Thursday, 29 June 2017

Rescue on the Sea


Published 2004
Very little has been written about the ancient coastal people of Lyari – the irrepressible Makranis – who take their name from the Makran coast of Sindh and, Balochistan, which also indicates a common history of the two provinces; the Makran coast constitutes the South-East of Iran and the South-West of Pakistan; a 1,000 km stretch along the Gulf of Oman from RA’s (cape) Al-Kuh, Iran (West of Jask), to the Lasbela District of Pakistan (near Karachi). The Makran coast is on the Arabian Sea, to the North-West of Quetta in Balochistan.

The following is a story of one such coastal village:
Children on bare - back camels, watch the sea, its vastness spanning even beyond the grasp of their eyes. Fishermen on the beach watch the sky, like the city dwellers read their newspapers first thing in the morning. Through the knots of their nets hanging on the line, they seem to predict the weather. This exercise determines whether they should take a boat out or not on the deep sea, for their daily expedition to catch fish. The air is filled with the smell of rancid water that is due to the deposits of oil, resulting in decayed and dead sea-life. Music, which is a part of their lives, plays in the background. The sounds are a fusion of musical cultures from the Middle East, Indo-Pakistan and Africa.

​The shells on the beach look like the abandoned toenails of the old fishermen, and they are more beautiful there, than on the foot. The broken wings, the sand-logged crabs, a woman’s lonely shoe, a rusty toy damaged beyond recognition, the plank or sail from a doomed boat, all lay sprawled on the beach, each with a story behind it, cleansed and sterilized by the salt and iodine in the great hospital of the sea. In the night, the light from the tower was but a spot against the background of the sky and spectacular cliffs.

​The weather beaten villager’s munched dates from the interior while watching holidaymakers trying to teach their children to swim, like fish to water, amidst the shouts and screams of the children who are already submerged in the waters. The steps of the ladies faltered as they approached the sea, clad in shalwar kameezes filled with the wind, the Shalwar Kameez itself a deterrent for swimming.
​The story told here is that of a villager who because of his sharp sense of hearing helped in the rescue of a drowning man. The villager was alone and as he had no family to fend for, hence he had no responsibilities to drain his energy. Somehow he had also preserved his youth, which he owed to mother nature. Religion that usually comes into the house with the presence of a woman was lacking in his and he was quite oblivious of it.

​One evening when it was well after ten and the moon was full with black clouds scudding in ordered masses across the sky, he was still sitting on his wall, all alone. A cool wind suddenly sighed from an unexpected quarter and in its wake was a noise like that from a distant cavalry charge. His razor sharp ears picked up the sound. His brow creased up as his eyes searched the distance. He hobbled to his neighbours house and banged on the door of his traditional mud-hut – the two men, though natural life-guards, knew thoroughly all that was written in the books about rescue on the seas. The coastal blacks were descendants of imported slaves – the fishermen being known as the Meds and the seamen as the Koras – when there was no response; he banged on the door again. A groggy fellow soon appeared. He pointed towards the horizon and mumbled something in the Makranic dialect. The man’s eyes tried to see beyond the direction of the location being pointed at. A boat in trouble, he thought aloud. Without wasting any time they woke the other men.

​A rule of the sea states, that half the purchase price of the vessel of the sea is given to the rescue party. This prize money was quite a temptation, but since it was always dangerous the case required to be argued, all hands knew that the proposed journey was perilous.
​The village women all having gathered on the beach, saw their men disappear, reappear, disappear, reappear and finally disappear into the darkness. They were now a tiny speck in the vast vista of the sea – the ocean that is open to all and merciful to none, that which threatens even when it seems to yield, pitiless always to weakness.

​Many of the Makrani women now worked as domestic servants in Karachi; they were also experts in the art of massaging any mother and child after birth. Their traditional long dresses with hand-woven
Embroidery gave them a distinct ‘folk’ touch, separating them from the typical Karachiites. The skirt-like look, with its wide circumference, and the loose shalwar could be compared to the costumes of the pathan and Kabuli women.

​The men in the rescue boat changed sides, so as not to tip the balance of the boat as the surf sprayed them from head to toe. The taste of salt lingered in their mouths during the voyage. They were not bothered by their appearance. On the contrary, they felt no different from when they started out dry.

​Suddenly, a dark object was thrown at them on the crest of a wave. It was a man. They held on to the poor fellow and eventually succeeded in dragging him aboard. Nobody felt sorry that this time, there was no prize. They rowed back to their village.

​Couples fought with each other to offer hospitality to this half dead man; and they almost came to blows in their struggle for this visa to heaven.
​They fetched a doctor from a nearby village, while the women sat all around him wearing their beads. The doctor was a Karachiite who had been sent to the village to serve them. The doctor prompted the man to speak. The man said, “Mahganj” very faintly. Repeated attempts, received the same response. The diagnosis stated that he was a victim of a traumatic shock and was suffering from amnesia, which meant a loss of memory, if only temporarily.

​The Priest, who was also a member of the village council, was also summoned, as was the case in other similar incidents. “What’s going on here?” he asked one of the ladies. “A miracle” said all the ladies together. The Makrani women are predominantly Muslim.

​The Priest was briefed about the rescue and what followed. Being
an elderly fellow, he recalled that a girl by the name of ‘Mahganj’ had been registered in the mosque some eighteen years ago.

​Now, it was easy to put two and two together. The man they found was associated with Mahganj and was discovered as belonging to the same village as her’s. He was also supposed to marry her.

​Mahganj was the granddaughter of the village tailor. Thus it was decided that the man be taken back to the same village that he originated from. Similar surroundings would help to revive his memory, it was hoped.

​A therapist was hired from the city and surely, slowly though, his memory came back in bits and pieces. Mahganj’s presence always evoked a response in the man, so strong was the bond of love. His memory did eventually return, which in turn led to their marriage. They led a happy married life.

Author profile: I am a housewife and grandmother and educated. I didn't want to let my education go waste so I started writing an art I inherited from my late father, Ahmed Jivanjee who was a well known writer of Karachi.


Monday, 26 June 2017

QK Archives: A case for Afghania

Circa 1998 published by Frontier Post

A case for Afghania

Afrasiab Khattak

Public debate over changing the name of North-West Frontier Province is entering a new and interesting stage as the high rhetoric and demagogy for and against proposition is coming to an en.d and a more realistic and business-like attitude is emerging. A consensus is already in right about the necessity of changing the name which was given to the province by colonial rulers and which represent the political realities of that time and which has become an anachronism with the passage of time with the growing urbanisation and increasing communication links, Pukhtoons are overcoming trible and territorial divisions creating an urge for cultural and political identity. Moreover, the changed regional political climate has helped all concerned to overcome the phobias of the past about renaming the province and the old polarisation on the issue has receded to to the background. These developments have brought us to the question as to what should be the new name, which they argue is also the original and ancient name of this area. They have got very strong and irrefutable evidence from history and literature to provide their point. support for renaming the province as Pukhtoonkhwa has considerably increased. So much so that if the issue is put to vote in the present provincial assembly, it is sure to get majority. But it would be more desirable to bring about the change with general consensus. It is evident that opposition to Pukhtoonkhwa stems mainly from partisan rivalries, the opponents of Pukhtoonkhwa think that as the main champion of it as Awami National Party (ANP), the credit will also be bagged by the ANP if and when such a change occurs. It would be only fair to add that ANP has also maintained a monopolistic attitude on the issue and has not made meaningful efforts to develop it into a national instead of a Pakistan issue. The opponents of Pukhtoonkhwa also respond in a narrow and rigid partisan way. This is not surprising in view of the limitations imposed by feudal and tribal culture and the ego-centric personalities of our society.

