Category Archives: Media

The corrupt police walas, shall we be thankful?


As a nation we proudly honor our army martyrs by conferring awards like Nishan-e-Haider, Hilal-e-Jurrat, Sitara-i-Jurrat, Tamgha-e-Jurrat, Sitara-e-Bisalat, Tamgha-e-Bisalat, Tamgha-i-Khidmat, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Sitara-e-Imtiaz and Tamgha-e-Imtiaz; although police martyrs seldom receives any of them. In fact, the current reward ratio to police is about 1:20,000.

There are monetary awards for police martyrs, including the free medical and educational support. But only the grandsons of these martyrs are found revolving around account offices to get the remaining painful awards we offer these valiant sons of our soil. Their minimum working hours are 20 a day and the average sickness leave comes after a month. They have no CMH like police hospitals and no APS like PPS.

Often, they are treated like animals and criminals in courts and they wander from one power circle to another to save jobs that pay them little more than Rs. 35,000 a month, or the equivalent to 350 U.S. dollars. Even so, these servants never complain. Like our doctors, they never go on strike. They never march for an increment in salaries. And they never deny being posted in far-flung areas. Public holidays are their must-duty days and their children seldom see them on Eid, Pakistan Day, Independence Day, Moharram, Defence Day or other holidays.

They sleep in police station corridors sans fans and air conditioners and eat from their own pockets as they are not deemed worthy enough to have reasonable foodstuffs from the national wealth. And they are terribly corrupt. They take money from complainants and respondents alike to proceed with their cases. They take money from the inmates and from those who come to police stations to file any complaints. They seldom pay fares for public transportation and escape by saying “mulazam.” Bus conductors rightly yell at them by saying “you are paid for your service, give fare or get down.” These corrupt police walas are so mean that many times they ask complainants to purchase a few papers for them although they are paid for their service. They pressure and force complainants and defenders to give them money because they supposedly never received their sanctioned investigation funds.

A member of disciplined force expects discipline in the department, too, but the department has beautifully designed a vicious circle of promotion. Like a rally race, when they complete one course mandatory for promotion, they are told the policy has been revised and they need to do two more to stand in the promotion queue. The promotion procedure from constable to inspector is not defined, although a letter recently was issued to revoke the upper-class course and make it mandatory to do either intelligence, operation or investigation as criteria for promotion in the rank of inspector. They can be transferred/posted from one unit to another inside the department without any planning.

Promises are made but never met. A recent example is Dolphin Force, which copied the Turkish model of uniforms and motorbikes but not facilities. It was announced that those who join this force would receive an additional 8-10 thousand as an allowance. But once a few poor and ambitious guys jumped in, the policy was reportedly revised and recruits must continue working on the same salary. The fighting force in police stations receive 30K as compared to a few reserve corporals in CTD who get 80K. This creates despondency among police officers.

The life of a common man become miserable when the foundation of law and order becomes worse. The strong get stronger and police act as aggressors for poor and mediator for the strong. There are a myriad of issues confronting police officers: the first and foremost is the growing estrangement between police and public. Responsibility lies in oversight. The corrupt police walas, as illustrated, are highly demotivated and their quantity of force is so less that there is no time left to smile and stare. After being on duty 20 hours, none has the sufficient energy or the temperament to be polite and welcoming. So each complainant presents a new and unwelcome problem, often a new load on their personal pockets that will lead to more time tacked onto their already overburdened schedules.

People meet them at highway checkpoints most often. A permanent image is built there in the eyes and minds of the public. Because these black wearers have no scanners, tools and sniffer dogs to check the vehicles for ammunition and narcotics, they are left to pick and choose, board out a few and excuse a few others because they are not ordinary Pakistanis. Naturally, these corrupt police walas make money in these instances. They feed their empty bellies with good food and drink, the only possible luxury at the dangerous duty spot. But clearly understand this; all of them are doing jobs they simply were not designed to do.

When we established a National Highway Patrolling Police a few years ago, it was meant to perform this important task on roads and spare the work force for maintaining peace, law and order. We created beautiful police stations for them and bought the latest vehicles, too. But without proper monitoring, patrolling has become a burden. Yes, the fit guys in Patrolling Police then have big bellies now. Our patrolling stations do everything except patrolling and the overburdened police station workforce is doing what a well-paid idle patrolling force is not.

Even with all this, this force is still working toward meeting every possible potential. By being thankful to them, some very intelligent officers have raised motivational level and work commitment. A few years ago, Khurram Shah, who was a DPO in Kasur, did just that; now in the same district Ali Nasir Rizvi, another DPO, is in the news. In just one year he took major steps to change the police and policing. Rizvi created a special police patrolling force for the district. It is comprised of the constables of good repute who help lessen the burden on police station workforce. A homicide unit for cases that require in-depth investigations was established and a few intelligent officers were selected to man it.

An excellent network of private spies was developed within a crime-fighting unit. Trackers were installed in police vehicles and a new district control room monitors the movement of police vehicles to ensure they are being used for official purposes. Rizvi also has used social media to connect police to the people — giving them more immediate access. A Facebook page and website were created for this laudable purpose. This forward-looking officer extended his own duty time from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., setting an example for his team to work well beyond ordinary limitations. Complaint boxes were installed in front of every police station and keys to each were given to a trusted person from his own office to visit each police station, open the lock and get the complaints directly to the table of DPO.

A practice of daily open court in district headquarters — and monthly in every police station — was followed so that the grievances of the people could be addressed at the spot. A mobile complaint collector app was launched and an SMS number was advertised to encourage people to reporting crimes and to be heard. Agreements between police, schools, hospitals, grocery stores and picnic spots were enacted to facilitate the families of this successful workforce. The workforce responded to the carrot and the stick by arresting 3,000 proclaim offenders and 1,350 court absconders in just one year.

