Most politicians, former military and civilian officers and their followers often ignore some basic facts when they judge the claims and performance of the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). This they do in a way as if the PTI has a magic wand to heel the wounds inflicted on the province and the region around it as a result of decades of an elitist model of governance that takes care more of the ruling civil-military elites than the common man. The same hue and cry was raised when Chief Minister Pervez Khattak donated 300 million to the Darul-Uloom Haqqani, Akora Khatak.
One must underline that the kind of education this and other seminaries impart cannot extricate the students from an obsolete medieval ages mindset. Nor can this system induce critical thinking into them. It’s the collective social and state failure if these kids from the poor strata of the society are there and forced to rot-learn. Having said that, it is not difficult to figure out that nearly all politicians, not just those of the PTI, work to protect and expand their vote bank and thus are hostage of fear and expedience. Lots of Punjab Auqaf and Zakat Funds go to direct or indirect affiliates of SSP/LeJ — name them and they will be there as recipients of state largess — stipends for Malik Ishaq of LeJ are just one case in point.
Secondly, religiosity in the society has become so entrenched in general that no politician can dare shoot himself in the foot by directly taking on the mosque-madaris power — however right the cause may be. The Faizabad and Lahore sit-ins as well as former law minister’s imploring messaging via the social media are the latest examples. In fact the Sharifs are feting people in religious rites at home these days offers another glimpse of their fears of the deep-seated mindset.
Thirdly, nobody really speak of or dares take on Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the hundreds of madaris/mosques associated with his party. All of them receive state funding directly or otherwise. Even in Islamabad, mullahs affiliated with Fazlur Rehman’s party occupy dozens of illegally constructed mosques, encroached lands even in upscale F sectors. Nobody winks, nor does somebody points to the continued patronage PPP and PML-N have showered on Fazl since the late 1980s. Fazl and his JUI faction have, in all probability, been the largest beneficiary of this politics of expedience by Bhutto, Zardari, Sharifs and the GHQ, which had flown the Maulana and his ilk on an Umra trip to Saudia when General Musharraf needed to prevent him from dissolving the provincial assembly.
Religiosity in the society has become so entrenched in general that no politicians can dare shoot themselves in the foot by directly taking on the mosque-madaris power nexus
Fourth, analysts from Karachi and rural Sindh cannot condemn PTI and Imran Khan in total disregard of how the Sindhi’s feudal landlords and the MQM thrived on captive votes, buying and bullying. The Karachiites know very well and hence they would love to poke just at PTI , and not the PPP and MQM that have turned Karachi and rural Sindh into a living hell.
Pandering to any non-state actor, to religious radicals is bad and dangerous in the long run. They cannot be supporters of the way the majority of Pakistanis live. But what do you do to this madrassa mindset that exists in the society as a result of decades of indoctrination?
Decades of misrule, poor management, questionable rule of law and extremely poor service delivery has created these divisions and given birth to and helped in unchecked proliferation of madaris. What is the fault of the young souls learning there? Do we as a society and as a state have something to offer them? Or do they only deserve ostracisation/rejection by those educated elites who know very well that the elites have miserably failed in prioritising education-for-all as their primary goal? They bemoan the fact that successive governments failed in placing education at the centre of their priorities as a fundamental right but they wouldn’t keep this in mind when judging political parties and ‘leaders’ performance on this front. Instead they choose to knit-pick out of political expedience.
Almost every literati, academic, analyst agrees on this abysmal state of education, including the explosive growth of madaris. This is why it also became a source of concern as well as fund when the grant for Haqqania was announced.
Lastly, those poking fun at the KP government for this ‘donation’ conveniently forgot how successive mighty Punjab governments appeased madaris and their administrators with state funds. They also wilfully overlook the fact that incessant war/turmoil and conflict associated with and arising out of Afghanistan have badly battered this region and province. Making fun of this or that government for failing in correcting the mess of over four decades is extremely unfair.
We must keep questioning policies with long-term consequences. We must scrutinise governments and ask for rationale of new mechanisms and how public funds will help improve education in the madaris.
What merits mention here is that the KP government did put in place new governance mechanisms. And hence everybody initially reacted with rejection and scorn. Almost everybody from private pre-qualified contractors to Patwari to school teachers to para-medics to bureaucracy to doctors, went up in arms against new systems introduced to improve governance and transparency.
But improvement and durable success lies only in continuity. As sincere Pakistanis, we should spare Balochistan and KP the power politics that have run down these regions and constrained their socio-political growth. They deserve extra attention and resources to help them overcome consequences of decades of conflict and misrule.