How Ahmadis are braving the educational apartheid

It was a relatively cool evening in Rabwah, a few days ago. I was there on an invitation to attend an enthralling seminar on “The shroud of Turin”, held in a state of the art Auditorium of Nusrat Jehan College for girls.


My host was the exuberant Faateh Bajwa, deputy director of Ahmadiya community’s central education Department, referred to as Nazarat Taleem.

After the seminar I was shown around, and I must confess I was dumbstruck by the sprawling campus, fully furbished canteens, quality of facilities and the dedication of somewhat fledgling but highly motivated staff at the college.

   
Nusrat Jehan means “universal victory”. Probably, it is the name of the college that has been talismanic in helping it achieve success against all odds.
As Ahmadiya community’s flagship institute, Nusrat Jehan college in Rabwah, not only caters to girls but a separate boys campus goes by the same name as well.

For a boys college to borrow its name from a woman is unprecedented in a country where male chauvinism and patriarchy have been a norm. 

 

  

Associated with  education sector myself, I took keen interest in visiting various institutes operating under the auspices of Nazarat Taleem

Out of their 13 non-profit schools in the town, boasting a strength of over 9,000 students, the one that moved me was the Institute for special education, a school for kids with special needs.

The facility was small,  but the teaching staff had big hearts and broad smiles on their faces. 

Currently 95 Students with Celebral palsey, Epilsepsy, Physcial handicap, Intellectual and hearing impairment and  Down’s syndrome are given quality treatment regardless of caste, creed or religious. 

  

As I entered, I noticed that most of the students were going outside for their routine sporting activities. The dedicated principal, Amtul jameel sahiba, was optimistic that one day her kids would partake in Special Olympics even though no official from Pakistan’s Special Olympics committee had bothered to visit the institute, despite her regular insistence.

  

  
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to chilling indifference towards Ahmadis, as indicated by the  tumultuous history.

The biggest jolt Ahmadiyya community faced in terms of education was the policy of nationalization of private institutions enforced under Zulfiqar ali bhutto’s regime in 1970’s.

Post Bhutto’s era, all educational institutions that were nationalized were acquired back by the real owners barring the Ahmadiyya community. Till date, the community is striving unsuccessfully to reclaim the three educational institutes that were nationalized. The famous of the lot was Taleem ul Islam (TI) college, Rabwah.


The close affinity of most Ahmadis with TI college, Rabwah can be gauged by the fact that either them or their acquinatances have been associated with the once coveted insititute  in one way or the other.

A few residents also highlighted the enviable debating culture at TI colllege that even gave Government college Lahore a run for its money during its heydays.

That robust culture died a long time back, when the institution was nationalized by the state.

 Fearing persecution under the draconian regime of Zia, who succeeded Bhutto, the community members kept their lips mum.

Putting it plainly, an educational apartheid was carried out, where the state chose populism over principles by usurping educational institutes run by the peaceful minority to assuage the Mullahs.

With their backs against the wall, top leadership of the community sat down to devise a cogent program to safeguard the future of Ahmadi students in adverse circumstances. In 1991, the intial  fruit of their serious deliberation was reaped in the form of Nusrat Jehan academy, a school that caters to both boys and girls on separate campuses. 

Ever since the scheme’s inception there has been multiplicity of facilities, institutions and ideas despite limited resources. 

The pivotal aspect of this model is that it breathes the essence of volunteerism and community work. It embraces with open arms dedicated educationists from all over Pakistan who are willing to chip in with their valuable contributions.

Most Ahmadis working in Nazarat taleem are volunteers. Some have even left lucrative jobs at blue chip companies like ICI and Telenor to work in the remote town of Punjab. Mirza Fazal Ahmad, the director of the department and a Charter Accountant by academic qualification, is no exception. He is investing all his energies and resources in building the system into a sustainable one.

It was inspirational to see that low wages and limited resources have not let their shoulders droop; in fact the positive vibes have been permeative and contagious.

Nazarat Taleem’s  financial aid office operates on no-discrimination policy as well. On the list of those drawing stipends is a non-Ahmadi Baloch boy, who belongs to Ahl-e-Hadis sect. Once he contacted the relevent office for help, the department obliged by funding his undergraduate degree on humanitarian grounds.

It  is even more remarkable that all funds are self generated within the community and not a single penny is provided by the government.

Such a sustainable educational model evolved by the community, is quite a rarity in a country which is grappling with educational woes with over 25 million children out of school according to a latest survey by Alif Ailan.

Perhaps Agha khan community is the only other minority in the country that has lead by example on this account. But unlike the Agha Khanis, Ahmadis had to deal with acrimonious circumstances on a consistent basis. 


The 2010 terrorist attacks on two Ahmadi Mosques ampilified the already prevelant  anti Ahmadi sentiments on campuses, a few notches. 

Then In year 2011, a new stipulation required all Ahmadi students appearing for Punjab board exam to identify them as “non Muslims”. It was an unwanton clause that added insult to injury.

At that crucial juncture, Nazarat Taleem took a leap of faith and switched their student body to the Agha khan Board instead.