A huge amount of Rs. 4 crore was recovered by arresting 220 members of 70 criminal gangs. Eighty-seven hardcore criminals were killed in encounters with police and the crime rate dropped heavily from eight snatch-and-kill incidents in 2015 to one (still one too many) in 2016. Year over year, there were 58 dacoities in 2015, compared to 30 in 2016; 241 robberies have fallen to 140, 118 vehicle thefts are down to 49 and 160 carjacking have been reduced to 97 this year.

Yes, this all was done by the same corrupt police walas. So let’s ask some tough questions: — Is it really so difficult to make promotion criteria transparent and well defined? — When are we going to demand the best use of our human resources by appointing those we have sent abroad to learn the latest techniques of crime eradication and specialized equipment handling as master trainers for police station work force? — How difficult is it to let the working organs benefit from knowledge already within the department? — When will the workforce be told about the new cybercrime law and women protection bill 2016? — How about a refresher course for in-service police officers to keep them updated and ready for the service we expect from them? — Can we build the capacity of the officers in each field (intelligence, investigation and operation) simply with renewed zest and zealous?

When the other 34 districts in Punjab (except Lahore) will witness a separate investigation and operational force in letter and spirit? I expect an answer from the courageous and honest IG Punjab Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera and hardworking and passionate Chief Minister Punjab, Mian Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif. Now is the right time to address the real issues in our police force.

Shall we be thankful to these corrupt police walas?

Yes, we shall, especially as we thankfully and respectfully recognize the loss of 678 brave police personnel in last six years.

This article was published in DNA Magazine of Pakistan Today on Sunday, October, 23, 2016.



Technology: The Grand Illusion

 Technology The Grand Illusion 1 Technology The Grand Illusion 2 Technology The Grand Illusion 3

Technology: The Grand Illusion

 By: Waqas A. Khan

As the good people of this planet have become more reliant on making connections through technology, we have begun to ignore reality. Too often we choose not to engage with fellow human beings while growing ever more uninhibited by smartphones and other digital devices, even when in the presence of others. This excessive use and dependence on technology has dehumanized and depersonalized us.

From our personal to professional lives, we are losing our real selves to a grand illusion.

But is it too late to do anything about it?

Apple Inc. recently disclosed that many people wish Siri, the digital assistant on its Mac OS X line of products, could be more like a best friend; someone who will listen when others won’t.

This reflects the painful truth.

Today, all of us, using technology fit into this complex paradigm in one way or the other. The only difference would be in aptitude. We are being silently conditioned to leave behind face-to-face interaction. Communications technology can only sell itself if it poses plausible alternatives. Unfortunately, many of these are not in our favor.

The transfer from cash in hand to plastic money was not fatal, but the casual acceptance of the transference of meaningful conversations to non-human connections just may be. With an excessive use of technology in our lives, people have become so immersed in these virtual netherworlds that they no longer are as present in the flesh-and-blood world.

I am reminded of the 2004 movie, “I-Robot,” in which robots stood around baking cupcakes and talking about boys. Back then, it received mixed reviews, with critics praising the writing, visual effects, and acting; but others discrediting the plot. Some said the main idea behind the movie was that robots were not all that special.

The writer and director might as well have been foreshadowing 2016; what was irrelevant then has become highly relevant. We have reached the point of numbness at which the musings of a person in the same room are casually revealed and accepted via text. This used to be routine in offices but not in homes.

To confront the problem head-on, a Massachusetts family in 2013 implemented an Internet Sabbath each weekend in which no smartphones, computers, and video games could be used. William Powers, the father, gave voice to his experience. “It almost had an existential feeling of, ‘I don’t know who I am with the Internet gone.’ But after a few months, it hardened into a habit and we all began to realize we were gaining a lot from it.”

A 2013 Forbes story revealed how some restaurants in Los Angeles shared the common concerns of the overuse of technology and its impact on face-to-face communication in such a way that they banned the use of mobile devices to ensure customers enjoy their meals and those in their company.

That same year, Emily Drago a professor in the Elon University, a private, independent, nonprofit, non-sectarian university in North Carolina, conducted research on the same topic. She found that despite heightened awareness related to a decrease in face-to-face communication because of technology, more than 62 percent of individuals she observed on Elon’s campus continued to use mobile devices in the presence of others.

According to “Internet Live Statistics 2016,” there are 39 million Internet users in Pakistan. Statistics from “We are Social,” a reliable telecommunication stat counter, reveal that in Pakistan the growth in Internet users from Jan 2014 to March 2015 was a whopping 47 percent. There now 149.2 million mobile phone users, which means that 79 percent of the population owns at least one such device. There has been 15 percent grown in the number of mobile subscriptions, and active mobile social users are now at 16.2 million with an annual growth rate of 113 percent.

Grappetite, a mobile app development firm, has released infographics that detail usage patterns of smartphones and their use in Pakistan.

  •  72 percent of users have smartphones.
  •  68 percent have Android devices.
  •  77 percent of smartphone users are between 21 and 30 years of age.
  •  60 percent of Pakistani’s have more than one cell phone.
  •  35 percent of smartphone users carry low-cost phone for safety reasons.
  •  52 percent access the Internet through 3G/4G networks.

And the top apps categories are Facebook (90%), games (72%), photo and video (64%), music and entertainment (55%). A shocking 72 percent of those with smartphones use the aforementioned apps at home. This shows a widening disconnect and the likely excessive use of technology; preferable technology over the actual presence of and communication with family members.

Misra, Cheng, Geneva and Yuan, a group of social media researchers, in 2014 found that the relationship between the presence of mobile devices and the quality of in-person social interactions is extremely significant. In a naturalistic field experiment, these researchers found that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated significantly superior to those held in the presence of a mobile device. People engaging in conversations in the absence of mobile devices reported higher levels of empathy; those conversing in the presence of a mobile device reported lower levels.

