.. by Tariq Khan HI(M)
Pakistan is a relatively new country, but soon after its inception it had already begun to lose its true direction and purpose. It is now commonly misbelieved that the country was conceived because of ideology. In fact, it was conceived to escape ideology. Two factors point in this direction: first, that the majority of Muslims were actually abandoned in India at the altar of the Lahore Resolution of March 24, 1940, in favour of Muslim majority areas. Second, the current status of Muslims in India and the treatment they are receiving in a Hindu-dominant ideology. This can be further questioned in the wake of the Two-Nation Theory and the break-up of East Pakistan. Two conclusions stand out as a fact: Bangladesh never joined India, and Pakistan was not constructed for Islam.
However, it is this very thinking that dominates our external and internal policies. Resultantly, the country has morphed into something it was never designed to be. Over the years it has refused to become a nation, instead forcing its people to look towards a larger objective — the ‘Islamic Ummah.’ Thus, instead of looking inwards, the country has insisted on looking outwards — for assistance, for resources, for employment, for support and for recognition. This has determined its outlook and profile, and engendered both, an alignment with ideologically compatible elements, and with globally acceptable governance principles. This in turn has led to two different and opposing perceptions in perpetual conflict with one another: a government trying to find its place in the comity of nations as an international entity based on a universally accepted social order, and a public at large held hostage to an extreme position based on ideological thinking — which nothing short of death would do to defend. Somewhere between these two positions lies the State of Pakistan — a country without a nation, in search of an identity.
In this situation, the backdrop of National Security for Pakistan has to be discussed; the parameters not only need to be defined, but clearly understood. After all, before any collective wisdom leads to commitment whereby red lines are established and limits recognised, let us first examine what it is we want to lay down our lives for, and more importantly, what it is that we wish to live for.
The State and Government are two different things. The former is permanent and comprises people, land, sovereignty and government. The latter is intangible and temporary; it is a component of State; it may be a democracy, an aristocracy, a dictatorship or even a monarchy. In a democracy the government usually represents the majority of the people, but not all the people, whereas the State includes all the people in it. In the case of Pakistan, the purpose of the State was never documented, but in keeping with the Quaid’s vision, it was amply expressed in his ‘Unity, Faith and Discipline’ statement. Unity was a quest for being one nation, faith was to have confidence in a new and fledgling state and its people, while discipline was a reference to the rule of law and regulation. The future profile of the state was defined by the Quaid’s address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
The Objectives Resolution put paid to Jinnah’s vision for Pakistan. The immediate contradiction between State and Government is blatantly displayed in the constitution by this Resolution. This was first only a preamble to the constitution, later becoming part of it on the orders of a dictator. The very notion of structuring a separate state, unbound by religion or ideology, was challenged by the people who were thrust into the corridors of power — pygmies and men of straw. The mullahs who rejected the Quaid and declared him a ‘kaffir’ and who labelled Pakistan as ‘Kaffiristan’, slowly acquired control of the government. This led to serious social polarisation, damaging the first principle that the Quaid laid out for the State: ‘Unity’.
Then there is the issue of the Constitution, a document that is a codified law which only deals with the limits of the government’s power. Though the objectives of the constitution are many, first and foremost of these is to define the components of government itself, and even more importantly, it is in fact a set of regulations designed to protect the people from their own government. It embodies laws and regulations that guarantee human rights, equality, freedom of speech and access to information among many other matters. However, in Pakistan’s Constitution it is clearly stated that a non-Muslim cannot be the head of State or the Prime Minister, making some people more equal than others. It also sets the flavour and precedence for selecting people to high office. This is the second contradiction that all governments have with the Founding Principles of the State as defined by the Quaid in his first speech to the Constituent Assembly. This has led to divides that have taken on a violent turn as was the case of the riots that prompted Justice Munir to state: “As the commission noted, no two religious divines could agree on the definition of a Muslim. If the members of the commission tried imposing a definition of their own, the ulema would unanimously declare them to have gone outside the pale of Islam. Adopting the definition of any one religious scholar entailed becoming an infidel in the eyes of all the others.”