Be that as it may, the opponents of Pukhtoonkhwa say that they will accept any other name. Afghania is a name which has the potential of creating a consensus. There are controversies attached with this name. It is an established fact of history that the people of this area were also called Afghans for time immemorial. It was not a coincidence that the warrior-poet Khushal Khan Khattak gripped his sword Tto defend the honour of AfghansU. Throughout history, this area was different from India as it was the land of Afghans. Even now, in revenue record, which was prepared under British rule, most of the people living in the province are referred to as Afghans.

The first ever reformist movement which as established in the early twentieth century in Peshawar was the Association for Reformation of Afghans (Anjuman-e-Islaha-Afghania). And the most important thing is that Choudri Rehmat Ali who coined the word Pakistan as a name for a separate state of the Muslims of South Asia had Afghania in mind as a new name for NWFP so it is according to the original scheme of the creation of Pakistan. The founders of Pakistan knew fully well that Afghania will be a source of strength for the state of Pakistan as it will help the new Muslim country to establish a distinct Muslim cultural personality which is also evident from the poetry of Allama Iqbal. Had it not been for the unfortunate political confrontation which had developed in the NWFP at the time of partition of sub-continent, the province would have been immediately renamed as Afghania.

Even now, there is a strong case for Afghania. This is a name which represent the cultural identity of the area, but at the same time it stands above the narrow ethnic or linguistic divisions. There is no political dispute or controversy attached to this name. It was proposed by some people from amongst the founders of Pakistan, as according to them,the letter A in pakistan stands for Afghania. So renaming NWFP Afghania would would be only a stet forward both in letter and spirit in completion of Pakistan as envisaged by the founding fathers. As no single political party is the champion of the name or claim monopoly over the name, there is no partisan controversy about Afghania and no party can single handedly bag the credit for renaming the province.

Some people may question the wisdom of renaming NWFP as Afghania just on the border of Afghanistan. This would be typical of the old thinking based on the conspiracy theory of history, because even if we do not have the name Afghania, can any one deny the cultural, religious and historical affinity between the people living on both sides of the borders. Then there a number of examples where there are provinces bordering on the countries with a similar name. Both Pakistan and India have their own provinces of Punjab with geographical proximity India has the state (province) of West Bengal having common border with Bangladesh. Northern Island is a province of United Kingdom bordering on Ireland such examples are numerous and fully prove that such communalities are natural and can become a basis for developing close links between countries. Pakistan has got special relation with Afghanistan and under changed circumstances, these relations are expected to grow. Pakistan having the province of Afghania at the borders of Afghanistan will have stronger reasons to have the closest possible relations with the brotherly Muslim country. Such a relationship can become an important factor in developing economic cooperation in the region. Afghania as the new name of the NWFP will not only be acceptable at all parts of the NWFP and all segments of society of the province, but it will also become a bridge for the gradual integration of the FATA with this province. This is very important for the process of state and nation-building in Pakistan. Pakistan cannot indefinitely maintain the administration structures created by the British rule as these arrangements have already become in compatible with her developmental requirements. Bold and imaginative efforts are required to boost the process of nation building in Pakistan. This is particularly important on the North-Western borders where Pakistan is passed to build new strategic relations only a leadership with a distorcial vision can utilise the historic opportunities spring by momentus changes in the world in the region. We have to grow out of stride polarisations and political squabbles of the past. Petty politics have to give way to creative and statesman like approach. Renaming the NWFP as Afghania can be the fist step in this direction.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Tables on Selected Education Indicators in KP 2004-05 to 2015-16

Tables on Selected Education Indicators in KP 2004-05 to 2015-16
by Muhammad Saleem (Twitter @memzarma )

There is a renewed focus on KP education performance both in the mainstream media and on social media. While some of the commentators do speak about it based on authentic data, others (and they are in the majority) do not have a clue when speaking about education performance in KP. To have an informed debate, I tried to compile a few tables on the few important education indicators. These are all outcome indicators, which are a result of government policies in education sectors and the overall socio-economic environment in the province. The data here is presented with the hope that people may be able to participate in a more informed debate. The data is of 3 different regimes in the province so one can compare different political government performance as well.
Following are tables on selected education indicators in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the years [from 2004-05 to 2015-16]. The data is taken from the annual Pakistan Social & Living Standard Measurement (PSLM) surveys available here at collected by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. This PSLM survey exercise was initiated, among other things, to track on the MDGs in Pakistan. As per PBS explanation, the data pertaining to each year is collected for the same year, though the reports came out late. For example, the data for the year 2015-16 is collected between September 2015 and June 2016. The data for the year 2009-10 & 2015-16 is not available for all indicators as it is not readily available on the PBS website. Some missing data points for these two years were looked into different issues of Economic Survey of Pakistan. The last table [Table 14] is headcount poverty measure taken from the UNDP report on Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) and is available here.

Notes for Table 1: (A) Population aged 10 years and older that has ever attended school as a percentage of the total population aged 10 years and older. (B) Attended School: All those individuals who have ever attended school (either currently attending, or attended in the past) were taken to have attended school.

 Notes for Table 3 and subsequent tables on NER: (A) Net Enrolment Rate (NER): Number of children in age bracket mentioned attending primary school divided by total number of children in that bracket multiplied by 100.  

Notes for Table 4: This is the main table, which is taken as the normal primary level enrolment rate and which the government pledged to increase it to 100% as per the MDG goals and now the SDGs. Economic Survey of Pakistan also report this table regularly each year in its annual reports.

Notes for Table 6: This table depicts a picture of government-run primary schools. Any improvement in government schools will show its results here.

Notes for Table 7: Again, this tables shows that how much of school going kids go to government-run primary schools. The table shows that over the years, enrolment in government schools is on the decline. The year 2005-06 is seems to be an outlier. In 2006-07, Only 21% kids were enrolled in private schools out of total enrolled kids which is now at 31%. 

Notes for Table 8: In 2004-05, 78% of the total enrolled kids were going to government schools, which now drops to 68%. Every year in KP, government schools loose out 1% of its enrolment to private schools. Multiple reasons are here to be blamed such as missing facilities in government schools, less government schools (especially girls’ schools) as against the demand and low quality of the government-run schools. There is a caveat to the last one though: Most of the private primary schools are no better than the government schools in terms of quality education but then due to ‘the culture of admitting kids in private schools as a symbol of status’, most middle class parents send their children to private schools. This is off course anecdotal (the write observe this in district Swabi where 90% of the private schools results in the SSC exam was as poor as government run high schools) and a proper research in this area is needed.    

