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Pakistan Day: Will "Naya Pakistan" Be Truly Free?

Pakistan's Independence Day celebrations this year coincide with a momentous change in leadership.  It has been brought about by the triumph of the insurgent Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) over Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), both regarded as dynastic political parties.  PMLN and PPP are each controlled by a family.  Pakistan's Prime Minister Elect Imran Khan is part of a generation that he says "grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak."  How will the acknowledgement of this upbringing affect Imran Khan's leadership of "Naya Pakistan"? Let's examine the answers to this question.

Colonial Era Education: 

Imran Khan attended Aitchison College, an elite school established in Lahore by South Asia's colonial rulers to produce faithful civil servants during the British Raj. He then went on to graduate from Oxford University in England. Here's an excerpt of what he wrote in an article published by the Arab News on January 14, 2002:

"My generation grew up at a time when colonial hang up was at its peak. Our older generation had been slaves and had a huge inferiority complex of the British. The school I went to was similar to all elite schools in Pakistan. Despite gaining independent, they were, and still are, producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis.

I read Shakespeare, which was fine, but no Allama Iqbal — the national poet of Pakistan. The class on Islamic studies was not taken seriously, and when I left school I was considered among the elite of the country because I could speak English and wore Western clothes.

Despite periodically shouting ‘Pakistan Zindabad’ in school functions, I considered my own culture backward and religion outdated. Among our group if any one talked about religion, prayed or kept a beard he was immediately branded a Mullah.

Because of the power of the Western media, our heroes were Western movie stars or pop stars. When I went to Oxford already burdened with this hang up, things didn’t get any easier. At Oxford, not just Islam, but all religions were considered anachronism."

Colonized Minds: 

It is refreshing to see Imran Khan's acknowledgement that Pakistan's elite schools are "producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis".  Pakistan achieved independence from the British colonial rule 70 years ago. However, the minds of most of Pakistan's elites remain colonized to this day.  This seems to be particularly true of the nation's western-educated "liberals" who dominate much of the intellectual discourse in the country. They continue to look at their fellow countrymen through the eyes of the Orientalists who served as tools for western colonization of Asia, Middle East and Africa. The work of these "native" Orientalists available in their books, op ed columns and other publications reflects their utter contempt for Pakistan and Pakistanis. Their colonized minds uncritically accept all things western. They often seem to think that the Pakistanis can do nothing right while the West can do no wrong. Far from being constructive, these colonized minds promote lack of confidence in the ability of their fellow "natives" to solve their own problems and contribute to hopelessness. The way out of it is to encourage more inquiry based learning and critical thinking.

Orientalism As Tool of Colonialism:

Dr. Edward Said (1935-2003), Palestine-born Columbia University professor and the author of "Orientalism",  described it as the ethnocentric study of non-Europeans by Europeans.  Dr. Said wrote that the Orientalists see the people of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as “gullible” and “devoid of energy and initiative.” European colonization led to the decline and destruction of the prosperity of every nation they ruled. India is a prime example of it. India was the world's largest economy producing over a quarter of the world's GDP when the British arrived. At the end of the British Raj, India's contribution was reduced to less than 2% of the world GDP.

Education to Colonize Minds:

In his "Prison Notebooks", Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist theorist and politician, says that a class can exercise its power not merely by the use of force but by an institutionalized system of moral and intellectual leadership that promotes certain ideas and beliefs favorable to it.  For Gramsci "cultural hegemony" is maintained through the consent of the dominated class which assures the intellectual and material supremacy of the dominant class.

In "Masks of Conquest", author Gauri Viswanathan says that the British curriculum was introduced in India to "mask" the economic exploitation of the colonized. Its main purpose was to colonize the minds of the natives to sustain colonial rule.

Cambridge Curriculum in Pakistan:

The colonial discourse of the superiority of English language and western education continues with a system of elite schools that uses Cambridge curriculum in Pakistan.

Over 270,000 Pakistani students from elite schools participated in Cambridge O-level and A-level International (CIE) exams in 2016, an increase of seven per cent over the prior year.

Cambridge IGCSE exams is also growing in popularity in Pakistan, with enrollment increasing by 16% from 10,364 in 2014-15 to 12,019 in 2015-16. Globally there has been 10% growth in entries across all Cambridge qualifications in 2016, including 11% growth in entries for Cambridge International A Levels and 8 per cent for Cambridge IGCSE, according to Express Tribune newspaper.

The United Kingdom remains the top source of international education for Pakistanis.  46,640 students, the largest number of Pakistani students receiving international education anywhere, are doing so at Pakistani universities in joint degree programs established with British universities, according to UK Council for International Student Affairs.

At the higher education level, the number of students enrolled in British-Pakistani joint degree programs in Pakistan (46,640) makes it the fourth largest effort behind Malaysia (78,850), China (64,560) and Singapore (49,970).