Thus in the years preceding 9/11, Pakistan witnessed two thousand sectarian killings. Religion had now become a part of politics. The sitting government of the time could not find it within itself to say a few words of prayer for the departed soul of their own governor, Salman Taseer, when he was killed by his guard. Governments were forced to review foreign policy as well as administrative policies in keeping with the maulvis’ views. This has resulted in the ridiculous spectacle of a Mullah Aziz of burqa fame to openly challenge the writ of the government in the heart of the capital even today, or the disgusting sight of a crippled Mullah Rizvi, sitting in his wheelchair, abusing everyone in government publicly. There is a comic illustration of the maulvis’ hold on the public that is regularly displayed from some roof when a band of these lame, blind and bearded self-appointed custodians of the faith, try to find the moon through a telescope at every Eid.
Questions are asked about sovereignty and how it must be defended. Yet how does one view sovereignty? Is it merely a wish — a distant intangible phenomenon — or does it have real implications in real terms? When a country owes so much to international financial institutions and when it depends upon alliances for its existence, sovereignty can never be total but always proportional to the power potential that a country has. Today, Pakistan is not in a position to formulate an independent foreign policy and has to acquiesce to regional and global demands. More so, Pakistan is not even in a position to construct its own annual budget without IMF approval. Thus sovereignty is relative and Pakistan has very little control over its own matters. In other words, what are those National Objectives that Pakistan needs to promote through a foreign policy? The first and foremost of these would be to convince the world that it is in compliance with international norms and values. Yet, Pakistan is often on the back-foot, defending non-state actors, extremists and known wanted militants. Is this government policy, or is the government coerced into it? An external threat to Muridke would put Pakistan in a situation where it would have to fight to defend an extremist institution put up by maulvis. So does National Security call for cleaning up these areas or defending them? This ambiguity needs to be addressed and the prevailing confusion must be dispelled. Then there is the account of the drone attacks during the War on Terror which FATA was subjected to; of the 48000 square kilometres, 35000 square kilometres had been cleared of the militants, leaving only 13000 square kilometres that generally included North Waziristan. This was where the drone campaign focused. It was mainly because Pakistan actually had no real control of its own area and its sovereignty was being continually violated by foreign fighters. Was it right for the State to abdicate its responsibility and not remove the foreign fighters thereby subjecting its own citizens to a bombing campaign? Violation of sovereignty was the first argument that the State offered the world, but refused to take measures to establish that sovereignty even at the cost of its own people. National Security therefore has to take on a more deliberate note and a defined direction.
National Security must always be seen in the context of ‘threat’ and vulnerabilities. After all, security against what and who? People tend to confuse military conflict with war. War is a term derived from ‘werre’, a Greek term, which means chaos. It is an all-encompassing term and military conflict is the last and smallest component of it. War includes, economy, food security, liberty, infrastructure, communication systems, industry, etc. Thus military conflict has very little role in National Security and usually when it comes to the necessity of a military application, the war has already been lost. East Pakistan is a very good example, where no military action could have kept Pakistan united — the war was already lost. So, first and foremost, the threats to Pakistan and the vulnerabilities it is exposed to must be identified. In this case, where the economy is being devastated by governments themselves, where industry cannot grow, where GDP is negative, to identify the threat is not at all difficult. When the provinces do not see eye to eye and there are provincial issues, when people are divided by ideology and sects, then this polarisation has a serious impact on the very foundation of the State. Yet when one sees that all governments have remained in conflict with the state, then what can any National Security Plan do for the country? A country disunited, without a nation, living on borrowed resources and borrowed time, looking around to defend itself against a threat when its own governments have been the biggest threat, while the people of this country follow at second place, needs serious and detailed retrospection.
If it is National Security that must address these internal and external issues, it must first examine the very ethos of the State and bring back those values that the Quaid had stipulated in his first speech as well as his vison of Unity, Faith and Discipline. No other course would ever serve this country better. For this, the following reforms are recommended, which need to be put in place by the National Security Council.
Judicial Reforms to provide a homegrown judicial system compatible with international law. To ensure equality for all and a state where no one will be treated as a lesser human being by profession, belief, caste, creed or birthright.