Notes for Table 13: (A) Population aged 10 years and older that is literate expressed as a percentage of the population aged 10 years and older. (B) Literacy: For all surveys, literacy is taken as the ability to read a newspaper and to write a simple letter. 

This table is taken from the UNDP report of 20th June, 2016 on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) which is being calculated with the data taken from PSLM surveys. The MPI index is a composite index calculated from various indicators of education, health and living conditions. The overall weightage given to these three variables is equal (1/3 of total) which is further divided into the following sub-variables.  

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

QK Archives: Habib Jalib Baloch

Originally published by Daily Times July 2010
COMMENT:Knight, not pawn: Habib Jalib Baloch —Dr Mohammad Taqi

More striking than Habib Jalib's flowing long hair was his political maturity that was certainly beyond his years. This transition from a student politician to a statesman is rather rare in our part of the world

“Aiy haak ki may nagrin qawm e jis o gor int,

Aiy haak a pa maa taah e jatag shaklein zinday” — Mir Gul Khan Nasir.

“This soil has been our home, after death it has been our grave,

So, for evermore, I am this soil’s slave.”

In the parlance of nationalist movements in Pakistan, the motherland (watan) has often been described as the place where one’s home and grave are (kor and gor, respectively in Pashto, for example). The Baloch revolutionary poet Gul Khan Nasir’s above verse, however, took the concept to a new height. And in his death, on July 15, 2010, Comrade Habib Jalib Baloch immortalised the verse, the concept and the struggle that is befitting of this ideal.

In their February 2000 monograph titled ‘Knights, not Pawns: Ethno-Nationalism and Regional Dynamics in Post-Colonial Balochistan’, Paul Titus and Nina Swidler note that, “In the pivotal years of 1947 and 1948, the Muslim League was able to outmanoeuvre and suppress these ambitious young (nationalist) movements, but they did not die. In subsequent decades, Baloch and Pashtun nationalism became key elements in the political discourse and the equation of power in Balochistan, and they remain so today.”

These movements did not die simply because they have had in their ranks revolutionary dervishes like Ajmal Khattak and Habib Jalib Baloch. These knights have overshadowed almost all pawns that the Pakistani establishment has produced and used to derail the nationalist movements. Their shining armour has been nothing but dedication to their cause and its adornments are their intellect, humility and contact with their people. A sense of pride in their self-chosen, dignified poverty and shunning material incentives is the Teflon that kept every blemish away from their armour and person.

63 years, four martial laws and six major military operations later, the Baloch struggle for autonomy, self-governance and the right to self-determination continues while the fringes of the movement now demand outright independence from the downright knaves of the establishment. It is highly unlikely that silencing a voice of reason like Jalib Baloch will succeed in gagging the demand for rights. In the poem quoted above, Gul Khan Nasir goes on to express the resolve of his people:

“Dastanai bebanday ta ke chammani bebanday,

Kohani zirab a che pa aram a na nenday.”

“Tie our hands behind our backs or blindfold our eyes,

our seething furious mountains will always make us rise.”

By physically eliminating the moderate leaders, the oppressors of Balochistan stoke the fury of mainstream individuals. We keep hearing the ‘foreign hand’ being involved in Balochistan and how the ‘evil’ nationalist chieftains seek and get help from India or Afghanistan. Selig Harrison, however, noted decades ago: “In contrast to [Khair Bakhsh] Marri who is uneasy and ambivalent about seeking Soviet or other foreign help for an independence struggle, [Ghaus Bakhsh] Bizenjo stated that ‘in a crisis, naturally we will seek help from somewhere, and if we get it, we will accept it. When a nationality is fighting for survival, what do you expect?’”

One should bear in mind that Marri was considered the hardliner and the late Bizenjo was considered the perennial moderate. In fact, so great was Bizenjo’s penchant for talks that instead of Baba-e-Balochistan (father of the Baloch nation), his detractors called him ‘Baba-e-muzakraat’ (negotiation). Jalib Baloch belonged to the same league of towering intellectuals of a moderate political persuasion of the likes of Bizenjo. While Jalib remained committed to the political process, his assassination might push those with similar views to the fringes.

I had an opportunity to briefly interact with Jalib Baloch during the lawyers’ movement. We shared a good laugh at an APDM rally in Islamabad when I asked if Nur Muhammad Tarakai’s sartorial preferences had inspired him to don the long black overcoat. As most obituaries have pointed out, he indeed was a humble, soft-spoken and unassuming man who appeared younger than his age. However, more striking than his flowing long hair was his political maturity that was certainly beyond his years. This transition from a student politician to a statesman is rather rare in our part of the world. In this, he ranked right up there with the greats of the past like Ghaus Bakhsh Bizenjo and contemporaries like my good friend Afrasiab Khattak of the ANP.

One can argue about Jalib’s political views and what he perceived as the correct means to achieve the rightful place for the Baloch people in the political economy of Pakistan and the region. However, what he would not have wanted is the bickering that has apparently broken out between various Baloch political and resistance groups.

The obscure group, Baloch Musallah Defai Tanzeem might have accepted the responsibility for Jalib Baloch’s murder but history points its finger towards forces that have been implicated in the systematic killings of their political and intellectual opponents from Hassan Nasir, Zahir Rehan, Shahidullah Kaiser, Mir Lawang Khan, Asadullah Mengal, Nazir Abbasi, Ayaz Sammo, Munir Baloch and Maula Bux Dasti to Abdus Samad Khan, ZA Bhutto, Dr Najibullah, Nawab Bugti and Benazir Bhutto.

Once Sardar Ataullah Mengal said, “That man [late Bizenjo sahib] cannot live without politics. I can do without it, but he has to have it all the time or he will perish.” I would plead with Sardar sahib, Nawab Marri and other senior Baloch elders and leaders that without their taking up an active role in politics to help banish the factionalism among the Baloch, the chances of everyone perishing together are very real. The state apparatus is going full steam ahead with its colonisation of Balochistan while the civilian government stands by. Without a swift agreement on a minimum common programme, the Baloch may not survive this wave of oppression. No armed resistance can succeed without a robust political leadership.

S T Coleridge once wrote:

“The knight’s bones are dust,

And his good sword rust,

His soul is with the saints, I trust.”

I have no doubt that Habib Jalib Baloch’s soul is with the saints but it is up to the Baloch leaders to protect his life’s work from tarnish and rust. Knights must not become pawns.

The writer teaches and practices Medicine at the University of Florida and contributes to the think-tanks and Aryana Institute. He can be reached at

Monday, 5 June 2017

QK archives: In remembrance of 4 politicians

In remembrance of 4 Frontier politicians
Rahimullah Yusufzai
Circa 2003

A number of former legislators from the NWFP died recently and each one of them deserved a proper obituary. Sadly though their deaths went largely unnoticed in our print and electronic media.

