Beyond security issues: A ‘wow’ moment and an inspiring video

For TCF success stories visit http://bit.ly/HLP1Fq

For TCF success stories visit http://bit.ly/HLP1Fq

There are many positive initiatives taking place in the field of education in Pakistan, but The Citizens Foundation is the largest and most visible, and probably also the most professionally run. Even if you drop in on a school without prior notice, you’ll find the same quality and care. Concerned citizens (not just Pakistanis) got together recently in Boston to form a chapter to support TCF. Yasmin’s experience that I’ve written about (below, published in The News and in TOI blogs) echoes my own, many years ago when I visited a TCF school. Scroll right down for an inspiring short video interview of a TCF graduate. More success stories hereUpdate: Harvard Pakistan Student Group is starting a summer internship programme with TCF, starting Summer 2014 (will update with details as soon as they’re finalised). Continue reading

To Taliban: “I want education for you, for your children” – Malala on the Daily Show

Malala on Daily ShowMalala Yousufzai’s conviction and sincerity shines as she speaks, even as the after-effects of the attack on her are still evident in the slight disfigurement of her facial muscles. And the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize nominee recently speechless even the satirical TV host Jon Stewart when she talked about her thoughts about the Taliban. Asked when she first learnt she was a target of the Taliban, she says it was through a visitor who told her to put her name in Google search.

“I just could not believe it, I said no, it’s not true,” she said. “We thought the Taliban were not that much cruel that they would kill a child – I was 14 at the time.” She was initially more afraid for her father but when she began thinking about it, she thought that if  attacked she would hit the Talib with her shoe – a comment that raised a laugh. Continue reading

A Dutch journalist’s impressions of a Karachi dream turned reality

Babette-Cambridge-April-06I am proud of my old friend Ahsan Jamil for the work he is doing in Karachi, and delighted to have introduced him to another old friend Babette Niemel, who was inspired to write the following article about Aman Foundation, published in The News on Sunday, on March 10, 2013.

A Dutch journalist records her impressions of how Aman Foundation is changing the lives of Karachi’s underserved people

I have met Ahsan Jamil several times during my frequent visits to Karachi over the years. A modest, lively, kind man and a close childhood friend of my friend Beena Sarwar; when I met him once again a little over a year ago, he was positively beaming.

Engaged and committed: Aman Foundation CEO Ahsan Jamil and Manager Command and Control Center in discussion.

Engaged and committed: Aman Foundation CEO Ahsan Jamil and Manager Command and Control Center in discussion.

It was a cool summer evening in Karachi and we were out on the porch at Beena’s house. Ahsan was inviting her to come and checkout the new work he was doing. He could give us a tour of the facility, he said, extending the invitation to me as well. Continue reading

Keen to talk to the Taliban?

Swat, 2009: A reminder of the Taliban's brand of 'justice' - public floggings were the least of their punishments. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

Swat, 2009: A reminder of the Taliban’s brand of ‘justice’ – public floggings were the least of their punishments. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

Keen to ‘negotiate’ with the Taliban in Pakistan? Really? First read Nazish Brohi’s oped in Dawn, reproduced below. 

Failure of the war

By Nazish Brohi

IT is ‘APC’ season again. Karachi residents associate the acronym with armoured personnel carriers that contain and occasionally protect besieged policemen.

The political APCs on the other hand contain besieged politicians who are hoping for occasional protection. Take it from the Lyari cops in Karachi — if you underplay what you are up against, APCs don’t work. Continue reading

Malala’s plight is “related to the potential for world peace”

Vigil for Malala, Charlestown, Boston

My report on the vigil for Malala Yousufzai in Charlestown, Boston, last Sunday, an event that local families are holding on a weekly basis to show their support for her and for the right of children, especially girls, worldwide to get an education. Please also see the I am Malala campaign initiated by the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Global Education, aiming to get every child in the world to school. Continue reading

IN SOLIDARITY: Charlestown families honour Malala Yusufzai at Bunker Hill, Boston

Joanne Samuelson lights a candle for Malala

“Families in Charlestown are gathering on Bunker Hill monument on Sunday October 14 at 5:30 pm to hold a vigil for Malala Yousafzai. Please try to attend and spread the word, all welcome,” read the email circulated by the Pakistani Association of Greater Boston on behalf of Joanne Samuelson, a Boston resident who works at M.I.T.

The drizzly weather cleared away allowing the sun to come out in time to endorse the gathering at this historic spot in Charlestown, Boston, the site of a major battle between the revolutionaries and the British colonists. Continue reading

Good news from Pakistan (besides the Oscar award): LUMS to create Abdus Salam Chair

Exciting news from Adil Najam, Vice Chancellor of LUMS – for those who don’t know him, Dr. Adil Najam was the Frederick S. Pardee Professor of Global Public Policy at Boston University and served as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), work for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. He left BU (where his office had the most gorgeous view overlooking the Charles River) to head the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Continue reading

Zarteef Khan Afridi: The tribesman who showed the way

Zarteef Afridi's latest photo. Courtesy: HRCP

A tribute to the human rights activist Zarteef Khan Afridi who was shot dead recently – my article in The News on Sunday. Latitude News earlier published a shorter, different version titled In Pakistan, an unlikely hero dies for his cause. Also see my earlier article: Pakistan’s ‘enlightenment’ martyrs

The tribesman who showed the way

There was the letter from an anonymous writer saying he was going to hunt down and kill her. And then there was the letter from an Afridi tribesman offering to come down and protect her.

This was in the mid-1990s. The recipient of the letters was the fiery human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, under threat for having taken on the case of Salamat Masih, the illiterate Christian boy sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ for having allegedly written sacrilegious words on the walls of a village mosque. Continue reading

Pakistan curriculum urgently needs change

The findings of the report “Connecting the Dots:  Education and Religious Discrimination in Pakistan” are dire, but not new (Summary at press release below, forwarded to me by The Mirror, a publication of the Pakistan National Commission for Justice and Peace). Pakistani academics have long been pressing for a reform of the curriculum, for example through reports like The Subtle Subversion (SDPI, 2003). The jihadisation of the curriculum includes inane prerequisites like religious studies for medical students – the Supreme Court recently provisionally allowed a Hindu student to sit for the medical college entry test. All this must change. But lest we forget, the idea of Jehad was incorporated into the Pakistani curriculum after the start of the Afghan war, because it suited Washington, and Pakistan to encourage and glorify the “Mujahideen” (holy warriors) in the war against the Soviets. An American institution of higher education was asked to formulate textbooks for Pakistani schools accordingly. “The institution was University of Nebraska at Omaha, which has a center for Afghan studies which was tasked by CIA in the early eighties to rewrite textbooks for Afghan refugee children. The new books included hate material even in arithmetic. For example, if a man has five bullets and two go into the heads of Russian soldiers, how many are left, kind of stuff. This was exposed in a research thesis from the New School, New York in about 2002,” says Dr A.H. Nayyar, one of the co-editors of the SDPI report, quoted in my article Jehad and the curriculum,’ 2004. Continue reading

General observations about Pakistan floods

Some general observations from the floods of 2010, which are sadly relevant again:

  • People affected by the floods (last year as well as now) were already among the poorest begin with although they do include some well-off farmers and trades-people too, in areas where there was already little access to education and healthcare.
  • The relief camps set up last year brought an unexpected silver lining in the opportunity to many flood affected people who had access to a doctor or a teacher – for the FIRST time in their lives – at the relief camps. This indicates the level of underdevelopment in Pakistan, the huge percentage of the population that lacks access to healthcare and education. Continue reading
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