Teach Critical Thinking:

Pakistani educators need to see the western colonial influences and their detrimental effects on the minds of youngsters. They need to improve learning by helping students learn to think for themselves critically. Such reforms will require students to ask more questions and to find answers for themselves through their own research rather than taking the words of their textbook authors and teachers as the ultimate truth.

Summary: 

It is refreshing to see Imran Khan's acknowledgement that Pakistan's elite schools are "producing replicas of public schoolboys rather than Pakistanis". The minds of most of Pakistan's elite remain colonized 70 years after the British rule of Pakistan ended in 1947. They uncritically accept all things western. A quick scan of Pakistan's English media shows the disdain the nation's western educated elites have for their fellow countryman.  Far from being constructive, they promote lack of confidence in their fellow "natives" ability to solve their own problems and contribute to hopelessness.   Their colonized minds uncritically accept all things western. They often seem to think that the Pakistanis can do nothing right while the West can do no wrong. Unless these colonized minds are freed, it will be difficult for the people of Pakistan to believe in themselves, have the confidence in their capabilities and develop the national pride to lay the foundation of a bright future. The best way to help free these colonized minds is through curriculum reform that helps build real critical thinking.

Here's an interesting discussion of the legacy of the British Raj in India as seen by writer-diplomat Shashi Tharoor:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN2Owcwq6_M

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

PTI's Triumph Over Dynastic Political Parties

How Can Pakistan Avoid Recurring BoP Crises?

Alam vs Hoodbhoy

Inquiry Based Learning

Dr. Ata ur Rehman Defends Higher Education Reform

Pakistan's Rising College Enrollment Rates

Pakistan Beat BRICs in Highly Cited Research Papers

Launch of "Eating Grass: Pakistan's Nuclear Program"

Upwardly Mobile Pakistan

Impact of Industrial Revolution

Hindutva: Legacy of British Raj

Views: 104

Comment by Riaz Haq on February 10, 2019 at 7:45pm

Military Might: Pakistan’s Continued Struggle with Democracy
Zahra Chaudhry February 10, 2019

http://thepolitic.org/military-might-pakistans-continued-struggle-w...

Syeda Munnaza lives in Pakistan, in the bustling Lahore locality of Iqbal Town. There, she runs the Mehmod Hamid Welfare Memorial Society, a nonprofit that provides skills based employment training to locals, especially women and girls.

Munnaza’s house is divided on the political front: her three children, ranging in age from fifteen to twenty five, are huge fans of the new prime minister, Imran Khan. Munnaza herself is a loyal supporter of the former premier, Nawaz Sharif, and his party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PMLN). Ask her about the July 2018 election, and she’ll tell you it was entirely rigged in favor of Khan.

Nawaz Sharif’s career has been a tumultuous one since he first appeared on Pakistan’s political scene in the 1990s; he has served as prime minister three times without ever completing a full term. Most recently, in July 2017, Sharif resigned from his post after being declared unfit for office by the Supreme Court due to corruption scandals. Subsequently, the country voted overwhelmingly for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, and PTI’s Chairman, Imran Khan, became Prime Minister. Khan ran on anti-establishment and vehemently anti-corruption rhetoric.

Sarah Khan, a postgraduate associate at the Yale Macmillan Center and researcher on gender and politics in South Asia, told The Politic, “The demographic pool of PTI supporters tends to be more educated, more on the higher end of the income spectrum, and also younger…but what we’ve seen in 2018 is a broader support for the PTI.”

Fahd Humayun, a PhD candidate at Yale, studies political behavior and regimes. He says this broader national support stemmed from Khan’s ability to portray himself as “an anti-status quo force—someone to be reckoned with”—while also focusing on the same issues that Sharif “had traditionally focused on.”

Humayun added, “Imran Khan’s not a new addition on Pakistan’s political landscape. He’s been around since the 1990s.” What made him an appealing “outsider,” however, is that he was a viable third option to a public increasingly weary with the country’s two other major political parties, the PMLN and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

While many are hopeful that Prime Minister Khan will follow through on his pledge to deliver a “New Pakistan,” one with welfare programs, a thriving economy, and an improved reputation on the international stage, others remain skeptical.

In an interview with The Politic, Munnaza said, in Urdu, that her kids “find establishment politicians to be foolish, uneducated, [and] problematic.”

She remains unconvinced by their argument, saying she voted for the PMLN because of “all the work” Sharif has “done for the people” in Lahore; she cited renovations and technological upgrades at government hospitals and improvements to the city’s education system. Munnaza isn’t alone in feeling indebted to Sharif and his party; the PMLN won 61 in the National Assembly, out of a total 272—corruption scandals and all. They came in second to the PTI.