Another area in dire need of attention is the depoliticisation of the police and making this institution independent of politicians. Ensure good recruitment among the leadership and provide international-level training. This would bring an end to bullying of society by the politician in the chair. It would also address the VIP syndrome and unnecessary protocol demands.
There is also the issue of modifying or rewriting the Constitution. It must be remembered that this is a document provided by the ‘people’ to the legislators to ensure that they understand the limits of their power and remain confined within stipulated parameters. Human rights and individual freedom, liberty and security to life and property must be the basis of the constitution. In Pakistan democracy has become the tyranny of the majority and the constitution must address this matter.
Also in urgent need of redressal is the matter of ideology. Religion must be separated from State business. It should be an individual choice and not a communal business. Maulvis have to be put out of the business of politics. They should be allowed to function only after being licensed and with a strict code of conduct and stipulated regulations.
As for the provinces, Pakistan must either consider the United States of Pakistan with total autonomy to the provinces, or the provinces should be further divided to create about 20 or 25 provinces. Provincial separatist movements that keep threatening national cohesion can be addressed by more provinces.
Furthermore, the government must reintroduce merit in the bureaucracy. Education must be given very special attention. Only the best must be selected for government. Education must have another field promoting skilled manpower and labour that is affiliated with international guilds. This would establish standards in workmanship and also provide better jobs the world over.
People that have robbed this country must be held accountable. No plea bargains should be allowed. Closure must be brought to these matters as quickly as possible.
And as for governance, the government has no business participating in the corporate sector and must divest all its businesses. The government must make policy and not run businesses. The power distribution system is a good illustration, the government cannot control theft, corruption and mismanagement. If handed over to the private sector and competition is encouraged, the matter of power distribution would easily be resolved. On the other hand, the amount of misappropriation and mismanagement that one witnesses on a day-to-day basis negates the need for the government regulation as it stands. A free market economy should decide how businesses develop. Most importantly, development funds must never be placed at the disposal of the legislators; it is unconstitutional, an indirect bribe and a basis of corruption.
A country in a conventional democratic order is governed by the three pillars of State: Legislative, Executive and Judicial; the fourth pillar, ‘Journalism and Reporting’ was added by the United States after the Civil War. It is now commonly recognised as the Media. This was meant to add a process of checks and balances, not one of disputes as we have. However, in Pakistan, in very real terms, the shots are really called by the clergy, who determine what is kosher for foreign policy as well as administrative functioning; without a nod from them, nothing of substance can move forward. The mafias who dabble in crime and thievery are proving to be another force to reckon with and who manipulate judicial decisions and legislation to their own convenience. It would not be out of place to add them to the pillars of the State as viewed in Pakistani democracy. With such contradictions in place and with the common knowledge that the provinces are held together by the military and not through political cohesion or through any constitutional convention, maybe the armed forces too should be given the status of a pillar of the State. Thus as long as ‘Volume 10’ remains secret, the Model Town killings will see no closure, in fact, all inquiries will continue to die without conclusion, mosques will be filled to capacity, but no child will be safe on the streets. But it is not surprising that the army has a role in governance. It has been accorded that by the successive governments of the country who need it to clean drains and desilt canals, collect electricity bills, manage disasters and contain pandemics.
If National Security has to secure the interests of the country, it must establish the country’s relevance in the world. Here it appears that Pakistan is going down the CPEC route — and that is not a bad thing. The connectivity of the sea to the land and Asia to Europe has huge potential. Pakistan is central to this activity and if it engages in this activity in earnest it will establish itself as a Global Trade Corridor. This allows for many stakeholders and partners the world over to benefit and participate in an economic synergy never seen before. That would bring Pakistan international relevance and with it, clout and a voice at various forums. However, the internal vulnerabilities remain and are huge. To weave this country into a nation, to unify it, to bring faith in its own capacity, to ensure discipline among communities, a great deal would have to be done. The constitution needs to be revisited, the social contract reexamined. The contradictions between the State and the Government must be removed and political manifestos must define only how they could enhance State objectives, principles and vision, or at the least, how best they could serve them. In this vein, the distortion of history must stop and real issues with a factual record must be encouraged. Culture, tradition and history make a nation — lies do not. The political structure needs to step up to the block and resolve these issues or the army is there to stay for better or for worse. In the paradigm of national security, the enemy always searches for the centre of gravity, that if targeted and dismantled, would bring about an early demise of that particular country. In Pakistan, it is now universally recognised that the Armed Forces are the cohesive factor and must be attacked at every level, i.e. moral and physical. People must be informed that smear campaigns, media onslaughts and unnecessary criticism without understanding either the backdrop or the environment is playing into enemy hands. What needs to be understood is, as has been famously said, you will always have an army, if not your own, then someone else’s.