Tribal parliamentarian Malik Sakhi Jan Mahsud was the first to die. Nazeer Shinwari and Nawabzada Mohabbat Ali Zafar, both belonging to Kohat district, followed. Dr Mahboobur Rahman, a former federal minister who had become district nazim of Swat, too passed away.

All of them were important in their own right. Except the last-named, others were no longer in the limelight and, therefore, forgotten. Dr Mahboobur Rahman was a very active district nazim. Being a politician, he also knew how to remain in the news. One would see him in print all the time, even if he made promises that seldom materialized.

Zafar was the youngest of the lot. He had been winning and losing elections from his native Kohat, having inherited politics from his late father and former provincial minister, Nawabzada Azmat Ali Khan. He too served as a provincial minister, once holding the portfolio of jails. He lost to ANP’s Shaukat Habib in last year’s elections as a PPP-Sherpao nominee.

A tall, handsome man, Zafar kept a low profile and preserved his humility despite his aristocratic background. In a recent obituary, prolific column-writer Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan wrote that Zafar sold his ancestral lands to pursue politics. Here was a rare case of a politician losing rather than making money despite remaining in power. According to Dr Awan, Zafar also pursued other interests, like reading and swimming.

Unlike Zafar who died young, Mahsud lived a long and full life. Again unlike Zafar, he wasn’t born into a rich family and had to struggle for a livelihood in Karachi far away from his native South Waziristan tribal agency. Eventually, he became a big transporter in Karachi and used his wealth and tribal connections back home to win a seat in parliament. The sight of the well-built Mahsud with his tall turban in the Senate and in state functions attracted immediate attention. As a tribal Senator, he used his considerable rural wisdom to make friends and extend influence. It was said, though never confirmed, that he even managed to convince President Bush Senior to ask the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to appoint his civil servant brother as a Commissioner. That he is how the term “Bush Commissioner” originated!

Shinwari belonged to Jangalkhel, which is a rustic village with its tribal code of honour in the urban setting of Kohat. It was in the 1985 partyless elections that Shinwari tried his luck in the polls and won a provincial assembly seat. The silver-haired Shinwari stood out in the House more for his appearance than for his performance on the floor. Most of the assembly members then were first-timers and the sessions were largely a process of learning for those who cared to pick up the finer points of legislative business. Shinwari was among the lot that was keen to learn the tricks of the trade and he was doing quite well by the time the assembly was dissolved. His friendly nature enabled him to befriend anyone who came into contact with him.

Among the four deceased politicians discussed in this column, Dr Mahboobur Rahman was probably the most successful. He won election as an MNA from Swat in 1988 and became a minister of state in prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s government. In a subsequent election, he was elected an MPA and was made a provincial minister. He remained loyal to the mainstream PPP all his life even though his election as district nazim, Swat meant that he had to forego his membership of the party. A solution to this predicament was found when he made his son, Salimur Rahman, an office-bearer of the PPP Swat chapter. The PPP was thus kept alive under the same family roof.

Mahsud, Zafar, Shinwari and Dr Mahboobur Rahman, all good men who died largely unsung. They surely deserved more than this joint obituary.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The reality of kids shifting to Government Schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The reality of kids shifting to Government Schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
 Analysis of ASI Survey Report
by Muhammad Saleem (@memzarma)

A news report in the Express Tribune appeared on 21st June, 2016 with the title “From private to public: 34,000 students make transition to government schools” [] terming improvement in KP government schools as a case of restored confidence on KP Government. The report was widely shared on social media, especially from PTI accounts on twitter and facebook. At least two private TV channels run video reports describing the development as indication of the arrival of PTI’s promised change. Reports at both the electronic & print media quote an ‘independent’ survey [link to the survey at the end of the article] carried out by a non-profit international organization called Adam Smith International (ASI).

Today KP Education Minister did a tweet and the number of students shifting from private school to government school rose to 1,51,000 kids. 

Before discussing reporting of the survey in electronic & print media, we will first analyze the survey methodology, its conclusions and the organization which carried out the survey.

Over the years, enrollment in government schools as a percentage of total enrollment is on the decline across Pakistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, primary level enrollment in Government schools was 78% of total enrollment in 2004-05 which declines to 69% in 2014-15 according to PSLM surveys. Both demand and supply side factors are being cited in the literature for this shift from government schools to private schools. In this backdrop, any report or survey claiming that parents are shifting their kids from private schools to government schools is indeed eye-catching.

Being a skeptic of PTI’s ‘change’ in education sector in KP, I obtained ASI’s survey report (18 pages in total) which was published in May 2016 with the title ‘Survey of Children Leaving Private Schools And Joining Government Schools’. Following are some key points in the survey.

1. The survey was conducted by ASI which works in close collaboration with government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in improving education sector delivery in the province. Thus, the survey is NOT third party evaluation of education reforms in the province, as best practice evaluation would require.

2. The figure of 34,000 students leaving private school for government schools, is a claim of KP Elementary & Secondary Education Department and not of the survey itself. Reports in print and electronic media wrongly attributed the figure to an ‘independent’ survey. 

3. The survey report says that it first conducted a pilot survey in one district, District Haripur, to find out the reasons behind this migration. Interestingly, the report says that the results from the pilot survey were ‘inconclusive’ as the majority of students left private schools because either their private schools were closed down or no further grades were available in these private schools. How they can term these results inconclusive when they took a sample from the population of those total 34,000 students in the province? Surprisingly, the pilot survey from one district has a much greater sample size (182 students) as compared to a ‘detailed’ survey undertaken in four (4) districts with a total sample size of only 278 students. Also, the survey managers prefer to exclude the Haripur district from the more ‘detailed’ survey.

4. The detailed survey conducted to ‘delve deeper’ for understanding the phenomenon took the government claim for granted and did not look at the reverse migration. There may be a lot of parents who may by switching their kids from government schools to private schools over the same period. A better understanding of the phenomenon can only be achieved if the survey have looked at net migration.

5. For the second detailed survey, the report claims that it only looked at those students who migrated from private schools to government schools for ‘other reasons pertinent to the quality of education’. This is a classic case of selection bias where the total population is no more 34,000 migrated students but a portion of it which left private schools for government schools due to quality of education. Kids leaving private schools for government schools as parents may not be able to afford it any more were left out from the survey.

6.The detailed survey selected four districts for the analysis with very tricky reasoning. The report claims that at the first level, ‘districts that only had data from either male or female schools’ were dropped. This, according to the report, drop five (5) districts from the analysis which means that either education reforms were not uniform or the data is not available. The sampling strategy further says that another four (4) districts were removed from the survey for security reason. The survey report did not name these four (4) districts. How it is possible that while kids can attend schools in these districts but parents of the same kids cannot be surveyed due to security reasons? At the third level, another four (4) districts were dropped out from the analysis where migration of students from private schools to government schools is less than 500 students. Does this mean that the province-wise education ‘reforms’ couldn’t reach these four (4) districts? Remember, replies to Imran Khan question of education reforms in his public gathering at Bannu? For the final analysis, a total of 4 districts were selected; Abbottabad, D I Khan, Peshawar & Swat.

