akistan is a country with a rich literary history and home to hundreds of thousands of literature enthusiasts. From poets, essayists to novelists, the country has produced some of the finest writers of modern times. With such local literary heroes such as Faiz, Iqbal and Manto to hold as inspiration, the yearning to pursue a literature degree in Pakistan comes as no surprise. Literature as a discipline allows students to improve their comprehension, communication and writing skills. It simultaneously promotes empathy and understanding of human condition through storylines, plots, characters and conflicts that are relatable often, across cultures and societies.If you too wish to become a part of the country’s literati, we suggest you explore the universities we have shortlisted to pursue a degree that opens the doors to a literary revelation. Here are the top universities in Pakistan to study literature.
The University of Punjab
The University of Punjab is the oldest university in Pakistan, having been set up during the colonial rule. Since its conception, the varsity has actively worked to ensure that the study of literature thrives. The Department of English Language & Literature was created on November 10, 1962, with Professor Siraj-ud-Din as the founder and first head of the department.Over the years, the department has progressed much and attracted some highly qualified teachers. At present, it has 16 teaching positions. Besides, some part-time teachers have also been engaged to teach the courses. In the University of Punjab, English is used as medium of instruction in the department of English Language & Literature. Despite other contenders, PU still remains one of the most sought after university in Pakistan to study literature.
Government College Lahore University
The Government College University’s department of English Language and Literature enjoys the distinction of being the oldest postgraduate department of English in the country. It was established in 1873 and was affiliated with Calcutta University and ater with the University of Punjab. Various programs offered by the department of English are aimed at producing confident individuals with strong oral and written skills. The focus remains on analytical and creative development of the young minds that helps them stand out as independent thinking entities.Among the renowned names associated with the department is that of the Urdu writer and essayist Ahmed Shah Bokhari, popularly known as Patras Bokhari.
Over the years, Kinnard College has gained a formidable reputation as Pakistan’s premier college for women. The college has made a mark by producing some of the most known and powerful female figures of Pakistani literature and politics. From Bapsi Sidhwa, Asma Jahangir to Bano Qudsia, all have been educated at Kinnaird.The aim has been to nourish the female identity and nurture the minds of inquisitive, passionate young women so they become eminent members of society with strong voices.It is one of the best places for young girls to pursue their passion for literature and its English Department attracts some of the top female teachers from across the country. When it comes to literature and teaching of it, Kinnaird has created a niche of its own.
Islamia College University, Peshawar
The breathtaking building of Islamia College University Peshawar is a relic from the past. When the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, initially known as NWFP was formed in 1901, Edwardes College was the only higher education provider in the area. Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum and Sir George-Ross Keppel then took the initiative in 1913 to establish Islamia College University to help provide the region with a new breed of intellectuals and leaders. Over the decades, it has done exactly that. One interesting fact about the University is that in his will, the Leader of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, bequeathed one part of his residuary estate and the corpus that may fall after the lapse of life interest to Islamia College University.
University of Karachi
Established as a Federal University in 1951, Karachi University as it is colloquially known is the oldest establishment of its kind in Sindh. In 1955, the English Department was created with Dr Muhammad Ahsan Farooqui as its head to provide quality education in literature.The university enjoys a distinguished status as a multi-disciplinary research institute. KU is a member of Association of Commonwealth Universities of the United Kingdom and has ranked high among the Asian Universities.From its Academics to Library collections and the University Press, KU has relentlessly worked towards promoting education excellence and competitive learning. The ever-increasing number of students, faculty members and researchers is a vivid reflection of KU’s competency in education.
A large number of youngsters are inclined towards smoking because of the media portrayal of it as a stress buster or simply a ‘cool’ habit. In reality, it is nothing but slow poisoning yourself to a painful death.
igh school or college is the place from where students start making lifelong decisions on their own. But it is a dangerous phase at the same time, for it is also here that youngsters adopt healthy habits or start making some bad choices. Among that many bad habits that students can develop while coping with the transition from high school to university is smoking. Recent survey done by WHO shows that almost 80% adult smokers developed the bad habit while they were in college. Since 1980 health organizations, governments, and non-profits are battling to lower the effect of this social evil and plenty of studies have been done to identify the potential risk factors. A study done by Standaz reveals that each day about 3,200 children and teens under 18 years old smoke their first cigarette. Another alarming thing that is making the situation even worsen is that most of these students who start it believe that smoking isn’t bad for them or will not harm them in the near future.
