hindu neighbors when other Muslims wanted to kill them. The attackers always came from other often far off places, and killed people whom they did not know personally.
These lessons are very important for those struggling to promote peace, tolerance, and co-existence. Both the states – India and Pakistan – need to learn lessons from this. They are  spending billions of dollars on weapons, and both of them have millions of people living below poverty line.
We, Pakistanis, need to pay more attention. We allowed this hate mongering to go on unchecked (rather actively facilitated it). We refused to allow and facilitate equitable development of the entire nation. Hence, we suffered another Partition in 1971,and that was based on ethnicity and language, not religion.
We have lost another 70,000 lives in past 15 years. We are not safe; our children are not safe in schools and universities where we teach them to hate their neighbors. We need to wake up, and put an end to teaching hatred. Truth is the only way to salvage ourselves, our way of life, our culture, and our centuries old civilization.

Of Child Marriages and Blasphemy


Recently, a bill to discourage child marriages was discussed in the National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs. The Committee was overwhelmingly dominated by religious right. I attended that meeting thanks to Marvi Memon (Member National Assembly from Pakistan Muslim League N, and mover of the Bill) who invited me to join and see what happens in such meetings.

Child Marriages

Child Bride

It was clear from the very beginning that the Committee had already made up its mind for rejecting the bill, and the meeting was a mere formality. As they did not want to discuss the pros and cons of the bill at hand, the chairman cut everything short by inviting the representative of Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) to share the Council’s views on the bill.

Everybody in Pakistan is aware of the views of the Chairman CII on various women’s and children’s rights issue, so nobody needed to guess CII opinion on the bill. However, we were looking forward to hear their arguments in favor of child marriages.

But discussion is something that Mullahs don’t like, because when you argue you can be proven wrong. Hence, they would always resort to divine scriptures, for which they alone reserve the right to interpret. The more they resort to such tricks, the more they expose their weakness.

The CII Representative said that declaring child marriage a crime would mean we declare that (God forbid) the holy prophet committed a crime. Hence, those who introduce or support such a bill would be committing blasphemy. Furthermore, he said that setting age limit for marriage was also against Islamic teachings.

The discussion ended right there and then. Most of the other participants instantly joined the chorus, with only one feeble voice of dissent – Kishwar Zehra of Muttahida Quami Movement (a political party in Pakistan).

Their very attempt to silence dissent with a threat of blasphemy shows that they have no solid argument in favor of child marriages. They are weak. Their strength does not lie in their argument, but in their power to get us lynched. They are holding the society hostage because of their power to incite mob violence.

There is no reason Muslims should reject a bill that protects children especially young girls from violence and abuse. I am not an Islamic scholar, and would not quote verses from holy Quran or Hadith. I would come up with some very simple commonsense arguments:

  1. The holy prophet marrying a 9 year old girl is something controversial. There are Islamic scholars and researchers who disagree with this idea. 
  2. Though the holy prophet might have married a minor girl, I have not come across any injunction of Islam in which people have been ordered to arrange marriages of their minor daughters. Hence, setting a bar on marriage age is not against any injunction of Islam.
  3. The holy prophet married 11 women, and only one of them is believed to be 9 year old girl. The rest were all adult women. Should Muslims follow one example or 10 other examples set by the same prophet.
  4. Muslims are not allowed to do everything the holy prophet did. For example, all scholars and researchers agree that the holy prophet had more than 4 wives simultaneously, but Muslim men are not allowed to have more than 4 wives simultaneously. Hence, if holy prophet married a minor girl, it does not become imperative for all Muslim men to marry minor girls.
  5. There are quite a few Muslim countries which have legislated on minimum age for marriage, and set the age limit, and nobody in those countries accused anyone of committing blasphemy. (18 years in UAE, Egypt, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Morocco, Tajikistan, Jordan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Oman, Turkmenistan; 20 in Libya)
  6. A convention of Islamic countries was held in Cairo in November 2009. The declaration issued at the convention asks the OIC countries to set 18 years as minimum age for marriage (page 6). Of course, nobody in the Muslim world accused them of blasphemy.
  7. The world has moved on. There are things which were allowed 1400 years ago, but are not practiced today … for example slavery. Atricle 11 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan says that slavery is forbidden. Should we turn the wheel back on the progress, and reintroduce slavery because it was allowed during the life time of the holy prophet?

Hence, it becomes clear that CII and Members of National Assembly Standing Committee on Religious Affairs have no ground to block this bill. They are threatening us to incite mobs against us to silence us. They have already acknowledged their defeat by resorting to such threats.