“[I] would never say that I am going to stick with Nawaz Sharif and his party no matter what. If Imran Khan…wanted to do anything [for us], or if he was capable of it, then we would welcome change. But the way by which he came to power was extremely wrong,” Munnaza said.

She says that in a country like Pakistan, where corruption is a widespread problem, she doesn’t understand why Sharif’s particular case was pursued so rigorously.

In 2017, Sharif was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court after the Panama Papers showed his family’s ties to undisclosed properties abroad and offshore accounts. Sharif and his daughter were convicted on corruption related charges and received lengthy prison sentences just weeks before the 2018 elections.

Munnaza is doubtful that democratic institutions alone were responsible for the corruption crackdown and suspects election interference.

Niloufer Siddiqui GRD ‘17 is an assistant professor of political science at the State University of New York-Albany and a researcher in political violence in Pakistan. Siddiqui said“People will ask whether or not elections are free and fair in Pakistan. Polling day rigging is very unlikely. Nobody is changing people’s votes at the booth.” But “pre-poll rigging” is an issue.

Sarah Khan explains that pre-poll rigging is when the military engages in “controlling the environment and distribution of information that allows voters to make informed decisions.”

Siddiqui told The Politic, “All the cases that churned out against Nawaz Sharif are likely to have been influenced by the military. In fact, the tribunal that found him guilty had two military members [on it]…”

She added, “… a series of steps were taken that ensured that he would no longer be a key player. All of this happened within weeks of the election.”

Khan and his supporters have celebrated Sharif’s ousting and arrest as an indication of the start of a new era in Pakistani politics where powerful people will be held accountable.

The consensus among sources who spoke to The Politic is that Sharif lost favor with the military establishment by taking control over foreign policy. In 2013, he told an audience at the US Institute of Peace that trying to improve Pakistan’s relationship with India was one of his “favorite subjects.” In December 2015, Indian Prime Minister Modi visited Sharif’s private residence in Raiwind. This was the first time an Indian premier had visited Pakistan in more than a decade.

Siddiqui told The Politic that because foreign policy had historically been “under the military sphere of influence,” they felt Sharif had “overstepped.”

It is less clear, however, why the military chose to support Khan. His campaign centered around radically transforming most every aspect of governance–including Pakistan’s international relations. In December 2018, Prime Minister Khan told The Washington Post that Pakistan would not be the United States’ “hired gun” anymore.

Sarah Khan told The Politic, “It is…a bit of a puzzle as to why they would support Imran Khan, who is known to be perhaps stubborn or volatile…” On the other hand, she believes it makes sense that the military tried to support the “party that was already electorally viable,” something the PTI “very much was.”

Military intervention took on a few different forms, including restricting freedom of the press. For years, there has been pressure for Pakistani journalists to self-censor to please the military establishment.

During the 2018 campaign, Humayun says Khan received more TV time and more coverage by major national newspapers like Dawn News. In June 2018, Gul Bukhari, a columnist for The Nation and a prominent critic of the military, was abducted and held for four hours in a military cantonment in Lahore. She credits the public outcry on social media for her relatively prompt release.

Matiullah Jan, another critic of the military apparatus and former anchor on Waqt News, had his car’s windshield pelted with large rocks by motorcyclists in 2017. Jan called it a “pre-planned attack.”

Some also allege that the military called on popular politicians—or “electables”—from other parties to run under the PTI ticket. Lobbying for electables is a common strategic move in Pakistan to win in constituencies where voters show more loyalty to an individual than a party.

Siddiqui told The Politic, “My interviews with people that I know…seem to suggest that a lot of people were getting phone calls, again from the powers that be, to switch their support to the PTI.”

During the general elections, 46 electable candidates ran under the PTI ticket and 23 of them won their seats; most of the winners represent areas within the PMLN stronghold of Punjab. Khan said candidates joined the PTI because the other parties had failed to deliver.

It’s important to remember that Khan enjoyed a great deal of popular support from people like Munnaza’s children, who were inspired by his message of reform and progress.

Since 2013, his party has governed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KPK) through a coalition with religious parties. In 2018, the PTI won a historic re-election and majority in the province, where incumbents are generally voted out. Siddiqui believes this “kind of indicates the PTI is doing something right.”

Now, as Prime Minister, Khan has to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state,” as he said he would, while dealing with the country’s perilous economic crisis. The crisis is driven by a national account deficit in the billions, making it virtually impossible for Khan to run the government without foreign loans from sources like Saudi Arabia and China. He has yet to reach a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Munnaza wants to see economic relief and political progress, even though she doubts Khan’s ability to enact real change; “The poor people here aren’t constructing homes, or driving cars, or sending their kids to prestigious schools; they are working hard just to buy their flour and sugar.”

Munnaza believes, at the end of the day, Sharif and Khan don’t matter. What matters is helping the country’s poor afford a dignified life. For the good of the people she works with, she’s praying for Khan’s success

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