Identity crisis is one of the most common of national dilemmas in the 21st century as youth of the world become more and more lost in the battle between Western and Eastern. Thankfully we have a rich history to get inspired from, writes Haleema Khalid as she places her bets on histro-tainment.
Bullying is one of the worst things that can happen to a child, for its effects run far deeper than a nasty scar from a playground squabble. While the world worries about how to put an end to bullying, it is hardly considered an issue in Pakistan. Mahrukh Nadeem writes why we need to wake and address this invisible disease.
In this age of social outward-ness courtesy of social media, it’s not hard for impressionable minds to get stressed about what it takes to be ‘accepted’. But do you even need the acceptance from nobodies? Sofia Syed explains how you really don’t.
n this age of science and technology, where progression is the forefront of every agenda, our inherent views remain ingrained in a conceited puddle of opinions, which we very proudly sustain. Whether it’s our own conscience knocking on several doors, or the dogmatic opinions of our peers and coworkers, it remains implied that the ugly voice in our head needs to be heard. And while this seems to be a justifiable notion in our mind, the actual byproduct is nowhere prudent than it first appeared. Thinking about our present day social media domination, we fall prey to what’s known as the ‘digital age’ where minors, teens and adults divulge the perfect image of a perfect life. While this pretense remains largely questionable, those who are vulnerable ignite a series of self-loathing queries inside their head.
In the present day social media domination, we fall prey to what’s known as the ‘digital age’, where minors, teens and adults divulge the perfect image of a perfect life.
There is an entire generation, which is now lacking morals and virtues and exhibiting an effervescence of outward show and braggadocio. And the ones at the receiving end suppress a plethora of uncertainty, which then piles up and exudes itself as compromised mental health. A majority of our population comprises of minors attempting suicide due to lack of mental clarity or oppression. The large part of which, is attributed to undue peer pressure and the inability to fall under a certain criteria of acceptance.
We spend our entire lives trying to fit a certain image. Whether it’s a wife who is trying to tailor herself according to the needs of her husband or a college student switching characters to see which one is accepted most, we are in a constant struggle to be accepted. And it all comes down to opinions. According to Alfred Adler, a famous psychologist, all our problems are interpersonal relationship problems i.e. how we relate to one another.
Whether it’s a wife who is trying to tailor herself according to her husband’s need or a college student switching characters, we are in a constant struggle to be accepted
He further explains that we all experience a sense of inferiority. For guarded individuals, it acts as a trigger to better themselves in terms of self-improvement. But for the slightly vulnerable ones, it exudes as either isolation or a unique way of masking it by displaying superiority blatantly in front of others. Our lives remain interlocked in this whirlpool of prejudice that clouds our rational thinking and reasoning. And yet the instagrammable era isn’t a far cry from this matter.
In fact, the greatest predicament of our generation is the unrealistic standard set by our ‘insta-worthy’ surrounding. And while our influencers try their best to bring you the unbiased truth, sometimes impressions hit close to home. For most of us it might come off as freedom of speech which, rightfully so, is legitimate. But the way that speech is expressed sometimes does more harm than it does good. And the majority, which use ‘constructive criticism’ as a sugarcoated pill to manifest their nefarious intentions don’t realize the magnitude of their actions or remain oblivious to the after effects. I, for one, don’t think it ever gets better with time. Rather, the more exposed we are to differing views, the more our condition deteriorates. This leaves us either at the mercy of others or at stake with therapists in order to regain our sanity and reclaim our self-esteem. Until the day we learn to be self aware of the words we hurl at others, we need to protect our mental space by constructing a filter in our mind. Anything that doesn’t bring you peace or add value to your life is something that needs to be sieved through generously until the point that it no longer affects you. You are better than what you let on.Let that sink in.
Sofia Syed is a dentist. She tweets @sofia_syed and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Professor Dr Talat Naseer Pasha (SI) recently joined the University of Education as its vice chancellor after a highly successful 8-year stint at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) as its VC. He is well known as an academic and educationist of international stature in educational circles of Pakistan and known to promote quality research. Arsalan Haider caught up with the professor to find out about his plans in his new role
Academia: What are the main challenges you have faced after joining University of Education (UoE) and what strategy have you evolved to cope with these challenges?