 

Muslim Countries Committing Blasphemy


Muslim Majority CountriesRecently, Council of Islamic Ideology (Pakistan) has declared that setting age limit for marriage is akin to blasphemy. I have come across a list of Muslim countries which have legislated on this important issue and set minimum age of marriage. I though I should share with Pakistani people in general and child rights activists in particular this list of Muslim countries which have committed blasphemy by setting minim age of marriage at 18 years or above.

  1. UAE,
  2. Egypt,
  3. Nigeria,
  4. Azerbaijan,
  5. Morocco,
  6. Tajikistan,
  7. Jordan,
  8. Algeria,
  9. Bangladesh,
  10. Oman,
  11. Turkmenistan;
  12. And Libya where age limit is 20  years.

16th December – Only Candle Vigils Won’t Do


APS 2Today is one of the saddest days for us all. On this day, we lost East Pakistan back in 1971. We had not come to terms with that loss yet, and then came 16th December 2014 when we lost 144 innocent lives. In addition to that, we have lost another 70,000 lives to terrorism in past 10 or so  years.

We are feeling really sad about all this especially about the the 144 children of Army Public School. Some of us are going to hold candle-lit vigils across the world, while others would be doing Quran recitation sessions. This is all fine, but we need to do a lot more if we really want to make sure we do not have to pick up small yet the heaviest coffins again.

We need to do a lot more. We need to look into the reasons of such tremendous tragedies (I am talking of both the tragedies APS and East Pakistan). We need to ask questions and demand answers – why do we have to face such tragedies again and again? What makes us so vulnerable. We need to look at the bigger picture.

Is this recent tragedy not directly linked to our obsession with ‘strategic depth’ (read strategic death) that we sought in Afghanistan? Has it got nothing to do with the way we wanted to liberate Indian-held Kashmir through proxies? Isn’t it a result of our collective sins to ignore (or even support) the state policies to use terrorist groups for our strategic goals – getting hold of Jammu and Kashmir, and making Afghanistan our 5th province. (Interestingly, we did not bother to make Gilgit-Baltistan or FATA our 5th province.)

We owe it to our children to do some serious introspection, acknowledge our blunders, and make sure we do not repeat them. Over 70,000 deaths should be enough to teach us that nurturing snakes in our backyards with the belief that they would bite only our neighbors is not going to work. We need to learn to govern our own country properly, rather than poke our nose into Afghanistan and India. We need to learn to integrate and govern whatever we have (GB, FATA, PATA, and AJK), rather than create a mess here, and still have expansionist designs against our neighbors.

We need to remember that over 25 million children are out of school in Pakistan, and there are millions of people who do not have access to clean drinking water, and healthcare. We need to set our priorities right. We need to get rid of our obsession with entire Muslim Ummah at the cost of our own people. Nobody bothered to help us, rather so many rich Muslim countries still continue to drag us into actual or proxy wars, and continue to support those groups which are responsible for spreading hatred and extremism in our country. We need to build our institutions, and we need to learn that every institution needs to work efficiently within its own mandate.

If we do not do such serious introspection, if we do not acknowledge our blunders, if we do not change our ways/policies, we are bound to face such tragedies again and again, and we will continue to hold candle lit vigils and Quran recitations in the foreseeable future.

Justice Khawaja! … Your hearing is as much a joke as the National Action Plan is


Today I came across this news item:

559639fc699e6NAP is a big joke, devised to deceive masses, says Justice Khawaja

NGOs are an easy target.
Though NGOs personnel do not carry weapons, and have not been found involved in any terrorism related incidents, but anyone and everyone is interested in curtailing NGOs’ activities. It should be noted that many NGOs have been attacked or have received threats (including myself and my organization – Bedari​). Plan International’s office in Mansehra was put on fire in 2007 when 8 people were burnt alive, I was living very close to that office in those days. I can list scores of many more incidents, in which NGOs offices were attacked, and/or their staff were targeted and killed.

However, the government, military, judiciary, media – nobody has the courage to talk about those who carry weapons, who have hid weapons in the mosques, and madrassahs – those who have illegally occupied government and private lands by building mosques and madrassahs without any permission. They do not dare act against those who openly express their allegiance to terrorist organizations, against whom multiple reports have been registered at various police stations (Mullah Abdul Aziz is a case in point).

Justice Khwaja: how many unregistered NGOs are working Pakistan, and how many unregistered and unregulated madrassahs are functioning in this country? Does anyone know how much money is being received by the Madrassahs, and where that money is spent? Does anyone care who throw rose petals on the ambulances carrying dead bodies of terrorists? Does anyone care about those who say terrorists can not be Muslims (or Muslims cannot be terrorists) but when a terrorist dies, they are the first ones to join the last rituals.

Justice Khwaja! your hearing is as much a joke as the NAP is and these two jokes are a big tragedy for this nation.