7. After tricky selection of districts for the survey, it is now turn to select students’ families for the survey. The survey team obtained phone numbers of 1,124 randomly selected students whose guardians would be reached via phone calls. On phone calls, the survey team could establish contact with guardians of 945 students where they select 278 households for the detailed survey. The remaining (945-278=667) 71% households of the total were considered ‘invalid’ households because they shifted their children from private schools to government schools either because their private schools is being closed down or no further grades were available in these private schools. The survey now analyzes these 278 households to find out reasons behind their migration.  Imagine!

8. The ASI survey report claims that its survey team was accompanied by a focal person from either the DEO Male or Female’s office to conduct individual interviews with the head of households. This was probably done to ensure transparency and independence of the survey? Even here, 52 interviews were done via phone.

9. Questions were asked about past decisions of the guardians about the reasons for enrolling in private schools and not in government schools. Majority responded that at that time, private schools has better quality than government schools. The interesting part in the report comes when the survey team asked about their current choices. Table 6 and Table 7 in the survey reported answers to two (which is in fact one?) question. According to table 6 titled ‘Grade-wise Reasons for Leaving Private School’ during last 6 months, 139 guardians of the students responded that they left private schools because these schools are too expensive. This comes around 50% of the total households which mean that half of the kids were shifted to government schools due to poverty. Only 78 guardians responded that they left private schools because of low quality. Remember selection of the total sample size of 278 households? Despite removing the ‘invalid’ households, it still has households where kids are being shifted from private schools to government schools due to their financial constraints. Interestingly and surprisingly, table 7 titled “Grade-Wise Reasons for Enrolling into Government Schools” is also being produced. Are table 6 & 7 not reporting same exact question? Here the survey team found that 45% of total children are shifting to government schools because its quality is better than private schools.  

Reporting of the Survey:

Now let’s come to the reporting of this survey in electronic and print media. One report appeared on SAMAA TV and tweeted from the official account of PTI. The video report says “But with [PTI} government efforts, quality of education improved in government schools and thus 34,000 students got admission in government schools. This fact was revealed in a survey by a non-governmental organization”.  As shown in the earlier analysis, neither the survey revealed this nor the findings suggest any such thing. Also the whole selection process of the sample students is faulty.
A video still taken by @YaqubImmegret from the above is presented here to see the quality of a math teacher in a government school (tweet:

Same is the case with Express Tribune report which originally reported the survey findings. The report in the ET did not mention that the 34,000 figures is a claim of KP’s Elementary & Secondary Education Department.

The survey conducted by Adam Smith International can be read here.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

QK Archives: Former Minister Accused of killing daughter

Published by The Friday Times July 2001
Republished not for profit and solely for educational purposes

Iqbal Khattak
says the younger generation is increasingly challenging the strict Pukhtoon code of life for women

The autopsy carried out on the exhumed body of 18-year-old Mahvish, daughter of former PML(N) NWFP minister, Sanaullah Miankhel, has reportedly contradicted the Miankhel family’s claim that the girl had committed suicide. The autopsy report says the girl was killed between April 14 and 24.
Police sources say circumstantial evidence shows it to be a case of honour killing. TFT has learnt that the girl was allegedly in love with the family’s driver and was planning to elope with him. The family was bitterly opposed to her choice.
The girl’s body was exhumed and medically examined on the orders of Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, Governor of the North West Frontier Province. The issue came to light when a newspaper carried a small news item on the girl’s death in mysterious circumstances. A few days later, during a press conference, journalists pointed out to the governor that the case needed to be probed and the government was dragging its feet because the slain girl’s father had joined the Like-minded group, the breakaway faction of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), supported by the government.
Interestingly, after the inquiry was ordered the girl’s family claimed that the first medical report had confirmed that she had committed suicide. However, the family has not made public that medical report or answered the question of why she was buried in such haste.
The NWFP Inspector General of Police, Muhammad Saeed Khan, told TFT that the autopsy report establishes, through circumstantial evidence, that the girl was murdered. “She received a single bullet in her head, which pierced through her neck. The autopsy report has determined that someone fired a shot in the head from the top,” the Frontier IGP said.
The IGP also said that the investigating team was in the process of recording the statements of various people and the high-profile investigation would take some time to complete. Those, who have so far deposed before the investigation team, include the woman who bathed Mahvish before the burial, the man who led the funeral prayers and some female members of the Miankhel family. The IGP, however, refused to give any more details, saying “It’s too early to say anything”.
A forensic expert TFT spoke with said the angle of the shot suggests that the victim was forced to kneel down, execution-style, while someone standing behind her put the gun to her head and fired the shot at a downwards angle.
No one has been directly charged in the First Information Report (FIR) lodged by the district magistrate of Dera Ismail Khan at the Chawdhan Police Station. D I Khan is situated 200 miles south of Peshawar. The unnamed killers have been charged under Sections 302 and 201 of qisas and diyat law and no arrest has been made so far.
Interestingly, following the FIR, Sanaullah Miankhel, the father of the slain girl, and his brothers, former MNA Umer Farooq, and former MPAs Inayatullah Miankhel and Fatahullah Miankhel, secured bails-before-arrest from a lower court in the Swabi district. Similarly, their three cousins — Fakhar Miankhel, Mazhar Miankhel and Samiullah Miankhel — secured bails-before-arrest from the Sargodha district in the Punjab province.
The main character in the drama, the driver Munawar, has refused to speak with the media. His family members told TFT to “leave us alone”.

Munawar’s involvement in the tragic episode came to light after Aurat Foundation, an NGO, sent fact-finding teams to D I Khan following news of the girl’s murder. The AF teams got the details of the case and also met with Munawar. Rakhshanda Naz, resident director of Aurat Foundation, told TFT: “Absolutely. It is a case of honour killing.” She added that her organisation, which advocates women’s rights in the male-dominated Pukhtoon society, would pursue the case until its logical conclusion.
According to details, the Miankhel family, a politically influential feudal family of D I Khan allegedly killed Mahvish between April 14 and 24 after she was taken away from Munawar’s home on the outskirts of Dera. Mahvish had gone to Munawar’s house to plead with his family to let her marry him.

Munawar, in his 40s, is the father of three children. His family is very poor and he used to drive Mahvish to the college. During that period, say sources, the two developed a relationship.

The deeply conservative Miankhel family came to know of the affair in 1999. Munawar was sacked, but the two continued to meet and, shortly before the girl’s alleged murder, were planning to get married. One report says that Sanaullah Minakhel told Munawar in early April to stop seeing his daughter. “Sanaullah also caught Munawar meeting with his daughter after that warning. The driver was beaten up and handed over to the police, which registered a theft case against him under section 475,” says a source.
Meanwhile, Mahvish left her home for Munawar’s and sought his family’s permission for marrying him. But the family would not agree because they were not prepared to face her family’s wrath, say sources. She was finally handed over to her parents, who took her away to their native town of Garah Essa Khan, 40 kilometres north of D I Khan, where Mahvish was allegedly murdered by her family. Her mother’s attempts to intervene on her behalf failed.