This planet has never been more digitally connected, thanks to email, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Delicious, Digg, LinkedIn, blogs and scores of apps. But this digital bond, while wonderful because of the instant gratification it yields, hasn’t come without cost.

LOL and LMOA may substitute an artificial laughter online, but letters and emojis never will be a sensory substitute for the emotions generated by real laughter. Many will argue that technology is about building relationships, but very few will admit that this same technology is creating faltering relationships and leading to very real injuries — psychological and physical.

Thousands upon thousands suffer injuries each year in accidents that involve a distracted driver. Texting and cell phone use are the usual sources of these distractions when behind the wheel. While it may only take a driver a few seconds to read a text message, during that time his vehicle could travel thousands of feet without the driver’s eyes on the road where they belong. And, yes, you or someone you love could be the next perpetrator — or victim.

This digit-creep has other significant consequences, too.

In business and industry, employers are making bad judgment calls online, rewarding high paying jobs based on LinkedIn profiles. The potential of a person is now routinely measured through his/her connections on this site and through endorsements and recommendations given by individuals who might even have done business together. The cost of selecting even one wrong person is not a luxury many businesses or companies have these days.

Our youth have ventured into serious expectations and relationships from online discussions and acquaintances. This occurs because the vast Internet has reduced the definition of a real friend from a companion to a formless screen name. Avatars are substitutes for real facial expressions. And when the platform motivates and rewards otherwise honest to lie and cheat. People can easily pose as what they certainly are not in real life.

This may lead to exclusionary behaviors or hostility.

The latter was experienced by 13-year-old Mustafa, a resident of DHA in Karachi, when four social media friends kidnapped him for ransom. He was held until the Anti-Violent Crime Cell (AVCC) and Citizen-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) raided the hideout, killed the abductors and the boy was released. This Still in his formative years, Mustafa had misguidedly placed more trust in online friendship than his classmates, fellows, siblings and relatives.

And I am sure you remember well the student kidnapped from Bahria University Islamabad who was freed from the grasp of a criminal gang that included a lawyer, his wife, a police constable and the son of a police officer.

Another meaningless online connection took the lives of a teenage girl and her classmate who were found shot dead inside their classroom along with handwritten suicide notes shortly after gunshots were heard by faculty and students at a private school near Patel Para in the Soldier Bazaar area. Both decided on suicide after posting a status on Facebook. By the time parents responded, it was too late.

Tehmina, a resident of Chakwal, paid a heavy price for this technological connection, too, when she developed a Facebook friendship with Umair; they decided to study together for CSS exams. The girl died after falling from the third floor of a multi-story apartment in Rawalpindi. Umair later confessed to her murder, admitting there was no CSS and he had used social media to target and rape someone.

Instead of dredging up painful memories, this is meant to illustrate the grave realities that technology run amok has bestowed upon our modern society that also reaps so many benefits from it.

The quality of personal conversations have eroded as technologies ascend. Managers at work indirectly communicate with employees and subordinates through strings of email and instant messages. Human interaction as we once knew it likely is changing rapidly. And, sadly, we are fast becoming unable to communicate even with our own children.

It seems as if we are constantly looking for some new technological holy grail that will bring our families closer together.

Shall we drink from the tarnished chalice?

With technology advancing at the speed of light and human interaction changing just as quickly, it may be impossible to predict what life will be like in the next decade. Without much warning, we likely have entered an era of isolation, deteriorating social skills, obesity, depression, poor sleep habits, bullying, lack of privacy, higher levels of deceit, a warped sense of reality, stress, the lack of social and sexual boundaries, a lack of social bonds, constant distraction, neck and head pain, shortened attention span, addiction, lack of empathy, more violence, higher energy consumption, developmental issues in children, neurosis and the loss of hearing and eyesight.

Alas, this is a belated call to remind you of these simple truths.

Face-to-face conversations remain readily available.

Isolation is a poor substitute for friendship.

Bright smiles and hearty laughter can warm your heart and soul.

And, your family really would like to get to know you again.


Post-Divorce Guardianship and Men, The case of Feminist Zealots in Pakistan

Post-Divorce Guardianship and Men

Post-Divorce Guardianship and Men

The case of Feminist Zealots in Pakistan

By: Waqas A. Khan

The desire to marry the opposite gender of choice is a human instinct. However, the pretty dress, standing before family and friends, the party, honeymoon and all the dinners come to an end when one from the couple decides to break their wedlock.

In our country, most divorces are initiated by men. Dominated by chauvinism, taking their wife as a slave or paid “substance,” they use divorce as an ever-present threat to keep her within prescribed limits. These limits often are humiliating and derogatory to the wife.

Women, who decline to submit to such “limits,” are divorced. A huge percentage accepts it as their fate without any further consequences to the aggressor. But thanks to a growing awareness of women rights, more divorced women are approaching the courts to receive their due as per law.

In Lahore alone, from February 2015 to February 2016, about 60, 000 divorce cases were registered. As the awareness about women rights and the laws specific to women are increasing, the balance of aggression also is changing. In 2015, 66% of the divorce cases, in Lahore, were filed by the females; although this does not hint that in these who the aggressor was. Laws focusing on female empowerment and the freedom to exercise independent choice, are meant to change the attitude of men toward them.  That does not negate the fact that most men in Pakistan take their wives as hostage or booty.

In some cases, though, women bring the relationship to an end because of their wicked interests or by creating circumstances in which the wedlock cannot be sustained. These women usually are aware that whatever the circumstances, and whoever the aggressor, that the courts will favor them. These women “design” their cases to make them look like “victims.” Their presence in court becomes a reason to deny justice to the victim men because of the many female-specific laws in the absence of male-specific laws to prevent such misuse.