Recently Prime Minister Imran Khan Inaugurated Protected Areas initiative. Under this program there are 15 national parks including Handarap Shandur national park in GB. I wonder what this name stands for ? National park is technical term and it means protected habitat of unique flora and fauna. Handarap Shandur is misleading name. Handarap is not a natural habitat. It is a hamlet of 300 houses in Ghezar GB, with a human population of 3500 souls. There is a nala called Shonjo Gole. It is 27 Km long nala adjacent to Handarap with a beautiful lake, Lush green meadows and alpine forest. Shandur is name of a distant place in Khyber Pakhtun Khwa, which neither makes part of it’s Core area nor periphery. In view of the above the very nomenclature of the National Park is wrong. It must be renamed Shonjo Gole national park which is a natural habitat, not human settlement.
It would be pertinent to suggest that the initiative may be reviewed by technical people having basic know how of biodiversity and it’s conservation. National Parks is an advanced step of game sanctuary and game reserve and as such it must be planned through a team of experts in the field. The current scenario shows that this topic is under the grip of lay men among political circles. In order to make a viable technical project, the names of Handarap and Shandur may be deleted from the title name and it must be Shonjo Gole national park. .. by Dr. Inayat ullah Faizi, Chitral 18 Oct 2020
.. by Islamuddin
Standardization of measurements and time began in 1960s with SIs in Paris and GMT in London and since then both have become globalized including in Pakistan. But standardization of educational certificates and degrees has yet to take place. Our first education policy in 1970s was the first step in this direction with some universities starting semester system. However instead of moving forward we have backtracked. The advent of WTO and ISO certification regime in 1990s gave new impetus to the globalization drive in the education sector. This regime requires 4 years of degree program (B.S) divided into 8 semesters. M.S replaces M.Phil to be followed by Ph.D. Despite international urgency we slept and failed to upgrade our institutions to offer these courses. Suddenly with increasing heat being placed on the government notifications are being issued asking colleges and universities to start 4 year degree programs completely ignoring their capacities for the task.
This year students with less than 800 marks at intermediate level could not get admission in B.S. Left high and dry candidates are trying to get admission in Associate Degree program which has replaced the old B.A/B.Sc but could not get admission in this program because syllabus for this has not yet been made available to colleges. Some of the newly established universities find it difficult to start B.S courses for want of resources. Almost all private and many government colleges can only offer Associate Degree program but the enabling notification and syllabus have not been issued causing delay which would adversely affect completion of courses in time. It would have been in the fitness of things for the government to mandate universities to offer B.S and colleges to offer Associate Degrees. That is the only way out of our current predicament failing which 80 % of our student population would stand deprived of education beyond intermediate. The poor would be hit hard because Associate Degree program which is cheaper than B.S is not available to their kids. Above all private students do not figure out in the new dispensation, as there is no provision for private B.S degree.
In Chitral the situation is even worse. Chitral University has not yet been formally commissioned by HEC although it does offer B.S programs in few traditional subjects but the legality of its degrees is not certain. Together with its post graduate college only a handful of students can be accommodated in B.S program. None of them offers admission in emerging marketable disciplines. This is forcing students to move out in search of marketable disciplines at a cost that majority of them can ill afford and consequently Chitralis would be deprived of education beyond intermediate. Had SBBU not been gifted to Dir by our worthy representatives to please the powerful Najmuddin ostensibly as a trade off, Chitral would have been in a better position to offer B.S programs in variety of subjects. Give the current snail speed with which the university project is moving or shall I say stagnating, it would take decades for the University to give some semblance of a seat of higher learning. Our elected representatives have no time for the University project and consequently HEC funds are only trickling down instead of flowing. This is not how universities are built. Without a full -fledged university, offering contextual and marketable courses, Chitral would lag behind in development. University level research and innovation would go a long way to unleash the creative energies of Chitralis and fast track its multi-dimensional development.