Suggestions for National Action Plan for countering terrorism


Nawaz Raheel

Government of Pakistan has recently announced formation of a Parliamentary Committee to chalk out a National Action Plan to counter terrorism in Pakistan. Though the nation has really very little trust in the government, yet let us give it a chance, and support it as much as possible.

The problem has been analyzed and re-analyzed many a time. We do not have to get into a long exercise to find what we need to do. Here are two sets of suggestions – short term measures and long term measures.

The short term measures:

  1. A clear message should be sent to the entire nation that the government and military are on the same page, and both mean business. Some of the steps that would help send this message in unambiguous terms are:
    1. Arrest of top leadership of all the extremist groups (whatever their current names) especially Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jundullah and many more
    2. A complete and meaningful ban on extremist and terrorist organizations
    3. A clear and unambiguous message to media houses to stop giving space to Taliban apologists especially Orya Maqbool Jan, Ansar Abbasi, Hamid Gul, Imran Khan, Sami ul Haq, Munawwar Hassan, Abdul Aziz (or their disciples). Government should introduce changes to PEMRA Act if necessary. Channels should be punished if they do not take responsibility for the content.
  2. Cleanse Punjab. No attempt to address the issue of terrorism can be successful if Punjab is not touched.
  3. Madrassahs known for harboring terrorists should be shut down immediately without worrying about the consequences. Mullahs are on the defensive, and the opportunity must not be lost. Nothing more outrageous than the killing of innocent children can happen.

These measures would send a clear signal not only to the people of Pakistan but to our neighbors that the government means business this time. Many half-hearted and less committed extremists would mend their ways, and we would be left to deal with only the hardcore extremists.

The long term measures:

Following are the major issues that need to be addressed:

Army and Foreign Policy

I have clubbed them together because it is army that controls our foreign policy. Parliament needs to assert its authority as the institution that controls Army, not the one that is controlled by Army. ISI needs to focus on anti-terrorism intelligence rather than on making and breaking political parties/alliances.

We must put an end to the use of terrorist groups as a means to achieve foreign policy objectives. We want Kashmir liberated, Okay, but Jihadi groups have brought us no laurels. Let us admit that this strategy has failed miserably, and let us give a chance to diplomacy. Let us make life easier for ourselves and for the Kashmiris as well. It would be a great service to the cause of Kashmir liberation movement.

Similarly, we need to make it clear through our actions (not words) that we would not let our soil be used against any of our neighbors. Afghanistan, India, Iran and even China – all of them have been hit by the terrorists living in the safety of our land. We need to act against terrorists of all hues – including those complicating our relations with our biggest neighbor India by claiming to wage Jihad for the liberation of Kashmir.

Arab Countries:

It has been repeatedly mentioned in national discourse that Arab countries are actively supporting religious organizations (mosques and Madrassahs) in Pakistan. It should be one of the main objectives of our foreign policy to persuade the Arab countries to plug these funds pouring into Pakistan’s jihadi networks. We do not need more Madrassahs, we have more than enough mosques. We badly need schools, colleges, universities, hospitals, and safe drinking water. If they have spare money, they should help us build these facilities. If they are more interested in earning ‘Sawab’, we should request them to spare us, and earn ‘sawab’ through some other means. If they are not going to plug this funding, we must find ways to plug it on our own.

FATA and Other Special Areas:

Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA), and Gilgit Baltistan should be brought under the constitution of Pakistan. People living in these regions should be given equal status under the constitution. FCR should be abolished forthwith. Jurisdiction of Pakistan’s higher judiciary should be extended to all of Pakistan including the areas mentioned above.

Education System:

This is probably the most important issue that needs to be tackled very carefully. We must put an end to various types of education institutions – Madrassahs, Elite Schools, Public Schools, English Medium and Urdu Medium Schools, Mosque Schools.

Government needs to take over /nationalize Madrassahs. Every province should have its own textbook board, its own syllabus, and all the educational institutions (including Madrassahs, Private English Medium Schools, and Public Schools) should teach the syllabus approved by the governments of the relevant province.

The syllabus must be completely overhauled.

  1. All material that is insensitive to gender and minorities (religious, ethnic or other) should be removed.
  2. Lessons glamorizing war should be deleted. War heroes should be replaced with Heroes of Humanity – those who did great service to humanity.
  3. Lessons should emphasize inclusiveness. Lessons should be written for Pakistani students of any faith, any ethnicity, and any gender. The focus on macho Muslim men should be rectified.
  4. Take out the hate material and conspiracy theories from the syllabus.
  5. Falsehood must be removed from all books. Historical facts should be presented without any bias. We, as a nation, should be able to be comfortable with the truth. Teaching falsehood to our kids is not going to make us a great nation – never.

These are some humble suggestions. Please feel free to comment and add to these. Let us make it a comprehensive document. I would like to share the final document with the government and media. Your support in this regard would be highly valued.