Female-specific laws in Pakistan include:

  • The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890
  • The Foreign Marriages Act, 1903
  • Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
  • The Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939
  • The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961
  • West Pakistan Rules Under The Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961
  • West Pakistan Family Court Act, 1964
  • West Pakistan Family Court Rules, 1965
  • Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Act, 1976
  • Dowry and Bridal Gifts (Restriction) Rules, 1976
  • The Hudood Ordinances, 1979
  • Qanun-e-Shahadat Order, 1984 (Law of Evidence)
  • The Pakistan Citizenship Act, 1951, partially amended in 2001
  • Amendments in Family Courts Act for khula etc. in 2002.
  • The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2004 (on ‘honour’ crimes)
  • Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006
  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2010 (on sexual harassment)
  • The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010
  • Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Law Amendment)Act, 2011
  • The Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Act, 2010
  • The Women in Distress and Detention Fund (Amendment) Act, 2011
  • The Women Protection Bill (2016)

With a judicial system fast moving toward one that favors women, the argument here is not to negate or discourage the women rights, because weak women means weaker and inhuman society, but to shine light upon the men who are being victimized by the discriminatory practices of a majority family and guardian judges in Pakistan.

Fahad Ahmad Siddiqui, a renowned constitutional and practicing attorney on this subject, described the inability and cowardice of judges to go against the wrong judicial practice and public sentiment. In his view, there should be more use of the judicious mind and less reliance on the available evidence, which often is scarce in such cases. Children are used as evidentiary pawn by both the courts and the contesting parents. Mothers often are given interim and permanent custody by judges who neglect the legal rights of non-aggressor fathers.

Siddiqui said, “The aggressors in the custodial litigation often use innocent child/children as a tool to seek vengeance and feel no hesitation in inflicting severe emotional and psychological abuse on the child, thereby seriously affecting the child in his/ her development in the later part of life. Among many implications that a divorce has on the individual, family and society at large, the children of divorced couples are the ones who bear the brunt of the entire process. It is a common practice among couples to use kids as pawns in this game of emotional chess and it amounts to absolutely irresponsible parenting to scar children emotionally post separation. In due course the parents move on with their lives and onto other partners but the children carry the trauma of being manipulated and torn apart emotionally, throughout their lives. In my legal experience I have seen a large number of these kids suffering from personality disorders, substance abuse, criminal conduct and antisocial traits.”

Sardran Aman Khan Tareen, Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan from KPK, is a famous name in family and guardianship litigation. Tackling this issue, he said, “I feel that the courts were created to prevent human feelings and emotions from being suffered by providing justice without discrimination, money and property came second. However, very few judges today take care of these feelings and emotions. Family and guardianship cases are the ones where the “whole” judicious mind must come to practice as in case of a wrong decision the children, would suffer irreparable loss.”

That is the reason he has not abandoned appearing in the District Courts in these cases even though his extremely busy schedule in the High Court and Supreme Court makes it nearly impossible to do so.

“Welfare of the minors is not connected to what the concocted children say on the whims of aggressor parent but on the judicious mind which the court must use to save the children from the permanent suffering,” Khan said.

But, there are exceptions. A few landmark judgments in this regard give a hope that somewhere, somehow, men are equal to women in the eyes of Pakistani law.

In one recent case, in the Haripur, KPK, Saima Asim, Senior Civil Judge, last month issued a landmark judgment in favor of a father who submitted in front of court that the children would live under the custody of their mother during the proceedings of a patch up and in court settlement with a hope that he would ultimately get his family united and children suffering might stop.  But in response, his ex-wife, who was using his settlement statement as a means to permanently abandon her former spouse and keep him from taking the custody of children (who were receiving poor quality education and living in inhuman conditions with her), the court said: “any previous compromise or any previous order of the court cannot bind hands of the family court. Court can recall its previous order provided sufficient grounds are provided that, after previous order what were new and evolving circumstances keeping in view interest of minor.” A new petition by the father for the custody was accepted for further evidence and proof.

Ansar Jabbar Dogar Advocate believes the law is perfectly balanced, but in most cases it is rare that a court allows a child to visit his/her father. Often, the father is asked to submit a surety bond of a value as much as Rs. 20-50 lac to meet his child at home for a few hours or a day. In 2014 CLC 1168, the Lahore High Court held the “right of father to see his children could not be curtailed by imposing condition of submission of sureties every time he had to meet his own children.” But how many times have non-custodial fathers received interim physical custody of their minor children without submission of surety bonds. Sadly, the practice continues.

Ahmad Nawaz Khan Advocate is of the view that the issue of court-supervised meetings for non-custodial fathers with their children is something that needs an urgent attention. “The courts allow this meeting once in a month for 2 hours in the court premises and very few courts count these 2 hours even. It is usually come and go where the concocted children due to the extreme pressure of the aggressor, either decline to meet or start crying creating an environment which disturbs court proceedings and hence the meetings are ended.

G. A. Khan advocate said that out of 718 hours in a month, 2 such hours are awarded to the non-custodial father, making it nearly impossible for him to talk and love the children in the presence of his ex-wife. Although the higher courts in India and Pakistan have decided repeatedly that in such meetings, the custodial parents shall not sit and the non-custodial be given a fair and free time to talk to his/her children. It is important to note that the law does not even bind the courts to restrict the meeting for two hours.”

A few feminist zealots want women to have their cake and eat it, too. But we’re not speaking of sugary confections; these are children. Courts in Pakistan, must put their judicious minds to use by taking bold steps and making decisions to ensure that the children in their courtrooms do not become distant to noncustodial parent.