It is hoped that the government would wake up to its responsibilities and bring some clarity to the emerging confused scene in higher education on lines suggested above i.e. mandating universities to offer B.S and colleges to offer Associate degrees. If a holder of Associate Degree chooses to join B.S, then his 4 semesters of Associate Degree may be deemed to be part of initial 4 semesters of B.S and the remaining 4 semesters may be completed in the university. In case of a shortfall in content Knowledge a bridge semester, as suggested in earlier HEC notification, may be offered to Associate Degree holders before they can join 5th semester of B.S. In view of the tough criteria for B.S admission teaching quality up to intermediate may be improved through inter alia, cheating free examinations. HERA and the University of Jurisdiction may not be allowed to fleece their affiliated colleges by demanding fresh registration fee for Associate Degree program and instead their earlier affiliation/registration for B.A/B.Sc may be treated as fee for the purpose of Associate degree program. The high rate of fee charged by HERA may be rationalized and brought down to make higher education less costly for students. In fact it would be appropriate to even eliminate this fee as HERA incurs no expenditure in providing service to the colleges or students. In the past HERA Peshawar remained under NAB inquiry for corruption. However since then HERA has been cleaned up and things are being handled more professionally. Monitoring of education sector regulators including universities may be tightened to eliminate corrupt practices… by Islamuddin, Chitral 11 Oct 2020
CHITRAL: There is much ado about a meeting of the Ayubia clan held in Chitral recently over the land settlement issue. Mustering of tribesmen and relatives in time of need is an old practice in Chitral as anywhere else. In Chitral using tribal affiliation for political purposes effectively started in the early 1980s and Shahzada Mohiuddin, an astute politician, who was the pioneer and binding force behind the move benefitted greatly from it in his political carrier.
The use of tribal support for political motives is as good as using the religious card to garner votes or using a political party to gain votes. All these modus operandi to work in politics have been based on the intrinsic weakness of human beings to associate themselves with some stronger entity to get a feeling of security. These persons (voters) are wearing blinkers where they see only their affiliated party, religious bias or tribal binding, totally ignoring merit in the process. A person interested in politics looks for where he can cash in best, whether on party basis, on religious basis or tribal bias basis.
If the system of Meritocracy is introduced for forming governments, all the above mentioned factors will take rest on the back seat and the best suited people will govern the country. No Religious bindings, no tribal affiliations, and no political party obligations will be of any use. Only merit will be the criteria.. CN report, 06 Oct 2020
What matters is that the price of wheat flour has gone up from Rs35 a kilogram two years ago to Rs65 a kilogram. What matters is that the price of medicines has gone up a whopping 200 percent in a matter of just two years. What matters is that the price of sugar has gone up from Rs55 a kilogram two years ago to Rs100 a kilogram. What matters is that electricity has gone up from Rs10 a unit to Rs17 a unit in just two years. Would prices come down if Mian Nawaz Sharif is brought back?
Inflation means more poverty. Two years ago, 70 million Pakistanis were living below the line of poverty. Now there are 90 million Pakistanis living below the line of poverty. This is what really matters. Yes, they should all meet but as a consequence of their meetings the accumulated burden on 90 million poor Pakistanis should come down – not go up.
We cannot do FATF without the ‘establishment’. We cannot do Gilgit-Baltistan without the ‘establishment’. We cannot do Karachi without the ‘establishment’. We cannot handle Saudi Arabia without the ‘establishment’. We cannot deal with China without the ‘establishment’. This creates a vacuum. Aristotle called it ‘horror vacui’ or nature abhors a vacuum – and the ‘establishment’ gets sucked into this vacuum. We have become a state that is in a state of perpetual conflict. For the 220 million Pakistanis, this is all a zero-sum game.
