Cover Story

State vs. State

Apparently, the Pakistan government has accepted the TLP’s demand that it be allowed to operate as a regular political party.

By S.R.H. Hashmi | December 2021

At age 83, and having seen Pakistan right from the beginning, when I look back and see where we have reached after this long and arduous journey, I do not really get a happy feeling. Worse still, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for recovery from this dreary state anytime soon. And I say this despite being an optimist.

What enhanced this pessimism was a news report in Dawn of November 14, which read;

‘Sindh government to close 5,000 unviable schools: Minister’

The heading somehow created an impression that perhaps there was such an abundance of schools in Sindh that these 5,000 schools could not find any students and were therefore declared unviable and fit for closure. The alternate use of the school premises had also been worked out as the report stated that recommendations would be made to the government to use the buildings for community welfare purposes.

In view of the actual situation in Sindh where more than a third of children are out of schools - with other regions not faring significantly better, except Northern areas perhaps – plans for closure of 5,000 schools hardly seem reassuring.

The news followed another depressing one of November 13, also published in Dawn, which was headlined ‘Education department seals two schools for ‘not imparting Quranic education’ .

With millions of children already out of school, sealing of two schools and that too, by the education department – and throwing more children on the streets for an indefinite period - hardly made sense. Surely, the matter could have been resolved by taking appropriate disciplinary action against the school management, instead of punishing children and disrupting their education, which has already been disturbed immensely during the Coronavirus pandemic. Also, at least the department of education should realize that educational institutions are vastly different from commercial outlets like shops, hotels, etc., which are occasionally sealed because of violation of rules, but this does not cause people much hardship, since they can avail the same facilities at other similar outlets.

The report also stated that on the orders of the Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, the district and sessions judge has deputed three subordinate judges each in as many tehsils of the district to monitor the compulsory Quranic education in public and private schools.

Now, the involvement of judiciary in routine monitoring of public and private schools could only be justified - if at all – in the circumstances where judiciary’s own performance was, if not perfect then at least near-perfect, and additionally, it had spare capacity, which it wanted to utilize for doing some voluntary national service. However, with the actual situation not being exactly that, how could the exercise be justified?

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