Children must not be allowed to lack intimacy and detachment. Without addressing this situation, they will be left to become hesitant, fearful or scared, blame the noncustodial parent for the situation, become quarrelsome and aggressive, slide into defiance and stubbornness, be filled with anxiety, become depressed, agitated or prone to temper tantrums, or lack attention, concentration, confidence and self-esteem.

They deserve better.


From Gulli Danda to Baseball

From Gilli Danda to Baseball

Fast-forward to last weekend as four teams contested the last remaining participation slot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Competitors include Great Britain, Brazil, Israel and Pakistan

No South Asian is unaware of the famous rural game “Gulli Danda.”

In the pleasantness of childhood, most if not all of us either played or watched the game being played in the streets of our villages and cities. Traditionally, this game is played with two pieces of equipment — a danda, being a long wooden stick, and a gulli, a small oval-shaped piece of wood.

I still remember how we used to balance the gulli on a stone in an inclined see-saw manner where it’s one end was touching the ground and the other tempting to be coined and hit with the danda. Once the gulli was airborne, the opposing players, standing in a circle, would run after it. The hitter was supposed to run and touch a pre-agreed point outside the circle before thegulli could be retrieved by an opponent.

If an opponent catches the airborne gulli, the hitter is out. Otherwise, the fielder can hit thedanda, which has to be placed on top of the circle used, with a throw. A successful hit todanda means the striker is out; if not, the striker gets a point or score and a chance to hit the gulli again. If a striker is out, his next team member comes in. And when strikers from both the teams finish their turn, the team with the most points wins the game.

Two famous games have evolved from this famous South Asian rural game, cricket and baseball.

Cricket, in our region is a game of nerves. South Asian countries including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh play and follow cricket with madness. Whenever there is a match between any of them, especially India and Pakistan, it seems as if a war is going on. Roads are empty as are offices. The president or the premier and other politicians of the winning team’s country get to gloat.

Cricket in Pakistan is not very old. On 22 November 1935, this region saw its first international cricket match. Notably, that is well before the birth of Pakistan. The match was between Sindhi and Australian cricket teams. There were about 5,000 spectators. In South Asia, this game was introduced by the British during their colonial rule of British South Asia, which covered the area now known as Pakistan. But cricket fever in this region took hold in 1954, when for the first time Team Pakistan defeated the England Cricket Team on their home turf in front of their fans, besting them in the game they invented. This was a start of cricket following in Pakistan.

Pakistan won the Cricket World Cup in 1992, which was followed by multiple wins in ICC World T-20 other international cricket events. But this cricket fever has delayed interest and development of our athletes taking part in other individual and team sports. The flow of money, sponsorships and the governmental shadow all decidedly favour cricket.

Pakistan is a country of 200 million people, but only seven athletes represented our country this year at the just-completed Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This single-digit representation comes on the heels of having 21 athletes represent our nation in 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London). Still, these numbers are a far cry from the 62 countrymen who represented Pakistan at the 1956 (Melbourne) Summer Games, or the 49 who competed in 1960 in Rome.

United States swimmer Michael Phelps won his 20th and 21st Olympic gold medals this year. In contrast, Pakistan, in 19 Olympic Games appearances, has won just 10 Olympic medals in its sporting history. Three gold medals have been won by our national field hockey team, the last coming in the 1984 (Los Angeles Games). In all, Pakistan has won eight medals – 3 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze in field hockey since the country made its debut at the London Games in 1948. Two bronze medals also have been won in wrestling and boxing.

But this year our hockey team even failed to even qualify for the Olympics. This shows our overall degradation in sports and also hints that our madness for cricket may well be stifling our progress in other sports such as baseball.

During my work with The Florida Times Union, in Jacksonville, Florida, editor Kenneth Amos asked, “Do you like Baseball?” Before I could answer, the next thing he said shocked me with pleasure. “You know the owner of our National Football League team, the Jacksonville Jaguars, is Pakistani-American billionaire Shahid Khan.”

His passion about these sports sparked an immediate interest within me. I went to the Jacksonville Baseball Grounds to take in an evening of minor league baseball. The small stadium was full and the scene was no less than a cricket stadium in Pakistan. It was a game with similarities to cricket, which caused me to quietly wonder why, given how well we perform in cricket, could we not also excel at baseball.

To my surprise and happiness I recently found an answer.

But first, you must know that Syed Khawar Shah brought baseball to Pakistan in 1992. The secretary of the sports board in Punjab had learned that baseball would be an Olympic Sport at the 1992 Summer Games (Barcelona) and he wanted Pakistani athletes to become familiar with it.

Fast-forward to last weekend as four teams contested the last remaining participation slot in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Competitors include Great Britain, Brazil, Israel and Pakistan.

Pakistan, a decided underdog, got a warm welcome in Brooklyn, New York. Even though our young men were swept out of the double-elimination tournament by Brazil and Great Britain, there were small moral victories along the way.

For some of our players, it first time playing with regulation wooden bats,donning batting gloves and being equipped with proper catching gear. And the team held Brazil, a team loaded with connections of Major League Baseball, the gold standard of the sport in the US, scoreless in three of the seven innings. And Pakistan centerfielder Muhammad Sumair Zawar’ base hit in his first at bat in the opening game against Brazil set of wild cheering among his teammates.

Pakistan’s very presence in this tournament is big news despite a lack of grass-roots support in our country where there are no manicured grass fields truly fit for baseball. Ours is a land in which most Pakistanis are not yet aware of this game’s rules. And surely none of us know any of the players like Zawar or Umair Imdad Bhatti or Arsalan Jamashaid or Fazal Ur Rehman, who are part of the Pakistan National Baseball Team.