Dr Pasha: University of Education (UoE) has become a university from a college, therefore, the major challenge is a shortage of senior faculty members. We only have two full professors working at the university. There is a lot that needs to be done in the field of research. The labs available at the university are hardly worthy of being called labs.
However, the great thing about UoE is that the people here are exceptional and motivated to do better. This is our real strength.
Academia: How do you plan to run the affairs at UoE? How would you apply your experience to take the varsity to new heights?
Dr Pasha: At UVAS, we made the university very open. There was not a single day when we did not have meetings, conferences, seminars and policy discussions. We did community work, engaged faculty the faculty and encouraged them to work outside the university. When a professor works out of a university as consultant or advisor, his teaching skills excel. Now UoE should be open like UVAS. There is no summer semester here, while at UVAS it was the busiest time of the academic year.
First of all, we have engaged the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) on how we can improve teachers’ training. At UVAS, I formed a veterinary academy which trained veterinary teachers across Punjab. Completing a PhD doesn’t make a professor a good teacher; he needs training on how to use his talent and skills in teaching.
Academia: What do you think is the reason that UoE has not achieved success similar to GCU, LCWU and other public universities?
Dr Pasha: I won’t say the previous VCs did not make an effort, because they certainly did a great job. The question is: what has been the investment in UoE? I had a meeting with teachers of special education today, and asked about labs. I was informed there are no labs here. We plan to turn the varsity around so that students look up to us in subjects of education, mathematics, physics and special education.
Academia: What are some of the new programs you think UoE should introduce?
Dr Pasha: At themoment, my entire focus is on quality and on ways we can we add value to our students. Unfortunately, there is not a single person appointed for sports here. We do not have a sports complex for any indoor or outdoor games or coaching, training etc. We must add value to students beyond academics, for which co-curricular activities are important. We have engaged students of various societies and formed a system in this regard. I have delegated powers in 37 items to various campuses and colleges so work can be sped up. I have asked all employees for improvement and have received excellent suggestions.
Academia: Tell us about some of the steps you took to enhance the standard and quality of education at UVAS?
Dr Pasha: At UVAS, we had an independent Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC). The QEC chair sits in selection boards and even conducts surprise visits on his own. I also appointed pro-vice chancellors and empowered them. I constituted 40 students’ societies that led to daily activities for students. Twelve of our students went to the US for undergraduate programs. In sports, UVAS got third position in HEC competitions.
Now, I am focusing on the same things at UoE, for I want to improve its ranking, its sports culture, co-curricular activities and services.
Academia: What is your opinion regarding budget cuts by the government and how did you manage the reduced funds while at UVAS?
Dr Pasha: There will be serious consequences of government’s decision to cut higher education budget. We have been demanding for years now that the government allocate at least 4 percent of GDP to education. Education is the only thing that can bring development in any country. It’s the responsibility of the government to provide affordable education.
At UVAS, we called a meeting of all section heads, deans and directors and had a workshop about the budget cuts. We asked all to initiate austerity measures and the austerity began from my office.
Academia: You have worked with both the current and previous government. Your thoughts?
Dr Pasha: Talking about political pressure, there has been none in the current as well as the previous government. The most critical thing at a university is admissions, which are now totally tech based. So there is no chance of out-of-merit selection.
However, I must say we had a lot of expectations from this government of investing more in education than previous regimes. Things have turned out to be quite the contrary. But I must mention that Punjab Higher Education Minister Raja Yassir Hamayun has assured us that a reasonable budget would be allocated for the education sector in the next fiscal year.
Academia: What are your expectations from the incumbent government?
Dr Pasha: Theplus point of this government is that all recently appointed VCs have been selected on merit. I asked the minister for education of setting us targets and evaluating our performance on how well we do on those targets. I assured him of giving a 100 percent result. The minister has given me the task of strengthening two to three institutions.
Academia: What do you think are the changes needed in Pakistan’s education sector?
Dr Pasha: UVASgot the third position in sports when I left, but it was on the 26th spot when I first joined the varsity. All this has been achieved through promotion of merit. If we uphold merit, things will move in the right direction.
Academia: Where do you see UoE in the next five years?
Dr Pasha: I really wish that when I complete my tenure after four years, our ranking has improved, we have better laboratory facilities, a lot of research has been churned out and at least 50 senior faculty members are working at UoE.