Mahvish’s death, if it were proved to be a case of honour killing, would be the second such high-profile case after Samia Imran was killed in April 1999. Samia was killed in the office of the famous lawyer and human rights activist, Asma Jehangir, in Lahore. The person who shot and killed her was a servant of the family and was tasked to murder her after her uncle and her mother had requested Samia’s lawyers to allow them to meet with her. While the killer himself was killed in exchange of fire with Asma’s bodyguard after he had shot Samia, the instigators, Samia’s family, remain at large. Samia had come to Lahore to get a divorce from her husband.
According to a police official, most such accused get acquitted because of insufficient evidence and defective investigation, though this observation does not apply to Samia’s case. “When family members do the killing, it is very difficult to get conclusive evidence because the female members invariably try to save the male members of the family,” Waseem Afzal, a police officer, told a seminar in Peshawar recently.
A professor at the Department of Sociology in the University of Peshawar told TFT that because of the conservative nature of the Pukhtoon society the younger generation is likely to become more frustrated. He predicts further rise in the number of such cases before the social ethos undergoes a change, which will be many years from hence. According to one estimate, the year 2000 saw at least 300 cases of honour killings in the NWFP.
“More than 300 cases of honour killings have been registered in different parts of the NWFP. Mardan district tops the list with 54,” TFT has learnt through data provided by the police department. Statistics reveal that Charsadda district witnessed a total of 42 (registered) honour killing cases.
Meanwhile, the Miankhel family has alleged that the case is politically motivated. Mrs Sanaullah Miankhel, breaking her long silence since her daughter’s tragic death, first rejected the honour killing charge and then accused political rivals of trying to frame the family. “The whole episode is a well-planned conspiracy against the Miankhel family,” she said in her first-ever press statement.
“Political opponents started scandalizing the death of Mahvish,” she said accusing, implicitly, the rival Gandapur family one of whose members is coveting the post of district nazim in the August 2 polls. Some reports say the Miankhel family is likely to withdraw its candidate in the face of growing criticism over the Mahvish case.
Sources close to Miankhel family also say the government began investigating the charge after the Miankhels fell out with the PML(Like-minded) group headed by Salim Saifullah Khan and enjoying the covert support of the government. “In March, during a meeting of the Like-minded, Miankhels were shown to be on board and it was thought that Sanaullah Miankhel would be given an important office within the faction. However, that did not happen when differences appeared between Salim Saifullah and Sanaullah Miankhel,” says a source close to the family.

Friday, 2 June 2017

And now, the army!
Zeejah October 11, 1998
Context: published after resignation of Pak COAS and appointment of Pervaiz Musharraf

It was with dismay that I read of Gen. Karamat’s ‘resignation’. Dismay that,
if free speech was denied to the highest in the echelons of power, what hope
do we, the common people of Pakistan, have? Do no one but the Mushahid Hussain’s of this world have a monopoly on ‘good sense’?

What do we learn of Mian Nawaz Shareef’s psyche when we see that he could
not have a working relationship with four COASs, two Presidents and one
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?

General Karamat’s level headed and logical statement about the REAL state of
affairs pertaining in the country, urged him to speak up for a National
Consensus; for a decision making body that might help control the Prime
Minister’s penchant for going off like a half-cocked rifle (as in his
announcement about the Kalabagh dam and the SHARiat bill); for the
participation of all concerned Pakistani’s in the running of a country fast
falling to pieces.

Economic insolvency stares us in the face, (we have long passed the rubicon
of Moral bankruptcy), a massive brain-drain is in progress, violent
sectarianism is running amok, and a bloody civil war might be around the

All right minded Pakistanis realize that a country cannot be run on the
whims of Abbaji and/or the latest 'pir' in attendance. We have seen the
unrestrained and unbridled behaviour of politicians, and the Army for that
matter, as under the late unlamented Gen. Zia ul Haq. If Pakistan is to
survive, if we are to regain a modicum of our fast eroding credibility, we
must seriously consider the benefits of a broad-based decision making

A Government that is serious about improving the situation in Pakistan would
have taken some time to seriously study the suggestions of the COAS of the
Pakistan Army, since he based his views on the day-to-day information he
received from various Intelligence bureaus about the national/international
situation. Instead we lose not one, but three good generals. What does the
‘resignation’ of these honest soldiers imply?

Do we take it to mean that honesty and good sense have no place in Pakistan
today, a Pakistan where only sycophants can air their 'views' and prosper?
Do we take it that it is not on the cards to speak up for anyone BUT the

Is Pakistan going to end up as a glorified Punjab? Do the smaller provinces and their grievances not matter at all to the Federal Government in the Federation of Pakistan?

We of the smaller provinces were relieved to hear someone with clout speak up
for us. We of the smaller provinces are as much a part of Pakistan, as the
Punjab; and as much, if not more, Patriotic. We, of the NWFP, are not
Pakistanis by default, we VOTED for Pakistan. Why then are our champions
rejected as a danger to the integrity of the Federation of Pakistan?
My dismay at Gen. Karamat’s resignation led to outrage when I heard that
Lt. Gen. Ali Quli Khan Khattak, the man groomed and trained to take over
from his Chief, was superceded. Is the office of CGS irrelevant? Or was Lt. Gen. Ali Quli superceded BECAUSE he is the only remaining serving
Lt. General from the NWFP?

I would be most interested to know the reasons put forward by the Prime
Minister of the ‘heavy mandate’ for ignoring one of the very best officers of
the Pakistan Army. Especially after witnessing the charade played against the
Chief Justice of Pakistan. The excuse given for ousting CJ Sajjad Ali Shah
was that he had been promoted out of line. The Government had taken the
high moral ground of seniority/merit being the guiding force for its
decisions. If the decisions of Nawaz Shareef’s Government are actually
influenced by merit and seniority, then why was the most senior, the most
meritorious officer of the Pakistan Army superceded?

Was not the CGS the most senior Army Officer? Had not Lt. Gen. Ali Quli been considered a better choice (over Gen. Musharraf) for the office of CGS? Is not a CGS more important than a Corps Commander?

It has been said that since Ali Quli and Pervaiz Musharraf are course mates,
they are equally proficient. This is not quite true. Without denigrating
Gen. Musharraf’s professionalism, it is evident that at every step of his
carreer Ali Quli has been ahead of Pervaiz Musharraf. They both attended the
29th. PMA Long Course (1961-62), but it was Ali Quli, as one of the top
cadets, who was selected for training at Sandhurst. At Sandhurst Ali Quli
was one of the 12 Senior Under-Officers. Few, if any, foreigners are
selected for the post.