From non-issues we run to scapegoats. The ‘mafia’ has increased the price of sugar. The ‘mafia’ is the scapegoat here. The real issue here is that the government either has no policy or its policy has completely failed. The IPPs have increased the price of electricity. The IPPs are scapegoats here. The real issue here is that the government either has no policy or its policy has completely failed. Question: Why have we taken Rs15 trillion in new loans in the past two years? Answer: Because previous regimes were ‘corrupt’. Corruption is the scapegoat here. The real issue here is that the government either has no economic policy or its economic policy has completely failed.
From non-issues to scapegoats to duality of power. A ‘hybrid regime’ means unclear rules of the game. When the rules of the game are unclear, the system marches towards dysfunctionality. The powers that get sucked into the vacuum then increase the system’s hybridity. Increased hybridity means two things: one player becomes more visible and other players within the system get even more confused.
We are in a vicious circle of poverty – a ‘circular constellation of forces tending to act and react to one another in such a way as to keep Pakistan in a state of permanent poverty’. Let’s go back to real issues. Put an end to our perpetual political conflicts. No scapegoating, please. .. Source
It was these very questions which inspired Iqbal to begin carving out a path for himself which would allow him to not only immerse himself within the intricacies of both – polar opposite – cultures, but also, to question his place and his mission in the world.
Ten years ago, in 2010, the mist began to clear and Iqbal’s path slowly revealed itself to him by way of a grant (from the Arts Trust Scotland) to study traditional embroideries in Pakistan’s ethereal Chitral Valley.
“The trip changed my entire perspective of Pakistan,” the 34-year-old states, “I spent two months traveling to remote villages across the valley and would spend hours observing craft communities, listening to the artisans and understanding their environment, lives and aesthetics.”
It was during this first research trip that Iqbal knew what to do: he was going to develop a cross-cultural project that would explore and connect the craft of the Chitrali artisans and that of the Harris Tweed weavers from Outer Hebrides (of Scotland). Two years later, in 2012, Iqbal received the Dewar Arts Award for his community-led project, Twilling Tweeds.
“That was my ticket into exploring both traditions from Scotland and Pakistan. It was the subtle nuances of the artisans that inspired me to develop Twilling Tweeds,” he says, revealing that during the project, Iqbal held a number of art workshops with women artisans in Chitral.
These sessions focused on discussions about Chitrali customs and traditions, ancient folklore, how to develop art storyboards, art classes (how to work with new materials), art techniques and the enhancement of artistic skills, to state a few.
“My aim was to connect textile workers in the remote areas of Chitral with those in the Outer Hebrides, creating a bridge between communities and promoting a cultural awareness between the two countries,” Iqbal states.
The artwork featuring each artisan’s interpretation of Pakistani and Scottish narratives was then showcased at international and local exhibitions.
Today, apart from his ongoing work training and facilitating approximately 500 Twilling Tweeds craftswomen – who use traditional needlework for capsule collections – the designer has also been heavily involved in the development of the Mahraka Center in Chitral.
Founded in the summer of 2019 as a collaboration between Kilcheran (a Scottish-based social enterprise where Iqbal works as a sustainability facilitator) and Kho and Kalashi (a local non-profit in Chitral), the center stands as a space for training and employment opportunities for Chitrali craftswomen.
“Having spent almost ten years working with craft communities, I always wanted to create a space for local women where they have access to work and other opportunities,” the designer says, “It is a shared community enterprise hub where women can come and meet others, be inspired and seize opportunities for the fulfilment of well-being, skills development and economic empowerment.”
Since its launch, the Mahraka Centre has benefitted roughly 1,500 women, providing full-time jobs, including the training and accreditation for Fusion, a homegrown brand of embroidered products, spearheaded by Iqbal around the same time.
“During [the Mahraka] partnership I developed and designed Fusion, which reflects the joint collaboration between Scotland and Pakistan, acting as a vehicle to generate sustainable livelihoods for local artisans,” he states, adding that all profits made from the brand are re-invested into the center.
“People have always asked me how my work has changed the lives of the local women in Chitral over the years, but it’s important to note that change takes time and after working for almost ten years with the communities, I can say that the lives of women in Chitral are changing. It is still a slow process as there are many factors influencing this; the current economic situation of Pakistan, increasing sectarianism and religious extremism are some of the many daily challenges one has to battle. All of this has a trickledown effect on rural craft communities. The goal is to persevere and continue no matter what comes your way.”