Previously, Team Pakistan had participated in the Asian Games 2014 and qualified for the WBC tournament. They won the Asian Baseball Championship (C Level) in 2010, beating Hong Kong 10-0, and finished no worse than second in each of their past nine appearances in this tourney. In the Asian Baseball Cup, the team has never failed to place in the top three. It is now ranked fifth overall in Asia and 23rd in the world, based on the outcome of regional championships.

John Goulding, a retired US high school coach with 40 years’ experience in the game, spent two weeks in August and September in Lahore indoctrinating and fine-tuning our passionate warriors. Based on his limited exposure, Goulding still offered that if Pakistan had professional pitching coaches work with its strongest arms, there soon would be Pakistani players in the high-level minor-leagues. And since many of their players have extensive cricket experience, this isn’t at all far-fetched.

So, while the Pakistan media continues to glorify the activities of those who play cricket, the hard work of these guys has garnered scant attention. There certainly were no breaking news alerts for them; after all this was just a WBC qualifier.

But in the US, a baseball-loving nation, the response was far different.

Our home-grown team members were interviewed by the local and foreign journalists, members of the Pakistani-American community and American media ESPN showcased their success. They were asked for their autographs by US baseball fans who see the fine athletes from our country joyfully embracing their national pastime. And they are treating our young men as more than a curiosity. Their efforts— and the love they displayed for such a nuanced sport that each is still learning  — were met with applause and respect.

Some experts believe that baseball eventually will be able to stake a claim to part of Pakistan’s sporting consciousness. But first, Team Pakistan will need to rank among the top four teams in Asia to qualify for the Olympics when baseball makes its return to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

With such encouragement and possibilities, now may be the perfect time to begin spreading our sporting wings beyond our beloved cricket.

So let’s continue to nurture those interested in baseball, and from the whole of 200 million, let’s begin to prepare athletes to bring renewed sporting glory field hockey, and new aspirations to the likes of gymnastics, aquatics, volleyball, basketball, football, weight-lifting, cycling, archery, rowing, diving, Judo, badminton and more.

Let’s significant broaden our sporting attention span.

Who’s game?


Pooling PAK-US Interests in South Asia

Pooling PAK-US Interests in South Asia

Two great speeches in the US senate foreign relations committee


The recent abrupt cuts in military and financial aid of Pakistan – America’s front line ally in war against terror — have deteriorated the bilateral calculus. The tilt of the US towards India, a country on which Pakistan’s foreign policy depends heavily, is adding fuel to fire. The concerns of Pakistan on the new US-India ‘love’ are not usual as some unusual agreements have been signed between both the states that directly affect Pakistan’s military and strategic interests in the region.

Last month, an agreement was signed by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parikar that would allow the two countries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases even though Washington assured Islamabad that the military logistics pact would not jeopardise the country’s strategic interests. Pakistanis also complains that the India-US nuclear cooperation agreement and similar international nuclear deals with India will place New Delhi in a superior position unless all stockpiles are eliminated. These deals permit India to import dual-use technology as well fuel for its nuclear reactors. Complemented by the strong US support for Indian inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the deals will integrate India into international markets for trade in nuclear fuel and technology.

But leaving Pakistan alone, again, and building ties with its foe can bring deadly consequences to the US interests here. India’s blooming strategic relationship with the United States and development of nuclear and advanced conventional military capabilities and doctrines have been and will remain drivers of Pakistan’s nuclear build-up. Experts are therefore understandably concerned that the 70-year security competition between India and Pakistan is becoming a nuclear arms race, albeit one in which the antagonists — unlike the United States and Soviet Union during the Cold War — have fought four hot wars, still regularly exchange fire over contested territory, and quite possibly sponsor the activities of non-state actors who project violence across their shared border. Considering what we now know of the close calls experienced by US and Soviet nuclear forces during the Cold War, the nuclear situation in South Asia is cause for concern.

But the two recent speeches in the US Foreign Relations Select Committee have raised hopes in Pakistan that sane voices still exist. One was made by the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) Richard G. Olson who said that Pakistan had worked with the US to eliminate al Qaeda. Olson said that the Pakistan army had destroyed the hideouts of militants and terrorists in the country during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He also spoke about relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, stating that ties had improved significantly after President Ghani’s election and then subsequently deteriorated over important issues such as border management, refugees and counter-terrorism.

But he rightly said that Pakistan will have to prove that their homeland is not being used against neighbouring countries by terrorists. Pakistan wants a similar assurance from the US-led Afghan government as proof exists that the selective unrest in Balochistan and terror attacks in other parts of Pakistan including the recent ones in Quetta and Mardan were sponsored, executed and covered by Indian facilitated terrorists residing in Afghanistan.

Olson raised the long term and genuine demand again that Pakistan will have to operate against all terrorist wings without any discrimination. He said that Pakistan will have to play an important role in making Afghanistan a strong and peaceful country.

Earlier, last week, Toby Dalton, who is the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment and an expert on non-proliferation and nuclear energy, addressed the committee about the regional security challenges and the evolution of the global nuclear order.

He provided clear-eyed assessment of the challenges to US policy posed specifically by developments in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and what they mean for US interests in South Asia. Though obvious, it is worth underscoring the point that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program does not exist in a vacuum. Nuclear weapons are central to Pakistan’s security-seeking behaviour in a region it considers to be enduringly hostile.

He emphasised that any nuclear explosion would have catastrophic consequences, which is why it will continue to be in the US interest to sustain an ability to mitigate nuclear threats in South Asia even as its role and presence in the region evolves. The challenge with Pakistan is how to preserve patterns of cooperation and institutional relationships that facilitate US influence at a time when Pakistani behaviour in other spheres may be injurious to US interests.

US priorities related to nuclear weapons in South Asia have shifted over time. While the United States first sought to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in the region, the focus shifted to cap and rollback of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs after the countries’ nuclear tests in 1998 and then to ensuring the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and technologies.