Lt. Gen. Ali Quli is an infantry man, in an infantry based army. Passing out
of Infantry School, (Quetta) with flying colours (1966), he went on to be
Instructor (1978) and then Commandant of the Staff College (Quetta, 1992-93).
He has commanded an infantry battalion twice, (Kel, Azad Kashmir 1976-78 and
1983-85 in Sind while involved in anti-dacoity operations) and a Division in
Sialkot (1990-92). After his posting as DGMI (Director General Military
Intelligence) from 1993-95, he was promoted to Lt. Gen and commanded the 10th
Corps, which, besides being the largest and most prestigious army corps is
one that is engaged in active operations.

Gen. Musharraf has never held the post of Principal Staff Officer, a
necessary precursor to the more important office of COAS. While Lt. Gen. Ali
Quli, besides being the present CGS, held the post of PSO for the 10th Corps
from 1986-88.

Unlike Pervaiz Musharaf, Ali Quli, besides his stint at Hussainiwala sector
in the ’65 war, saw action in 1971 while engaged in active operations in East
Pakistan. Brig. Liaqat Bukhari has written extensively in the urdu media of
the Bhairab Bazaar and the Belonia operations that Ali Quli participated in,
while in the Army Air Operations. (He had joined the Army Aviation where he
received the Best Flier Trophy in 1968). After the 1971 surrender, not only
was his the only unit NOT to surrender to the Indian army, but they saved
the lives and honour of 175 women and children by flying them out of

One paper extolls the choice of Gen. Musharaf as a ‘true’ Pakistani; does
that, by extension, mean Lt. Gen. Ali Quli is not? Son of Lt. Gen. Habibullah Khan Khattak, Ali Quli comes from an illustrious politico-military family of the NWFP. Is it not true that Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef himself decorated his (Ali Quli’s) paternal uncle, Muhammad Yusuf Khan Khattak, for his unstinting and meritorious efforts during the struggle for Pakistan?
Some columnist marked Ali Quli as a 'PPP man', in order to explain the
unexplicable supercession. Is it not true that one of the first actions of
Z.A. Bhutto was to imprison Lt. Gen. Habibullah Khan?

A third generation Army man, Ali Quli’s son, Capt. Khalid Quli Khan Khattak
is the fourth generation to be inducted into the Baluch Regiment. Inspite of
being the CGS, Ali Quli did not stand in the way of his son being posted to
the dangerous, hardship post at Siachin. Principles have always been his
guiding light, and it seems, his undoing.

What was found in Lt. Gen. Ali Quli’s professional/personal record, to
justify his being superceded? Is it possible that it is his unblemished
record, that stood against him, since it speaks of a man who would not be
bent to the wishes of those in power? Or was the fact that he refused to make
the 'piligrimage' to Raiwind held against him?

Or are we are missing something in the meeting between the proclaimed
offender, Altaf Hussain, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan in the sudden
elevation of Lt. Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf?

Uncertain situations are a perfect breeding ground for rumours; all sorts of
ideas come to ones mind; all sorts of scenarios are looked into; to make
sense of a senseless situation. Nawaz Shareef would be well advised to look at what happened when Z. A Bhutto elevated Gen. Zia ul Haq over his senior officers. History does have a queer habit repeating itself, and when the chips are down, we expect Gen. Musharraf’s loyalties to stand by Pakistan, as any true patriot!

Ali Quli Khan is one of the most honourable, level-headed, gentle, pious, and
generous men I have ever met. He is a man who commands respect, without
demanding it. In these days of hypocritical mouthings of values, this is not
something to be sneered at. In the Army he is known as a good soldier,
upright, honest and professional, above the various army cliques and
groupings. Maybe, these very qualities stand against him today?
The people of the smaller provinces are deeply disturbed at the messages
emanating from the Federal Government. First, the Chief Justice Sajjad Ali
Shah was unceremoniously ousted; then AVM Abdul Rahim Khan Yusufzai was
superceded, and now Lt. Gen. Ali Quli Khan Khattak.
Is it not enough for Punjab to be the largest province, the Big Brother, in
the Federation of Pakistan, or like our Punjabi Prime Minister is absolute
power its only goal?

What does the future have in store for a country whose Prime Minister meets
with a proclaimed offender, and invites civil war by encouraging half-baked
fanatics to go out into the streets and kill opponents of a bill that will
make him omnipotent?

Was not the disaster of East Pakistan lesson enough for our politicians to
realize they cannot run rough-shod over the people’s sentiments?
These and more questions disturb me. One by one, National Institutions have
been systematically weakened, eroded and destroyed. Institutions that helped
bring Pakistan together as a viable Federation. Each wrong decision in the
past has led to a weaker, more emasculated Pakistan.

Today, Pakistan once more stands at a cross-roads. Can we afford any more
misadventures by the ruthlessly ambitions? As a patriotic Pakistani, I
bleed for my country.
Zeenath Jahan is a psychologist, journalist, and a budding writer. Zeejah’s articles, short stories and children’s stories have appeared in Friday Times, News and Women’s Own.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

QK archives: DOST of the hopeless

DOST of the Hopeless
By Zeenath Jehan
November 23, 2000

Imagine a people, totally unaware of themselves; who, like a dog that has been kicked too many times, cannot defend themselves; a people who are without any rights; are powerless and without any self-esteem; a people who, after having sold everything else, sell their own children for a pittance; a people who are forgotten, ignored and abused by the world; a people who have nothing left; nothing, but for a little life. Imagine the task of giving them back their pride, their humanity, their very lives. Impossible?

Not if you are working for the DOST Welfare Foundation (Hayatabad, Peshawar). DOST ('friend')is an organization with a difference. Drug addicts are fed, housed and treated here for the two-month course, free of charge.

The business-like atmosphere at DOST was the first thing that struck me. Yet, there was also something else; something indefinable, that makes DOST different. The difference was the palpable benevolence and compassion that permeates its atmosphere. This, above all, is what makes DOST a sanctuary for the rejected, the outcast and the unwanted.

Unlike other detoxification clinics in Pakistan, there are no locks on DOST's doors. There is no need. The patients stay here voluntarily, strengthened and supported through counselling. Some patients only come to DOST as a last resort, before the liberation of death. In just two months time they are ready to return to the world; healthy in mind, body and spirit.

The DOST Treatment Model is based on the premise that drug-addiction is a disease, affecting a person's physiological, psychological, social and spiritual well-being. All drugs are equally dangerous, as they upset the natural hormonal balance of the brain. 'Charas' (marijuana, hemp) is often considered relatively harmless, because addiction results in less physiological dependence. Heroin addiction, on the other hand, causes both psychological and physiological dependence. Yet, compared to heroin, 'charas' (hemp, marijuana) withdrawal causes more hallucinations, drug-induced psychosis, agitation and irritability.

In 1992, at DOST's inception, its staff was trained in the Minnesota Twelve Step Program by Mehmood and Sheryar from `Nai Zindagi' Lahore. In its infancy, DOST faithfully followed this Model. Later the high rate of relapses forced them to adapt the treatment procedures, resulting in a more tailored approach. This is now called the DOST Treatment Model.

