Category: Pakistan


Taliban Provokes New Hunger For Education

Following scattered defiance of the Taliban earlier, a new wave of students is now heading for education in schools and colleges across the troubled north of Pakistan. “There is a steady increase in enrolment of students because parents have realised the significance of education, and now they want to thwart the Taliban’s efforts to deprive students of education,” Pervez Khan, education officer in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), stated. In 2012, he says, the literacy rate for girls was 3% in FATA. That rose to 10.5% in 2013. The boys literacy rate shot up correspondingly to 36.6% compared to a previous 29.5%.


Girls Enrolled In Catholic School Hit By Taliban

The Catholic girls’ school of the Sisters of the Presentation in Sangota, in the heart of the Swat valley (province of Khyber–Pakhtunkhwa), “reopened a few months ago. It has more than 200 enrollees and is in the process of complete reconstruction” said Sister Riffat Sadiq, part of the team of educators, formerly headmistress of the same school. The institute, founded in 1962, was forced to close in 2007 and, in 2009, was destroyed by the Taliban, who then ruled the valley. In the campaign against female education, Taliban groups forced the closure of more than 400 schools and 150 were destroyed or affected by the bombings. In the Spring of 2012, the school of the Sisters of the Presentation – whose specific charisma is to work for education – has reopened. In a few months, enrollment has risen up to 200 “but as soon as more classrooms are completed, there will be a lot more,” notes Sister Riffat, remembering that before the forced closure, the school had over 1,000 girl students.

Blasphemy Law Is An Evil Of Muslim Society

With regard to the case of the Emmanuel brothers, Aslam Khaki said: “We publicly condemn violence. No one may take the law in his own hands: this is the founding pillar of the rule of law. What is more, the two Christians were found to be innocent and had been acquitted by the Court. These events are wounds to legality and to respect for human rights, wounds which Pakistan must heal.” These wounds are caused by the controversial “blasphemy law, which creates disharmony in society and poses problems, particularly, for religious minorities. Our country does not need this law. The law is wrongly used for personal arguments and revenge. Many innocent citizens spend two or even three years in prison before being acquitted and released. While they are unjustly detained in prison, the families are often subjected to threats and violence.” The lawyer says he thinks the law should be abolished but this, he added, “depends on Parliament and I think there is little chance of it happening. Members of Parliament” – he adds – “are pressured by radical Islamic groups that threaten street protests and revolts. They fear the loss of consensus also because the law has been in force for twenty years and the people think it serves to defend the name of the Prophet.” According to Aslam Khaki, an intermediate step might be useful: “In the meantime, procedure could be modified: as jurists, we ask that a report for blasphemy may only be registered with the consent of an ad hoc commission which examines the case preventively, evaluates the evidence and decides whether or not to proceed with formal charging and arrest of the accused persons. This would be a means of guarantee and it would prevent the arrest of persons on false or invented charges.” The law in question “was born of an extremist mentality and approach.” Today, radical Islamic leaders “continue to instigate the crowds, especially the youth: the murderers of the two Christians were, without a doubt, persons manipulated by Islamic preachers who do great harm to society and to the nation,” the lawyer concluded.  

Shazia’s Story And The Reality Of Child Labor

In a joint statement issued in Lahore, Chairperson of Catholic NCJP, Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, and Peter Jacob, the Executive Secretary, said that this is not a lone incident of violence, because the domestic servants are usually subjected to extreme violence. Identifying the growing poverty and unemployment as the primary contributor to this situation,” they demanded that the Government “proceed with legislation on the ‘Domestic Violence Bill’ immediately.”  For example, in the Sialkot District (which, in 2009, was the site of anti-Christian violence), where thousands of Christian families live and work, there are children who work in the production of balls, shoes, clay bricks, and carpets destined for Western markets. The sports balls, in particular, made for the major brands of sports goods, are the work of 5,000 Pakistani children, who constitute 80% of the workers. In the past, the murder of the young Iqbal Masih, sold by his father to a carpet manufacturer when he was 4 years old, drew public attention to children working in Pakistan. Killed at age 12, after having told his story, along with that of his young friends, to a union leader, Iqbal has become a kind of symbol. The reality of child labor in Pakistan has other consequences: the infant mortality rate for children under five years is 136 per thousand and the illiteracy rate reaches 62%. Twenty-one percent of boys are not even registered in an elementary school and the same goes for 50% of girls.   

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