Dalton was of the view that today there are two priorities above others that should guide US policy. The first priority he said is the prevention of intentional or inadvertent use of nuclear weapons, which is most likely to occur during a military confrontation between India and Pakistan. Successive US administrations intervened with India and Pakistan — during the Kashmir crisis in 1990, the Kargil war in 1999, the crisis in 2001-02, and following the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 — in order to contain the conflict before nuclear weapons could be deployed. Although the two states have implemented several nuclear and military confidence building measures, these are insufficient to temper their security competition.

What is known publicly about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is mostly what Pakistan wants India (and the world) to know for deterrence purposes. When it flight tests a nuclear-capable missile, the military issues a press release. When the nuclear command authority meets to discuss threats and policies, they issue a press release. But the other essential facts of the Pakistani nuclear program are fairly elusive.

In recent years, Pakistan has supplemented its fleet of medium-range ballistic missiles with a short-range battlefield missile, the Nasr. Pakistani government officials assert that it will carry a low-yield, tactical nuclear weapon in order to deter India from carrying out conventional military operations on Pakistani territory. Pakistan also has tested a longer-range missile, the Shaheen-III, which could target Indian military facilities as far away as the Andaman and Nicobar islands. And it has tested two nuclear-capable cruise missiles, linking these to concerns about an eventual Indian ballistic missile defense system. The conventional wisdom is that Pakistan does not deploy nuclear weapons in peacetime, that it keeps warheads and delivery vehicles separate. Whether and how long this non-deployed status will remain the case is an open question.

The recent US practice to put Pakistan in isolation, he said, has led many to believe that minimum deterrence of existential threats was insufficient for Pakistan’s security. Thus, in 2011, Pakistan began to talk instead about so-called “full-spectrum deterrence,” under which nuclear weapons will be used to deter not just a nuclear war, but also other threats such as an Indian conventional military attack. It is in this context that Pakistani officials have dubbed the Nasr — a tactical, battlefield nuclear weapon — a “weapon of peace,” because it is supposed to prevent India from seeking space for limited conventional military operations short of Pakistan’s nuclear red-lines.

The growth in Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities and the broadening of its deterrence objectives raise thorny challenges for US interests to prevent a nuclear explosion and to maintain effective security on nuclear weapons and materials.

He emphasised that the stated Pakistani concerns about India’s offensive conventional military planning are not without merit. The Indian army has sought to formulate and exercise a proactive strategy, often called “Cold Start,” the point of which is to be able to rapidly mobilise sufficient firepower to overwhelm Pakistani defenses and inflict defeat on the Pakistan army. Even if the Indian military could carry out such an operation, many experts doubt that the Indian government would ever sanction it, given the inherent potential for conflict escalation. But for Pakistan, this threat — real or perceived — has provided ample justification for its nuclear build-up.

The senate committee was told that to be fair, Pakistan is not given sufficient credit for the nuclear security practices it has put in place. By most indicators, its security is probably quite good. Yet, he said, it is still in the US interest to support Pakistan’s fight against groups such as the Pakistani Taliban to the extent that these groups pose potential threats to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Here, the US role in the region has evolved in recent years. US–India relations have blossomed while US-Pakistan relations have become more troubled. In the past, Pakistan sought to catalyse US intervention as a way to internationalise the dispute over Kashmir, while India actively opposed any US policy interest in a resolution to the Kashmir issue. Meanwhile, most Pakistanis probably do not trust the United States to be an honest broker in regional disputes.

One possible opportunity, he said, is through membership in international regimes that both seek to join, and specifically the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). If there were a process to negotiate benchmarks for membership for both states, it could encourage them to take steps to temper impulses in their security competition that exacerbate the challenges described above. In this regard, the policy of the current US administration to support an unconditional and exceptional NSG membership path for India is problematic. This policy requires no commitments from India to bring its nuclear weapons practices in line with those of other nuclear states in return for membership. It also opens no pathway to membership for Pakistan that would incentivise it to consider nuclear restraint. It is not surprising that the US policy has encountered significant opposition from a number of other NSG members, not least China, who argue that the group should utilise objective criteria when considering the membership of states like India and Pakistan that have not signed the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

These two speeches at the highest US policy forum have raised the hope that the policy makers there will think about their current policy of leaving Pakistan alone again after it has killed 26,862 terrorists, has offered the blood of its 48,504 civilians, 45 journalists, 5,498 security personnel’s and when 951 of its civilians have been killed by the US drone strikes as collateral damage.


A Trip to Beijing, XVI World Congress of CES

A Trip to Beijing

Important lessons imparted and learned

XVI World Congress of Comparative Education Societies in Beijing


XVI World Congress of Comparative Education Societies in Beijing

The major findings revealed that in public-sector schools 36 percent of teachers are putting a major emphasis on classroom tests, which runs contrary to 100 percent of private-sector teachers, who do it on a regular basis

In Pakistan, the second major problem is the uneven rise of private-sector educational institutions. We have seen recently how the share of public-sector enrollments is shrinking toward the private sector

I was privileged and honoured to attend the XVI World Congress of Comparative Education Societies in Beijing. With me was Professor Dr Abdul Hameed, a renowned educator and research supervisor at the University of Management and Technology, Lahore. We co-authored the research paper on Comparing Assessment Practices in Public and Private Schools of Pakistan as a Lever for Achievement Gap, and our mission was to present this research. Pakistan faces an education crisis of unprecedented proportions with nearly half of all children of school-going age out of school. Although there is broad consensus on the problem, its magnitude has reached 25 million.

