Thursday, June 19, 2014

Discussion on Education and change with a closed minded Taliban sympathiser.

Not long back the young Pakistani girl Malala Yousufzai was in the news with the launch of her book and narrating her struggle and the need for education for girls in Pakistan. The majority of Pakistani's were proud of the bravery of the young girl and while her endeavours will raise awareness of the issue of education for girls in the North West of Pakistan, there is no doubt that in some very conservative quarters there is a Taliban type sentiment that educating girls is counter productive.

 Around the same time the debate about education and what Malala Yusufzai was promoting came to a head with a discussion with a person who I would best describe as a Taliban sympathiser. I shall simply call him TS and the dialogue went like this.

 "This girl should not be allowed to appear on TV, especially in England (he pronounced it Ing-land)she is bringing shame to our country."

"How is she bringing the country to shame?" I asked.

"We should only teach girls home economics, to make them better mothers and wives." TS fancied he was a little liberal than the Taliban in his position.

"Well why not a doctor or a teacher, or any profession." I enquired.

"How can you have your daughter working in a public place, seeing men who are not related to her, and with it come all the vices of the West?" TS was getting worked up.

"What vices? Look TS if your daughter has a good upbringing then she will up hold the values that are ingrained in her." I offered my conciliatory view.

 "You do not know these vices." TS asked accusingly.

"Education is not a vice." I answered.

"Perhaps not, but then the girl is working, comes in contact with men, they take her phone number call her for work and then slowly they tempt her to this dating thing and next your daughter's reputation is in the gutter and no one will marry her." TS had figured out the whole script.

"Are you saying that girls should not have mobile phones?"

 "Actually no they should not. Its an evil in their hands." TS smiled.

"This is character assassination of all women which logically one cannot accept." I told him.
 "OK lets stick to the job thing. So you do not want your daughter to be a doctor because she will meet men?"

"Absolutely not." TS answered.

 "TS who do you love the most in the world?" I asked.

 "My mother ofcourse!"

"OK not lets assume God forbid your mother is seriously ill and needs to go to a hospital and if as you say girls should not be educated it is natural then only a male doctor will examine your mother. Right?' I asked TS.

"What are you suggesting?" TS was getting a bit aggressive.

"Well if you do not want your mother to be touched or examined by a male doctor then the only choice is a female doctor, who obviously will be someone's daughter. So how can you be against educating women?" Even though I am not suggesting education for women should only be to become doctors, but for the limited closed minded thinking of TS I took the narrow route.

"See this is the problem with you Western minded Pakistani's you twist something so simple of education and make it too complicated by giving these examples which are all theoretical. My mother, may she be blessed, is in good health so why should i think of what you are saying." TS was getting even more aggressive.

"TS may your mother never be sick but just hope when she does go to a hospital she is not having to be examined by a male doctor. My suggestion pray someone else has had an open mind enough to educate their daughter to be the doctor who will examine her." I was smiling.

 TS stood up, glared at me and walked out. Lucky for me he did not come back with a gun and shoot me for being an infidel.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Pakistan: Negotiating with Militants.

The recent spate of attacks by the Pakistan Taliban, most notable of which was the attack on Karachi Airport, backed with a promise by its leadership of more attacks, scuttles any belief that negotiating with the Taliban and other militant elements is a senseless position. Imran Khan, the leader of the PTI, and who govern the province where the Taliban and co have most of their activities, was for a few years adamant that the a negotiated settlement with the Taliban was not only possible but desirable. As noble as the desire for peace and negotiating it across the table sounds the idea of negotiating with someone who says, "if i do not get my way I will fire my guns", can only be a non starter. In the wake of the attacks even Imran Khan has been quick to back the military action against the militants and he must realise that negotiating with the Taliban and co is not a feasible position. In Pakistan we have been stressing we are a democracy, and for the first time in its checkered democratic history, the incumbent government handed over power after losing in the elections to another civilian government without the ignominy of the military stepping in. Pakistan has a parliament and has elected representatives, no matter how weak the democracy may seem, so negotiating with a power group that has not got any representation from the people through the democratic process is like admitting that political groups who are well armed can hijack the 'democratic' process whenever they wish to. The statement by the Taliban that as the peace talks were faltering they have decided to take revenge and there will be more attacks is simply saying that if we do not get our way we will kill you and kill a great deal more innocent people. Imran Khan and his party should wake up and if they do want to make a difference, and a positive difference, they should simply say, 'so long as you carry a gun there cannot be a discussion'. This has to be non-negotiable, and then it as to ask what is there to negotiate? Taliban was the Shari'ah law in the country, well there already are Shari'ah laws as approved by the Parliament in force in the country! They want a society where selective education of their flavour is only allowed; ask them to win enough parliamentary seats and with a majority in the National Assembly pass the laws they want. In essence one has to wonder when one says we will talk to the Taliban one had to wonder that in a democratic system, as rickety as it may be, what can you talk to them about? The audacity of the recent attacks, and the targeting of military targets by the Taliban has infuriated the Pakistan Army, perhaps more so that the attackers were foreign nationals who form the cadre of the Taliban militant force also. The moment has really come for Pakistani politicians and the public to reject the politics of violence and there has to be no giving in to talks where the basis of a discussion is enforced through guns. The only talks that can be held with the Taliban is their disarmament and to only give them the option to be a political party that can try its luck at the polls. The politics of division especially on religious grounds where each may claim to be 'better Muslims' then others is not in the spirit of Islam, where tolerance is the creed and not the intolerance that these militants espouse. Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and the other parties within the Parliament should all agree to a single plan on the issue of terrorism and militancy. There has to be a national program for also educating the masses on the real issues of national reconstruction and how the rigid position of the militants is against the very edifice of statehood. Any change that must happen to the social and political fabric of the country must happen through the democratic process and not through the power of militancy.