At DOST the day starts at 6.00am. and the patients are kept busy until 10.00pm. As it is run entirely by the patients, after the initial 7-10 days of detoxification each one joins a Therapeutic Duty Group. Divided into Housekeeping, Kitchen and Administration, each group has a leader and crew members. Every fortnight the staff and patients meet to decide who will be promoted or demoted to the next group. As therapy is a 24 hour process in a therapeutic community, all aspects of a patient are taken into account, such as attitudes, behaviour, manners, responsibility for self, care of others, maintaining the rules and thus demonstrating their commitment to recovery.

The DOST Therapeutic Community encourages the patients to share their experiences and feelings with each other. While speaking of their experiences with denial, anxiety, resentment and family problems, patients eventually begin to understand their disease. They learn to accept addiction as an illness such as diabetes, separating it from their `Self'. They are taught not to feel shame; and to understand that it was the disease, the drug that made them do terrible things, while they were in its control.

In 1993 DOST started a Community Intervention Program. The general public were told about the dangers of AIDS, HIV and Hepatitis, and about the treatment and rehabilitation facilities at DOST and SUKOON KOR. The positive response that followed the initial seminars led to an enlargement of the programme.

Drug addicts are neither violent and dangerous nor weak-willed and bad. A personality profile of people at risk would be that of high achieving, sensitive and intelligent people. They tend to expect too much from life, and from themselves. They are frequently very idealistic, with dreams of changing the world. They are often really nice people, who do not want to hurt anyone; and they end up by hurting the people they love most. Pragmatic, down to earth, practical people are less likely to take the escape-route offered by drugs. Addiction breeds a deeper desperation and a more complete resignation to hopelessness than one can understand. Detoxification and rehabilitation therefore result in a greater sensitivity and understanding of pain.

This was brought home to me when I interviewed Jamila.

Haltingly, painfully, she told me the story of her gradual slide to destruction. It all started when she had found her husband in bed with her sister, and she had ranted and raved. Finally her husband, a peddlar and an addict, introduced her to heroin, so there could be peace in the house. The drug-induced euphoria was a new experience for Jamila. Within the month she was addicted.

One day Jamila, her husband and daughter came to Jamrud to buy drugs. When Jamila awoke bleary-eyed from the drug-induced stupor she found herself alone in the Karkhano Bazaar. Her husband and child were gone. What happened then is unrepeatable. Squeezing her hand to show I cared, I found them cold and clammy with the effort of reliving her own private hell.

In December 1995 DOST finally struck at the source of the drug problem. They moved to the Karkhano Bazaar in the tribal areas, the place where it all happens. Just a stone's throw from the busy Hayatabad market, drugs, alcohol and pornography are easily available. Drug addicts are charged three rupees for the privilege of sitting there, amidst the filth and squalor. When an addict dies, the others bury him in a shallow grave, as no one else will touch the vermin infested corpse. Jackals and dogs feast on the bony carcass at night.

At first the addicts ignored the presence of the DOST workers, then they began to reduce their dosage. The drug mafia tried to intimidate DOST workers, but they did not falter; they were fired with a missionary zeal to help the wretched addicts. Recovered addicts were a part of the team, and they spoke of their experiences at DOST. Finally, one by one, the street addicts began coming to DOST for treatment. One of DOST's most motivated workers is a recovered addict. The only sign that he is any different from the others is his deeper empathy and compassion for humanity, in its most degraded form.

It takes about a month for a person to become addicted to heroin. At first the drug induces a euphoric feeling of total well being. Later it has to be taken, to avoid excruciating pain. Heroin withdrawal starts within a few hours of the last fix. After about a week of detoxification, the natural opiate centers in the brain start functioning normally.

According to DOST Psychologists, treatment of poly-drug abusers is the most difficult. Nowhere in the world is it so easy to buy any drug (from Valium to Morphine) as it is in Pakistan. People frequently become addicted under the mistaken belief that if frequently changed, no drug will become addictive. Little realizing that whatever the base, all mind-altering drugs have a similar effect.

Another reason for the insidious spread of drug addiction is that hospitals do not examine a patient's drug history. After an operation, the prescribed painkillers may cause a relapse in recovered addicts. Such people must be given medicines with a different base drug, or they should be helped to get over their dependency before leaving hospital. This aspect of drug control is often ignored in Pakistan.

Similarly, when there is a family history of drug abuse an individual may become addicted more easily than another. Doctors must be careful about prescribing addictive drugs as there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and drug addiction.

A recurring theme heard by psychologists at DOST is of men using drugs to increase their libido. Friends often introduced them to heroin on their wedding night. Similarly, addicts are frequently the cause of their wives' addiction, as it helped them to lose their inhibitions. More than any other single cause, the crux of the drug problem seems to be misconceptions arising from the lack of knowledge about drugs and sexuality. Drugs are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities!

Drug addiction is now becoming a family disease. Passive inhalation of the smoke results in the family becoming addicted and whole families are coming to Dost for treatment. Marium, her nine year old daughter Zubaida, two sons and four cousins were all undergoing treatment at DOST and SUKOON KOR when I visited it.

Dost had to launch a separate treatment center for women because of the steep increase in female addicts. SUKOON KOR (House of peace) is the first women's only detoxification and rehabilitation center in Pakistan. Besides treatment for addiction to an assorted number of drugs, from Valium and Lexotinal to heroin, SUKOON KOR also has psycho-therapeutic facilities for problems such as domestic violence, neuroses and stress management. After-care, and a Relapse Prevention Programme (RPP) are an important part of the DOST Treatment. The RPP facility is provided to patients who have been treated at the DOST Therapeutic Community, their family members and to recovering addicts from other centers.

When I heard Jahangir's story, it sounded like poetic justice. Life had been good to Jahangir, and he had more money than he could spend; he was the owner of a heroin producing factory. By inhaling the heroin dust, while keeping watch over his labourers, Jahangir became addicted, and the degradation started. One day, his thirteen year old son's disgust cut him to the quick. Jahangir went to his `factory' and aiming with his klashnikov, shot holes in all the drums full of heroin. He then joined the DOST programme and is now one of their many success stories.

I asked Psychologists at DOST what was the most heart-rending story they had heard in the four years since the inception of DOST. Each said that the story of Karim Khan had distressed them the most. He had sold his nine year old daughter for a gram of heroin (fifteen rupees or 25 cents). After that, his wife used to leave the children with neighbours when she went to work. She lived in terror that he would sell all her children, one by one. After detoxification, when Karim Khan realized what he had done, he tried to look for his child. She was nowhere to be found. He kept relapsing into a haze of drug-induced forgetfulness until, he was taught to detach the unforgivable behaviour from his `Self'. Only then could he forgive himself, only then could he overcome his self-loathing, only then could he learn to live with himself.

Listening to these and other stories of pain and anguish, the thought that kept coming to my mind was, `there go I, but for the Grace of God'.

Footnote: This article has previously appeared in a Pakistani publication. Published on November 23, 2000