Our study examined assessment practices in public and private secondary schools of the Lahore and Kasur districts in Punjab. The research was warmly welcomed and discussed by world-renowned scholars and professors who represented 82 countries. In this research mathematics teachers from 100 schools were surveyed via questionnaires, including 50 from the public and 50 from the private sectors. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and crosstabs. Part 1 collected background information about each respondent. Part 2 compared these teachers’ emphasis on the need for class testing. Part 3 compared the frequency of such testing. Part 4 compared their use of rote memorisation. Part 5 compared their use of application questions. A separate section collected data about understanding patterns and relationships among different concepts. The final part of the questionnaire compared the use of questions that require explanations and justifications.

The major findings revealed that in public-sector schools 36 percent of teachers are putting a major emphasis on classroom tests, which runs contrary to 100 percent of private-sector teachers, who do it on a regular basis. Results within six areas of assessment practices revealed possible causes of achievement gaps. The results were based on hypothesis testing and were reported separately. It was found that although working conditions for teachers in public sectors are far better than that those within the private sector. Even so, private-sector teachers excelled in all areas. Such performance may be attributed to continuous pressure and job threats. Another major factor may be performance-based high motivation levels of these private sector teachers.

The study produced — and we presented — the following results.

  • Public school teachers place more emphasis on classroom tests than do public-sector teachers.
  • Private-sector teachers administer tests with more regularity than do their public-sector peers.
  • In public-sector schools, teachers depend upon questions that require a reproduction of text-based facts; private-sector teachers include such questions only occasionally.
  • Questions requiring the application of the learned concepts are missing in public-sector test instruments at large; this practice is vice versa in the private sector.
  • A large number of private-sector teachers include questions that require searching for patterns and relationships between different concepts. This practice occurs in only a negligible percentage of public-sector schools.
  • Private-sector schools tend to include questions outside the textbooks, inducting questions that require explanation and justification. Only a meager percentage of teachers within public-sector schools use this approach.

We were open to sharing and gaining knowledge by connecting with experts on issues that are hampering the progress and sustainability of education system in Pakistan, chief among them the OOSC (Out of School Children) issue. Matters related to this were discussed with notables including Professor ElenitaQue (University of the Philippines) and Professor Laurde B. Filato (Western Mindiano State University), with each sharing personal experiences. The government of the Philippines has taken novel steps to tackle the OOSC issue. First among them is part time teaching. Very young but poor students, unable to afford school, are called in for two hours of school each afternoon. Teachers try to inculcate the basic skills of writing and reading in those students for six months, at which time those students are set free. Those OOSC’s come out of the illiterate barrier at least to some extent. A traditional education cannot be given to students who are kept away from the school because they are their families’ primary bread winners. For them, technical training institutes are set up and technical skills are imparted to help them be useful contributors to society. Professor Hameed seconded these notions, which he said could be applicable to Pakistan, too. He also offered workable solutions.

In Pakistan, the second major problem is the uneven rise of private-sector educational institutions. We have seen recently how the share of public-sector enrollments is shrinking toward the private sector. I discussed this trend with Professor Dr E. Vance Randall (Brigham Young University, USA) and Professor Hameed. Professor Randall was of the view that in Pakistan there is a little motivation in public-sector teachers to do things differently, unlike what seems to drive private-sector teachers. He emphasised the need of a system within the public sector to encourage and reward teachers. The matter of resources was also brought forward and Professor Hameed shared that in Pakistan the facilities in public-sector schools are nowhere near competitive to private-sector schools.

This discourages the public to enroll their children in these government schools. In recent years, the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) has “adopted” more than two million children by partnering with 3,230 private schools in Punjab. In this way the government officially is leaving hopes from the public sector and funding private schools for quality education. The major way the PEF is funding these schools comes through foreign donors like UKAID and USAID. This matter was thoroughly discussed by Professor Dr Keith M. Lewin (University of Sussex, UK) and Professor Hameed. They took on the topic “Is PEF Partner School Program a Sustainable and Forever Approach?” Both esteemed experts were of the view that it is not. They emphasised the need to strengthen public-sector schools, and they rejected the current practice of pampering the private sector at the cost of public-sector schools. They cautioned about the long-term reliance on the government to fund the foundation if/when these foreign donors decide to pull their funding. Remember, donations never are truly forever and the interests of countries change with the flow of time.

Another prevailing trend in Pakistan is the race toward enrollment in the sciences. Every student regardless of his or her capability tends to enroll in science studies at matriculation and upper levels. This is limiting and badly hurting the horizons within other fields. For example, enrollment in Social Sciences in Pakistan — and in other parts of the world — is shrinking. Intake is very low and so is the intellectual ability of those in this particular pipeline given that so many of the brightest minds are gravitating toward science and engineering. So what is the problem? Nations are not necessarily run by scientists and engineers. Philosophers, educationists and other better-educated humans are equally necessary to understand, contribute to and uplift their societies and chart their countries’ futures. When I discussed this with Professor Dr. David Small, Deputy Head of School of Educational Studies and Leadership, University of Canterbury and Professor Hameed, both recommended that we cannot be reliant on market forces (i-e demand and supply) for social sciences. It is high time that nations begin pushing good quality students toward social sciences to help equip our society with skills of a higher order than can allow us set lofty goals and accurate aims.

This world congress was organised with the financial support of the government of China, the World Council for Comparative Education Societies (WCCES), China Comparative Education Society and Beijing Normal University. Special thanks are offered to Professor Dr Wang Yingjie and Professor Dr LIU Baocun of the Beijing Normal University who made this world renowned knowledge-sharing and learning event such a wonderful experience for those fortunate enough to take part. The next Congress will be in Mexico in 2019. Upon our return, Salman Iqbal Sehgal, CPEC board member and advisor to the chief minister of the Punjab, Mian Mohammad Shehbaz Sharif, briefed us about the current progress on China-Pakistan economic corridor. We are back with a new resolve and the hope that with each passing day relations between Pakistan and China will become stronger, healthier and more prosperous.