Education itself has never been a priority, be it religious or otherwise. Many promises of mainstreaming Madrassas, modernizing them with state of the art facilities and modern education have remained unfulfilled over the years, writesTabish Qayyum.
video went viral recently showing few young bearded boys of a madrassa taking turns on a swing at a park in the country’s capital. Few more videos and images were flashing on social media showing human side of many such students relaxing in Islamabad’s major public spots while a political sit-in was underway. Most of the attendees were madrassa students that were rallying on the call of Maulana Fazlur Rehman, leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. People were surprised to see a different image of these students from the stereo-typed projection in the media and public imagination where madrassa students are presented as extremists, radicals and irrational beings that post a risk to national cohesion, regional peace and security.
JUI-F, like many other political and religious organizations, caters to thousands of madrassas and millions of students in Pakistan. According to some statistics, there are almost 30,000 madrassas and 2.5 million students that benefit from their services. They serve as a low cost alternative to families who are unable to provide quality education to their children, have religious convictions or have no other option at their hands due to lack of government schooling structure in many improvised areas.
Throughout our turbulent political history, governments and regimes have deprived these students of any representation and agency into the national discourse, leaving them at the mercy of various political, religious organizations and sects who in return have benefited from the vacuum left by the state by not owning these institutions. In fact, education itself has never been a priority, be it religious or otherwise. Many promises of mainstreaming madrassas, modernizing them with state of the art facilities and modern education have remained unfulfilled.
In 2001, under Gen (r) Musharraf’s regime, some Rs 5.7 billion were allocated for various projects to introduce modernity and run de-radicalization initiatives in madrassas. An ordinance was promulgated titled, “Pakistan Madrassa Education (Establishment and Affiliation of Modern DeeniMadaris) Board, Ordinance, 2001’with the aim to align the madrassa curriculum in accordance with public and private schools in Pakistan. Similarly, “Voluntary Registration and Regulation Ordinance, 2002’was promulgated to keep a government check on admissions of foreigners in to the madrassas in Pakistan. Unfortunately, these initiatives were rejected by the madrassas and ‘Ulema’ as attempts by the state to interfere in religious affairs on foreign directives having ulterior motives to serve global interests.
Throughout our turbulent political history, governments and regimes have deprived these students of any representation and agency into the national discourse, leaving them at the mercy of various political, religious organizations and sects
These initiatives should not be seen in isolation; they were being presented at a time when region was entering in to a deadly conflict post 9/11 when the war on terror was perceived as war against Islam in the Muslim world. Religious community of Pakistan was deeply skeptic of Musharraf and his actions, largely siding with US in war against terror and these reforms were a form of coercion by the state.
Eighteen years later, with the war nearing its end and the US and Taliban negotiating to find a political solution to the conflict, the question of ‘madrassa reforms’ has risen again. Due to a lack of sustainable policy or a long-term engagement with the madrassas plus a trust deficit, we are back to square one. Threat of Pakistan being black-listed at the FATF is looming around as Pakistan is forced to take action in its own interest against terror financing and money laundering.
It would be impossible to convince the world of our actions with ungoverned and unregulated spaces in the country that remain at risk of exploitation. But again, the primary question remains, are we doing this to project our soft image or avert the financial and economic pressures? Or is it a genuine concern to eradicate extremism, mainstream seminaries and turn this massive human resource in to robust machinery as a productive component of society and national progress? The logical conclusion is to announce an educational emergency to save the future of the country.
Pakistan currently has the largest population of young people ever recorded in its history, according to a comprehensive National Human Development Report (NHDR) report launched by UNDP. We need to transform education system through a complete overhaul including madrassas and universities. In the larger context, we need to see beyond the madrassa issue as well. How productive are our university graduates? Why are our doctors and engineer out on the streets protesting low income and facilities? Why are millions of graduates jobless?
The world around us is changing, we need to meet new challenges and empower the massive youth bulge through innovative ideas. Madrassa students are relatively more motivated, simple-living, hardworking and passionate when it comes to life and challenges. They are no less intelligent either. The utmost need at this juncture is vision and leadership more than politics and bureaucratic puzzling. In his meeting with scholars and students, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said, “Islam clears that without education, society could not progress, all the top scientists for 700 years were Muslims”. The question arises, do we have a holistic national vision to reclaim our lost history?