With Time, the decision proved to be a blessing in disguise. As the cutting edge Agha khan board curriculum had more to offer compared to Punjab board syllabus. 

Under proper guidance and mentorship, numerous Ahmadi students around the country secure Top positions in board and university exams on a continous basis and Nazarat Taleem magnanimously recognize all high achievers.

  
With Success as its hallmark, Nazarat taleem has been instrumental in facilitating bright Ahmadi students into prestigious institutes like LUMS and IBA on full scholarship under the merit based national outreach program evey year.

But the stories of glaring injustices in our educational landscape seem to be present in every Ahmadi household. 

Faateh shared that his own sister, along with other Ahmadi students, was rusticated from the Punjab medical college Faisalabad in 2012 merely on the account of being an Ahmadi . It all happened in broad day light and sadly no action was taken.


Nazarat Taleem’s placement centre came to their rescue and helped them secure berths in various universities across the globe and around Pakistan, where on campus atmosphere was not hostile.  

 As I reached the fag end of my two days sojourn, I was given another gracious invitation of an international medical conference to be held later this year.

Despite my non medical background, I gleefully  accepted it when the benevolent purpose of the conference was ennunciated upon me.

Two years ago when doctor Mahdi Ali, a US based Ahmadi cardiologist and an important member of Tahir Heart Hospital, was cold bloodedly murdered in Rabwah, Nazarat Taleem bounced back and filled his void by initiating an international medical conference, where doctors especially cardiologists from all over the world participated with great oomph.

    
With the second installment of the international medical conference around the corner and Doctor Abdus Salam research forum operating in full pelt, the future looks bright but the consequences of educational apartheid carried out by the state in the past and at present is what perturbs the beleagured minority.

Advertisements

The untold truth behind 1965 war!

20130909-024503.jpg

“The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
Sun zu (the art of war)

Has anyone wondered why General Ayub Khan failed to recapitulate the 1965 war, in his biography “Friends Not Master” — The simple reason behind this mysterious exemption was to conceal a hash up committed by him during the historic combat.

Contrary to the popular belief , Ayub Khan,as the mastermind, knew deep down that it was a victory lost.

Had the strategy been executed as planned and internal politics, personal ego and jockeying for power given way to a wee bit of patriotism during a critical juncture, things would have been much different.

Truth of the matter is that Pakistan had India on the mat through a very cogent “Operation Grand Slam” devised in May 1965, which was annexed to “Operation Gibraltar”, whereby the plan was to snap Jammu kashmir though internal revolt.

The commander of the operation, Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik had forged ahead to dislodge the indian Forces in the Ankhur region after he had pulverised them in the Chumb sector.

Just the second day into the operation, victory seemed evident in Jammu kashmir; when the audacious General was surreptitiously relieved of his duty by Ayub khan in favour of Major General yahya Khan, a close aide of him (as well as the commander in chief of the 1971 debacle) .

General Akhter Hussain Malik’s request of serving under the command of Yahya Khan just for the sake of a successful completion of the mission was also not entertained.

20130909-025209.jpg

With a delay of almost two days caused by the change in command and CoAS General Musa’s insistence of halting the operation — Indian Forces found their footings, got reinforcement and eventually went on the aggressive to target the sensitive areas of the state of Punjab. From there on in, it was all defensive for the Pak Forces — Who eventually thwarted the Indian attack but the time Lapse was vital to seal the Kashmir deal. Thereby a golden opportunity went begging because of personal glory.

Many experts still maintain that Ayub Khan could not stand the success of a random General, as it would have catapulted Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik to public fame apart from landing him the post of first in command in Army had victory been substantiated in Ankhur region.

Agha Shorish Kashmiri for one mourned the lost chance in an Urdu couplet (whose translation is) :
“The Land of Delhi is calling, Oh friends, Extend a helping hand to Akhtar Malik, oh friends.”

Moreover some analysts also believe that Ayub Khan had the tendency of losing his composure when faced with a crisis situation. Alfat gauhar and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had mentioned this anamoly publicly.

Anyway, the game plan of Ayub Khan was materialised when himself and Yahya Khan hogged the limelight for the successful defence in 1965 war. In 1966 Yahya Khan was promoted to army’s commander in chief. Whereas Major General Akhtar Hussain Malik was pigeonholed to CENTO and posted to Turkey, where he breathed his last.

We must not forget that Ayub Khan ended up signing a treaty with India after the 1965 war called the Tashkent Declaration which was deemed as a pusillanimous act by many in the country. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, considered Ayub’s right hand man, tendered his resignation, in protest and assembled a party of his own.

The events that unfolded after the Tashkent Declaration, didnot have good bearing on the country’s political outlook. Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman in East Pakistan garnered support, when he got vocal in the backdrop of Ayub khan’s fading popularity. The turn of events eventually led to the ousting of the dictator.

Till this day Major General Akhtar Hussain’s question : “Why changing horses in midstream?” Awaits its answer, which perhaps only General Ayub Khan could give.