While meaningful collaborations and projects that are geared towards the economic empowerment of Chitral’s craftswomen, Iqbal reveals that there is one particular looming issue that is rarely ever addressed: mental health.
Even amidst such magnificent natural beauty, Chitral faces high suicide rates due to immense pressure in the education system, the lack of employment opportunities and a waning connection to creative pursuits such as arts and crafts.
“Many are unware of this, partly due to the ignorance around mental health awareness within Pakistan. Although the conversation has started, it is a taboo subject for rural communities,” Iqbal states.
“Chitral remains a remote and neglected area of Pakistan and many women are still reluctant in sharing their stories with strangers. You have to build a relationship with the locals where trust, respect and integrity is maintained. This is one of the reasons the Mahraka Centre was started. Women in Chitral suffer from loneliness and depression and they needed a space where they can meet other women, volunteer their time and get encouraged to learn new skills. Although there have been many fashion brands in the past that have worked in Chitral, unfortunately they have failed because they were not able to understand the underlying social issues affecting the craft communities.”
In the decade since his research and work in the valley, one success story in particular stands out for Iqbal.
Having participated in one of Twilling Tweeds’ initial workshops in 2011, the designer has seen the young Mansura Shams go from strength to strength. Born into a conservative family, Iqbal states that Shams’ story is one of resilience and hard work.
“Her strength, courage and commitment towards her community is inspirational,” he says, “[Shams] is the future. She’s had many challenges battling patriarchy but continues to persevere. In fact, Kho and Kalashi is her brainchild. My aim is to ensure that Kho and Kalashi become fully operational and sustainable. While I’m not sure how long this will take, but the future of craft is dependent on local women taking ownership.”
Currently in Chitral since August, this year, Iqbal is preparing to begin working with roughly 800 craftswomen across Chitral on the launch of Kho and Kalashi’s first collection of traditional lifestyle pieces, including the development of the non-profit’s e-commerce platform.
“The website will feature all of Chitral’s artisans and allow them to sell their products under one platform. The aim here is that the craftswomen will take ownership in making, photographing and dispatching their products to buyers, giving them complete ownership and transparency in their earnings.”
For Iqbal, a community evolves slowly over a time. This is because many things have to be unlearned and learned. It is a process that Iqbal understands quite well. Besides, the designer is in no rush. He’s been working in the valley for a decade, immersing himself in the Chitrali way of life, culture and thought process.
“History and heritage are at the heart of age-old craftsmanship which has been passed on from generation to generation,” he says, “But to pave the way for a sustainable future of these crafts, each of us must contribute and play our part in its uplift.” .. SOURCE
CHITRAL: Construction and maintenance of roads in Chitral has forever been a problem and even today, with all the latest technology and machinery available, we are still stuck up with primitive methods of road construction. Maintenance of roads is a big problem even after the road has been made.
With latest equipment, micro tunnels ranging from a few hundred meters to a couple of kilometers can be dug all along the road to solve the maintenance problem of the roads once for ever.
As a case in point , The road from Timergara to Dir is winding and rewinding with bends and curves all along making a very short distance a long ones due to the sharp bends. If micro tunnels are made to eliminate all the sharp bends, not only will the distance shorten greatly, but fuel consumption/import of Pakistan will reduce a lot.
Similarly the roads in the main valleys of Chitral and GB can greatly be shortened and made maintenance free by making micro and mini tunnels and using steel bridges to shorten the gorges. The best part about it is that making a tunnel nowadays is more easy and cost effective than building and maintaining a mountain road. ..CN report, 02 Oct 2020
.. by Islamuddin
Poverty can be defined as the state of helplessness and there can be many reasons for this but the currents programs poverty is determined on the basis of earning capacity. A person earning less than two dollars a day is said to be poor. In Chitral poverty alleviation funds are mostly routed through NGOs/LSOs. AKRSP and SRSP happen to be major engines of poverty alleviation. Perhaps inadequacies of existing programs created pressing reasons for the formation of Socio-Economic Development Program under the auspices of Aga Khan Council for Pakistan and its local outfits.