The prime minister, army chief and other government officials have had a number of extensive meetings over the past year with scholars, administrators and religious heads of five madrassa boards related to various sects and other political, religious leaders to devise mechanisms, build trust and bring madrassas in to the mainstream. There have been various proposals such as improving the syllabus and run these institutes under the purview of ministry of education. Once the legislation is presented in Parliament, it will be followed by finalization of syllabus, appointment of teachers and allocation of finances. Madaris Boards or ‘Wifaqs’ should be made more effective providing equivalence of degrees through HEC. Consortiums of madrassas with mainstream universities can also be helpful in developing exchange programs, certified courses and skill developing initiatives to empower the students.
Imran Khan supports mainstreaming madrasaas and offering equal growth opportunities to their students through integration into public and private sectors. He believes our existing social fabric does not accept wholeheartedly these students who generally come from humble backgrounds. Thus, leaving them on their own has security implications for the state.
In the larger context, we need to see beyond the madrassa issue as well. How productive are our university graduates? Why are our doctors and engineer out on the streets protesting low income and facilities? Why are millions of graduates jobless?
Nonetheless, both the government and the military junta are mindful of how important mainstreaming madrasaas is and have taken due measures in this regard. The national action plan designed by civil and military leaderships indicates how committed Pakistan is in uprooting fundamentalism. As far as extremism is concerned, we need to ensure that madrassas are not weaponized and their students not used as cannon fodder for short-term security interests by the state or non-state actors. We have had enough conflicts in the region in the last three decades that has held us back from progress and stability. Not only have we incurred material loss, our image has been tarnished through sophisticated agenda of hostile entities leading to question on our integrity despite our sacrifices. Our faith is being tarnished by actions of few that played into the hands of our enemies. Therefore, we need to vet not just the curriculum, but the ones who we provide stage and podium to address our youth as teachers.
The menace of ‘Takfeer’, sectarianism and violence is more a subject of interpretation than the text. Intention of state to engage with the religious community is utmost important. If the state and its organs continue to interact and engage with the scholars on regular basis, jointly carry out workshops and study tours for each other than there can be no misunderstanding and doubt among the state and the agency of madrassa students and scholars who would put their complete trust and abilities for the strengthening of society and state.Beyond what the religious community or the government pulls off in the ‘Madrassa Reform’ act.
A sincere question to our scholars is whether they are ready to embrace the change that is knocking at our doors? Are we not seeing the world of information changing around us? The same scholars who are reluctant to adapt modernity are themselves using innovative software and search engines to find hadith and book references in nano-seconds, which otherwise would have taken a lot of time to find on dusty racks in libraries.
Smart phone apps such as Islam 360, E-Books, Supplications and many other technological tools are at the disposal of millions of people around the world. Shouldn’t these madrassa students be at the forefront of designing these apps and software? Recently Imran Khan announced an Islamic channel with cooperation of friendly Muslim nations Malaysia & Turkey to counter Islamophobia in the west. Shouldn’t our madrassa students be at the forefront in creating content that clarifies the image of Islam? Who could do better than them if provided with the right tools and knowledge? There was a time when students of various faiths and ethnicities would come from all corners of the world to study from magnanimous Muslim scholars such as Ibn-e-Sina. Madrassas were the symbol of innovation and progress for the wellbeing of humanity teaching mathematics, astronomy, medicine along with religion, theology and languages centuries ago. We have a rich history of scholars and students who in their pursuit of knowledge, changed the world around them through the power of faith and mind, unlocking greatest mysteries of the universe. Not only that, they also uplifted the societies on the values of peace, justice and tranquility attracting millions around the world into the fold of Islam.
It is a prime opportunity not only for the government as the representative of the people of Pakistan, the military as the guarantor of national security and regional peace along with the Ulema as the representative of Islam around the world to come together for initiatives that creates a win-win situation for everyone. With changing environment of information and technology mediums of communication are completely transformed. Madrassa students equipped with communication skills, media sciences and Information technology skills can turn around the face of Pakistan and Islam around the world. We can once again get take lessons from our ancestors and carry on the legacy that we lost on the way – We need a vision with the right intentions.
