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‘The good, the bad and the ugly’ -letter

By Islamuddin

At the outset let me make it clear that I am a loyal follower of His Highness Shah Karim Aga Khan as my 49th Imam. I can never think of disrespecting any institution carrying his name. But now the situation has come to such a sorry pass that it would be criminal and disservice to His Highness to remain silent because now the casualty is the vision of the Imam and the humanity at large that he wishes to serve as progeny of Allah’s last prophet.
The institutions envisioned and created by His Highness and his great grand father, which were the trade mark for quality and service to humanity, have now started to take human lives in the hands of pygmies. Recently yet another AKES teacher has lost his life due to depression caused by the whimsical, reckless and discriminatory policies and service structure offered by AKESP. His fights against the Leviathan may have borne no fruits and he ,as a lesser mortal, had no stamina to continue the fight and chose the easy path Earlier another teacher, a class fellow of mine from Momi and a bright student, died of depression after having been retired compulsorily from AKESP. Yet another class fellow of mine from Madak lasht and a brilliant one, is fighting for his life against depression. A few days ago I came across a relative of mine from one of the above villages, again an AKES teacher, whom I found at the threshold of depression. There may well be dozens of other such cases. This is the measure of our inhumanity that no one in AKESP feels pushed to take notice of the situation and are hiding their heads in the sand like ostriches or inventing excuses.
Way back in 1986 in my self sponsored research paper titled “Wither Ismailism?” written in the backdrop of 1982 communal disturbances in Chitral,I had predicted that if the suffocating environment, mediocracy and sycophancy in Ismaili institutions and AKDN are not addressed in time and with serious attitude Ismailism would wither away and for the rehabilitation of the leftovers we would require psychiatric facility in AKU, which I had demanded to be established. I had sent copies of my research paper to top Ismaili leadership. Except Ashiq Ali Hussain, who was National Council President, no body cared to respond. He invited me to Karachi. At that time I was heading a Federal Government office looking after publicity matters of the Government in the three districts of south Punjab, one of the few Ismailis to reach that position-a position that I owe to His Highness and Ashiq Ali Hussain, the then Administrator of Aga Khan Education Board, who groomed me to join the prestigious civil service of Pakistan,which no other khoja Ismaili leader of today would like to do for a non Khoja.
I met him in Karachi. He appeared to agree with my research finding but complained that there were few people with talent in the North who were willing to serve there and every one wanted to go to a city for comfortable living.To prove his point he asked me as to whether I would resign my prestigious government job with all its perks and privileges to serve in the North. I immediately responded with a big yes. The answer was unexpected. He did not want me to sacrifice my job, for which he himself had groomed me. I confronted him with his own example. After having passed the same civil service examination he had chosen not to join government service. He felt cornered and asked me which AKDN institution I would like to serve in. I immediately responded AKESP, because of my background and interest and also because I considered education as crucial to unlock the development potential in the North. {The fact that I later on took premature retirement, ten years earlier, to contribute in the educational development in Chitral shows my commitment.} He informed me that AKESP had a position vacant in Gilgit. He picked up the phone and talked to Asif Fancy, then Chairman AKESP and advised me to see him. My interview with him apparently went well, although I found him to be arrogant, whimsical and with flawed sense of judgment. Before leaving Karachi I went to say goodbye to Ashiq Ali. I also gave him a run down on my encounter with Asif. As I was about to leave, in his usual polite style Ashiq Ali, in fatherly tone, told me that he would find some other position for me, as Asif Fancy thought that he would not be comfortable with me. Later on I found out that I was rejected because I was too bold, innovative and challenging and could not fit in his empire culture characterized by status quo mindset, sycophancy, apartheid and pliability.

Since then I have been convinced that without a paradigm shift in institutional culture, AKESP can not deliver. It is therefore, not surprising that over the years AKESP has de-educated people in terms of values and quality consciousness, has encouraged cronyism and injustices and is now pushing its teachers towards depression and premature deaths by not listening to and addressing their problems concerning terms and conditions of service.

AKDN, especially AKESP, being global institutions are expected to follow global standards in all matters. It is my hunch that according to ILO criteria salary differential between the lowest and highest paid should be 1 to 10 but in AKESP it is 1 to 100 and in some cases 1 to 1000 or more. Those who complain are punished, rules are invented on need basis for this purpose and no body knows what is in store for him tomorrow. Adhocism is the order of the day. Profits and donor money are spent to hire and give fat salaries and increments to blue eyed boys and the less connected are made to work like donkeys for peanuts. To offset the pressure for sustainability AKESP is now fleecing people with high fees in the name of quality which the present set up comprising shop keepers, businessmen, psudo-educationists and accountants can never provide and quality private schools are being deprived of their bright students by weaning them away, using the name of His Highness, as a trade mark for quality. At the end of the day when parents wake up to reality they would have spent their life’s saving for a sort of education that was available to them at no cost elsewhere. The net loser in the process is the fair name of His Highness and his followers. It is all the more painful that some very good professionals and educationists, enjoying community’s goodwill, like the one in Chitral, would be discredited at the end of the day because he has no input in policy but liable for its failure and is required to implement a policy which has no nexus with education or ground realities. His predecessor was punished for a crime that every one in AKDN and other institutions commits with impunity ie private use of official resources. A Council President , using hospital ambulance for private commuting, defends it by saying that he enjoys authority of the Imam and he is free to do whatever he thinks fit and no one can question him.

The death of AKES teacher under reference not only symbolizes death of education, but also death of humanity. As Muslims we believe that one unjustified death of a human being is tantamount to the death of entire humanity and the death of a teacher should therefore mean the death of a nation’s soul. Whatever circumstances AKESP or heirs of the deceased would like to present for cover up or personal interest the fact remains that circumstantial and supporting evidence makes a damning case against the high ups of AKESP. The only way for redemption is to take urgent steps to save the lives of other teachers and their families through radical reforms in AKESP and fair dispensation for the teachers, correcting the present imbalances, which have become the hallmark of not only AKESP but other institutions as well which now deserve to be corrected before it is too late. The good Imam’s vision can not be translated into reality if his followers continue to be bad and suicidal and the leaders continue to be ugly, taking sadistic pleasure in the agony of the very people that they are supposed to serve.

Garam Chashma, Chitral
01 May 10.


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