The program was launched with great expectations that it would deliver better results after learning from past mistakes of other programs. Its start was good. Instead of reinforcing the parasitic mindset through cash outfits it focused on capacity building of the poor to be able to earn their own income after receiving necessary training under SEDP sponsorship. As expected quite a few young girls and boys have established themselves in vocations and repair shops. Others were helped to go abroad. Cash handouts have been limited to those who simply cannot make a living on their own and have to subsist on cash handouts. Major portion of SEDP funds go into scholarships for students of AKESP schools.
Few years ago a study was carried out to find out sustainability of AKESP schools, once their subsidy from AKDN comes to an end. The study however showed that all AKESP schools with the exceptions of the few elite higher secondary schools would collapse once the subsidy is gone.
Reportedly His Highness expressed displeasure over this state of affair and directed that after the extended period these schools must become self supporting. Unfortunately this self sufficiency goal is being achieved through short cuts. SEDP has been compelled to provide scholarship funds to students studying in AKESP schools. 50 to 80 % students in AKESP schools are covered by SEDP scholarships. This has put the future of other community based and non-profit schools into jeopardy. Compared to the support extended to AKESP schools, the one extended to other community schools turns out to be peanuts i.e. less than 10 %.
If this discrimination continues, most of the community owned schools would close down, leaving the field wide open for the government and AKESP schools. Government schools are already over-crowded and lack quality. AKESP schools are expensive as against community based schools which charge half or one third of the fee being received by AKESP schools. Once the subsidy is ended AKESP would lose its students at a fast pace because an average Chitrali cannot afford its high fee structure. With the more affordable option of community based schools gone by then what would happen to the students with limited means is any body’s guess. At present AKESP is led by a professional in GBC. He has given much needed facelift to AKESP schools but at the local level his teachers and council members continue weaning away students to AKESP schools promising them scholarship and blessings of His Highness thus tilting the balance against community based schools. Recently His Highness approved two higher secondary schools in Booni and Garam Chashma. Councils are supposed to acquire land on gift and build the schools using local resources available free of cost. AKESP would only pay for material and expertise. After construction these schools are to be handed to AKESP for imparting education. Somehow the councils are not sure that they can get community help and have therefore resorted to acquiring two most successful community based schools in Booni and Garam Chashma, ignoring legal and practical complications involved in such a takeover impossible. In the process the hard won goodwill of these schools has been put in risk. It would have been in the fitness of things for the councils to build these schools as per their standard practice and hand them over to AKESP with direction that AKESP also assist community based schools to create level playing field for all schools to compete for quality and affordability.
While appreciating the role and strategy of SEDP for poverty alleviation one would hope that it would address the discrepancies noted above and help create level playing field to access its resources. It must carry out audit to ensure that merit is not violated in any case. Undue interference of honorary workers and council members in this behalf should be checked. The council should only remain confined to policy and appeal cases and did not intrude in operational matters which SEDP alone should handle. Fortunately AKESP and SEDP both are headed by persons with nobility, professionalism and diverse experiences but they can only produce results if they are empowered and provided necessary wherewithal. Short cuts never bring success but quality performance does. Hopefully SEDP would revisit its strategy and invest more in capacity building and human resource training. Scholarships should go only to those students who deserve it not because they are poor but because they are good in their studies. This approach would create the much needed environment for competition and quality. In no case should it reinforce the existing parasitic mindset and dependency syndrome which have become banes of our social life. .. Islamuddin, Garm Chashma, Chitral. 01 Oct 2020
CHITRAL: When during the recent Presidential election debate Donald Trump said he would fulfill his promise of completing a certain pending task, his rival Joe Biden mockingly said “like InshaAllah”. This though was taken as a joke by the media and the world, but in fact it is a very grave aspersion on the conviction of muslims to fulfill a promise using the name of Allah in it.
Over the ages Muslims world over have lost their position as trustworthy people. During the early days of Islam rag tag Muslims conquered the world through the power of their character. Now we have become an entity to be ridiculed by others for the weakness of it.
This is all because we have progressively lost the strength of our character and are happy with the easy fix tips given to us by our religious preachers to get our sins pardoned including sins resulting from weak character. .. CN report, 01 Oct 2020