Tabish Qayyum is a researcher and analyst on international relations, counter violent extremism, social media, big data and politics. He is an NDU alumni and recently graduated from MPhil Political Science program at UMT.
ugmented Reality is among the few new technologies that are changing the way we teach and learn. With the concept of MR (mixed reality) – one that combines virtual and augmented reality – becoming more and more mainstream, the market valuation of AR was estimated to be around $90 million in 2018. But AR is in commercial use since 1990, when aviation companies used this technology to show their pilots different information on their screen. It was also the year that the term “Augmented Reality” was coined for the very first time. Still, it has taken AR almost 45 years and help from games like “Pokemon Go” to really make it a known technology
What is Augmented Reality?
So what is augmented reality? In a nutshell, AR means to superimpose all three major types of information such as texts, images and sounds with the use of technology on the real world. In simple words, it a way to see the real world with virtual objects in order to change the perception of reality. AR adds layers of texts, images and sounds on real world scenes without creating an artificial world and allow its users to expand their physical world by adding computer-generated perceptual information with a privilege of real-time interaction that gives them an advanced perception of the real world.
Augmented reality is no more a futuristic technology and is infiltrating into people’s lives, as smartphones and tablets users crossed the figure of three billion this year. However, companies around the globe are working to develop more venues rather than tablets and smartphones for AR based apps. Many wearable devices are keep on coming in the market to give AR users perceptually enriched experiences with a natural immersion to replace tablets and smartphones for AR.
Benefits of AR in Education
With the power to allow its users to put one foot in the physical place, and the other in an imaginary world, AR has an array of benefits when it comes to its use in education. Today 80% of adult students own smartphones and per The Student Pulse Survey from Top Hat, conducted by independent research firm Survata that polled 520 college students, 94% of them use smartphones in class for academic purposes. On the other hand Edtech industry which is growing at a 17% annual rate is a clear sign that the future of traditional learning is definitely uncertain. Many experts believe that AR books and apps will soon alter conventional learning process altogether because of their capability to make information more engaging and apprehend able for students.
AR is one of the trends that are leading the edtech industry right now, because of its capacity to counter a large number of hurdles students face during knowledge retention. Another point which shows that the future of education belongs to AR is the ability of this technology to cater to the needs of all levels of schooling, from preschool to post graduation. Here are some core benefits that students instantly get with the use of AR in education.
High level access to learning material:
With AR, access to information can become easy as AR has the ability to blend different types of study materials like textbooks, posters, or manuals etc into one resource. On the other hand it makes information highly portable within bargain basement costs. AR based learning materials contains additional information and students can explore difficult study concepts more deeply
AR provides students full immersion of boring study matter and makes it more engaging with visualization. Instead of reading theory students can see the educational concept with their own eyes which not only leave significant positive impact on students but also helps them to absorb difficult concepts. It also keeps them hooked throughout the lecture and shake up boring classes by involving them in the learning process.
Hands On Training:
There are an array of subjects that require hands on training and AR is the best way to serve this need when theoretical knowledge is not enough. AR transforms students from mere listeners and passive observers by providing them an environment to perform a virtual practice in a smarter way. AR trainings not only help students understand a subject better but also empower them to participate in trainings without using special equipment.
Due to its high development costs, very few students have access to it as of now, but edtech companies are investing in AR at an unprecedented rate and according to a recent study done by Statista, the market share of VR industry will grow from $3.5 billion to more than $198 billion in 2025. There are countless ways in which AR can revolutionize the way we teach and learn today. The sky is the limit, however VR can become a starting point from which the exploration of new realms of learning and teaching can be found.
There are moments that jostle a nation beyond measure, that become a clarion call for salvation. The dastardly assault on the children of Army Public School Peshawar was a moment of collective sadness, collective mourning and collective resolve. We vowed to make the most vulnerable of us all, our children, the safest. But while we toiled tirelessly to secure our spaces initially, over the years, we have again become complacent. Or have we? We investigate where we have got ourselves in the last five years.
he Army Public School, Peshawar, of today is much like the APS Peshawar of December 15, 2014. The children are full of confidence, brimming with hope and aim at nothing short of excellence. It’s like the day of December 16, 2014 never dawned on the school. And how we wish it hadn’t. The national sentiment following the horrid tragedy was one of combined shock, outrage and angst; and there were widespread calls for speedy justice and foolproof security.Politics of the time took a turn for the better as well, with civil and military leadership putting their heads together to draft a future course of action. What was come up with was a comprehensive national security plan, dubbed the National Action Plan. It detailed how the security agencies and the civilian administration were to move ahead to thwart an incident like APS Peshawar in the future.
As a tangible part of the action plan, schools, colleges and universities were asked to shut down for several weeks. Visible measures like additional security guards, security cameras, bunkers and barriers, raising of boundary walls, securing the perimeter with barbed wires and walk through security gates were seen being put in place. Educational institutions turned into fortresses and stakeholders felt a little more content with measures taken and parents gradually felt reassured to begin sending their children back to studies once again.
The feeling of being secure again was short-lived though. Hardly a month had passed since the first anniversary of the APS Peshawar attack when terror struck our education institutions again. And the attack came not far from Peshawar. The incident on January 20th, 2016 occurred in Charsadda at Bacha Khan University. Again we buried 22 of our precious ones and again, we felt really, really vulnerable. The effectiveness of Nation Action Plan was put under the scrutiny again. The parents questioned how they were to educate their children in an atmosphere of constant fear and the students themselves wondered when was it their day to get martyred.
Thankfully though, we have been spared of a mourning of the likes of APS and Bacha Khan University since. Some give credit to our security forces and their exemplary efforts ad sacrifices for the success of anti-terrorist offensives like Operation Zarb-e-Azb and Operation Raddul Fasaad. These offensives laid the grounds of cleansing the country of hundreds of terrorist sleeper cells spread across the country from which heinous operations like the APS attack were launched. The forces also toiled hard to clear the un-governed Tribal Areas of the presence of militants who regularly crossed over into Pakistan from neighboring badlands. And while the military has been at the forefront of the ensuring safety of our schools, colleges and universities and must be credited for it, many believe Pakistan has simply been in the way of luck.
Buried the Hatchet?
So, five years on from the APS tragedy, have we really made the efforts needed to safely say that we and our children are safe again? We guess not. And our fears are shared by many who have been on the inside of security and defense apparatus of Pakistan. For his part, Air Marshall (R) Shahid Lateef believes the contentment with which we choose to ignore a matter as crucial as the safety of our educational institutions was simply appalling. Lateef told Academia Magazine that he was highly dissatisfied with the way security of citizens, especially children, had been approached in the country.
“If you remember, we came up with a comprehensive security master plan aptly titled the National Action Plan. What we have done to NAP is before all to see. It has been wasted by unnecessary politics. As far as I know, the security forces performed their part of the duties diligently, but targets set for the civilian administration have largely been missed,” he confided. “There was much to be done by the civilian government, reforms and what not. We never got to know what happened to those tasks. We are never briefed about what was to be done and if it has been done?” the air force veteran lamented. He said the attitude of government had remained the same.
If you remember, we came up with a comprehensive security master plan aptly titled the National Action Plan. What we have done to NAP is before all to see. It has been wasted by unnecessary politics. As far as I know, the security forces performed their part of the duties diligently, but targets set for the civilian administration have largely been missed AM (R) Shahid Lateef
“When an emergency like the APS occurs, we get all emotional and act as if we have learned key lessons, but we never learn anything. What we need is constant monitoring of the actions under that were to be taken per NAP, debates in parliament over it as well as media discussions about the outcomes of the security plan. God forbid, if a tragedy strikes again, we will be left with nothing but to ponder upon on what we planned to do, but never did and begin a new blame game.” The concerns highlighted by AM (R) Lateef could not be closer to truth. December 16 is just another day in Pakistan’s life. Rather, it has become yet another reason to falsely depict our concern for the fallen. A day for news casters to dress up in APS uniforms and narrate tales and for politicians to claim how they cannot forget the tragedy, ever. Explaining what has actually been done in remembrance of the martyrs is hardly a necessity.
In conversation with Academia Magazine, senior defense analyst Lt Gen(R) Amjad Shoaib acknowledged the efforts made by both the civil and security agencies. “We have learned certain lessons and I have been seeing various security arrangements in schools and institutions. The security measures are there .But I think that with the passage of time, we have relaxed. We certainly lack the strict monitoring and supervision that is required over the entire system round the clock, and that, naturally provides every possibility of an incident happening again,” Gen (R) Shoaib said.
We have learned certain lessons and I have been seeing various security arrangements in schools and institutions. The security measures are there .But I think that with the passage of time, we have relaxed. We certainly lack the strict monitoring and supervision that is required. Maj Gen (R) Amjad Shoaib
However, he did opine that the possibilities of attacks ad lessened. “What matters is the attitude of the entire nation I would say. When we see that things remain normal for a few years, people start relaxing, they do not pay the kind of attention needed or stay alert. When somebody has to strike, they naturally remain on the look out to see where they can find opportunities. However, if the arrangements are there, they may not strike for another 10.”Shedding light on the possible loopholes, Gen (R) Shoaib said security nowadays was dependent on modern technology and neglect on even a single person’s part could become a matter of life and death. “When you are dependent on various systems, with the passage of time there is a reluctance on the part of the people (authorities) to ensure that things are kept perfect every minute of the day. This is how miscreants exploit the weaknesses within the system,” he added.
Just like Gen (R) Shoaib, Khawaja Khalid Farooq – former Punjab IGP and head of NACTA, also believes we have done well to control the menace of terrorism in Pakistan. In his conversation with Academia Magazine Farooq said there was no denying that the country’s massive counterterrorism operations, particularly in the Tribal Areas, had borne fruit.“According to data from South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), 2018 was one of the most peaceful years of the last decade in terms of militant attacks in Pakistan and resulting fatalities,” the former Punjab IGP said. “The country’s National Action Plan against extremists, which was devised after the 2014 school massacre, has significantly reduced violence in Pakistan.”
The urban networks of militant groups that used to operate from the country’s cities have been targeted mercilessly. Overall, progress is reflected in the form of significantly reduced terror incidents in Pakistan. Khawaja Khalid Farooq, Former Punjab IGP
“FATA, which was once considered a lawless region, has been largely cleared of miscreants and has been formally merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Normalcy has also returned to Karachi, Pakistan largest city, which was once described as the epicenter of terrorism. A string of counterterrorism operatns in Karachi has not only broken networks of various extremist groups, but also controlled sectarian and ethnic wars in the city,” Farooq added. The former head of NACTA was of the view that the province of Punjab had also witnessed some gains made. “The urban networks of militant groups that used to operate from the country’s cities have been targeted mercilessly. Overall, progress is reflected in the form of significantly reduced terror incidents in Pakistan.”
All Is Not Lost
If Director General of South Asian Strategic Stability Institute Dr Maria Sultan is to be believed, there is a lot going on on the security front than that which meets the eye. According to Dr Maria, the government is in a far better position to prevent incidents like APS than ever before. “After the APS, we have gone through a major review, not only for providing security to the education institutions but also in terms of “how to do” perimeters defence, the security classification of the educational institutions. So this essentially means three or four things, we have gone for the
The likelihood of (terrorist) activities was much reduced in under grade 10 institutions, but looking at higher institutions, the government did expect administrations to be much more alert. Dr Maria Sultan
Technical measures: means we have got now technical measures which are looking at the security of the educational institutions (such as cameras, safe city projects and so forth ),
Having attached units to educational institutions,
Adding to their physical security parameters,
Units in response training that have been given to students. So from the youngest of students (first grade and onwards) we have tried to instil training programs for them. In addition to that children have been given crisis training and also counter terrorism basics so that they can understand and can survive and that they are more organized if something happens.”
Dr Maria opined that the likelihood of (terrorist) activities was much reduced in under grade 10 institutions, but looking at higher institutions, the government did expect administrations to be much more alert.“Especially in the case of universities, it is the direct responsibility of the head of the institution to take care of security and defense parameters, they should be much more aware of children, of what goes on inside the hostels and also that they will be held responsible for any kind of terrorist activity.
Considering the opinions and suggestions of experts, it can be stated, with caution of course, that we are not nearly there in terms of ensuring a safe space for our children. While it is laudable to see security measures put in place to secure the perimeters of educational institutions, the peripheries around them remain as vulnerable as ever. Students’ activities do not only exist inside the four walls of a school, college or university, the spaces around these installations are as much part of the student’s day as is the classroom or the playground. Every day, we see hundreds of students waiting to be picked up from outside of schools colleges and universities. We see children munching on corn cobs, toddlers enjoying ice creams and boys and girls lining up to get their hands on sweet potatoes from hundreds of thousands of peddlers looking to make a day’s living.
These spaces exist outside the secured perimeters of educational institutions. These spaces are all but public and accessible by all. And these places remain unaccounted for. It is this space that is the weakest link in the strengthened chain of security the state has wrapped around our educational institutions. This is where our vulnerability lies. And unless we have put in place measures to make our children as safe outside the school as inside of it, we should be sleeping with one eye open.