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Unquenchable Thirst to Learning; The Main Reason for Hazaras’ Communities Transformation

Hamidullah Bamik

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photo: worldhazaracouncil.org

With the fall of the Taliban regime, a golden opportunity was provided to all Afghan people and, above all, for the Hazaras. In fact, they were reborn and rescued from the massacres and genocides of the Taliban, a group of ethnic-religious fanatics and anti-Hazaras. With the Taliban’s dominance in Afghanistan, the Hazaras either have been forced to abandon Afghanistan or have been killed in hundreds and thousands across Afghanistan. But soon after the toppling of Taliban regime by the US in 2001, thousands of Hazara families who had migrated from Afghanistan during the Taliban rule to neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan returned to Afghanistan.Hazaras who had migrated to neighboring countries gained opportunities for obtaining education and economic development. So, they returned to Afghanistan in hopes of building a new life and taking an active role in the political and reconstruction process.

Historically, Hazara communities have for centuries been sidelined in Afghanistan. They have been viewed as the dregs of society and have always been suppressed by the Afghan rulers. They have been bought and sold as slaves among other communities. They were subject to genocide during King Abdul Rahman tenure (1880-1901) and later during the Taliban rule (1996-2001). But the situation has changed fundamentally since the fall of the Talibanson September 11, 2001. Upon the collapse of Taliban regime, Hazara communities were the first communities who put down their arms and instead picked up the pens.As Hazaras were deprived of gaining education for centuries, they chose to school their progenies as a priority. The families and communities’ elders understood that the only way to bring sustainable and dynamic changes in their communities wasto educate their children.

Since then around hundreds of schools have been built in Hazara communities without the support of the state and the global community but the by the financial support of communities themselves. The same story applies with the establishment of English Language and Kankor Examination (Kankor is a national university entrance test in Afghanistan) preparation centers in Hazara communities. Most of these centers are set up solely for the development of education. The founders of these centers rarely greet for financial purposes. Often, they work to serve the people and save children from ignorance and illiteracy because they know that gaining education opens the way to a better life and brighter future for the entire communities. This is how girls, boys, men, and women – all rushed toward schools and education centers in Hazara communities upon the collapse of the Taliban’s government.

Hazara communities began their path to cultural and social transformation while the Pashtun Taliban were burning and have been still burning schools in the Pashtun areas.On the contrary, in Bamiyan where mainly Hazaras are living, girls’ enrollment in schools increased up to 22 percent only within two years (2008-2010). The number of students in Daikundi, another province where mainly Hazaras are residing, grew by almost 40 percent during the same years with girls accounting for 43 percent of the students. A large number of Hazara girls from Bamyan and Daikundi provinces could enter Afghanistan’s higher education institutions via participating in Kankor Examination in 2008 which was more than 10 provinces of Pashtun areas. Education was the most important arena that gradually led to the formation of structural transformation in Hazara families.

Indeed, the sweetest fruit of the transformation of Hazara communities is women’s freedom. Nowadays, women’s freedom is higher among the Hazara communities than other ethnic groups, and there is less opposition to girls’ education. According to the New York Times, in a country like Afghanistan, where the literacy rate among women is very low, it is higher among women of the new generation of the Hazaras. Over the past years, literacy has been accelerating among the Hazaras girls.

Along with this cultural growth, social relationships have also been a positive development among them due to Hazara families’ investment in education. Even the family system has been redefined and modernized in the Hazara communities. For instance, nowadays the presence of Hazara girls graduated from college, is on the increase in public places, offices, and institutions. Likewise, girls’ enrollment in security forces is higher among the Hazara communities while the presence of girls from other tribes in national police and security forces is diminishing. Girls among the many Hazara families have the right to choose their future spouses. Families consider girls’ education with the same view as the right to educate their sons.The pioneering role of Hazara girls and women in most areas of social affairs represents a profound social transformation among the Hazara communities. This metamorphosis is also seen in reducing the rate of violence against women in Hazara communities.

The transformation of Hazara communities manifested itself not only in cultural and social spheres but also in the political form. In the last two Presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, more than 35 percent of the female vote was from the Hazara regions. Afghanistan’s first female governor and first female mayor were Hazara women. For instance, the current governor of Daykundi province is a Hazara woman, and Bamiyan has previously had a female Hazara governor too. In fact, all these substantial changes were stemmed from paying huge attention to education by families and the avoidance of violence against women.

Hazaras in Afghanistan reached a dramatic growth and cultural glory within a short time. This vibrant growth within at least 18 years has been astonishing for many other tribes. Especially since this cultural and social transformation has taken place in a spontaneous way. And, no government agencies or non-governmental institutions have spent a considerable capital for transforming the Hazara communities.

This transformation besides liberating Hazara communities from rigid traditions and customs, it also caught the attention of many hardliners and fundamentalist who cannot tolerate the transformation of tribal lives in Afghanistan. As political and educational experts argue that the main reason that Taliban groups and ISIS target schools, educational centers, civic gatherings, and sports clubs in Hazara communities is to prevent them from obtaining the soft power – education. These places are the main sources of hopes and dreams for Hazara communities because a bright future and a sustainable economic development and tangible social and cultural transformation begin from these places. Therefore, Taliban and ISIS who are the extreme enemies of girls’ education, democracy, human rights, and cultural transformations are targeting these soft power generation bases among the Hazara communities.

Currently, Hazara communities have more problems than other communities. These problems include a shortage of electricity, inadequate state schools, lack of transportations, poverty, increasing the onslaughts of Taliban groups and ISIS on Hazara communities. As recently the Taliban groups attacked on Malistan, Urzgan Khas, and Jaghori districts where mainly Hazara communities are living. As a result of the Taliban attacks, thousands of families fled their homes and escaped to other neighboring provinces. The reports demonstrate that hundreds of persons have been killed and beheaded by the Taliban groups in these districts. The insurgents’ attacks on Hazaras communities not only lead to internal displacement but also force them to leave Afghanistan for other countries as they did during the Taliban era. The migration of Hazara elites, professionals, and young generations to European countries and Australia is dramatically increasing in recent years.

To sum up, despite the above challenges the morale and spirit of fight in Hazara communities against traditions and norms that impede them from improving are growing every day. Because Hazara communities ultimately have come to a practical and tangible conclusion that their historical suffering, social humiliation, economic poverty,and political deprivation have a rootedness in the poverty of literacy. Hence, they value education for their children more than anything else. They have understood well Nelson Mandela’s saying, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.”

Hamidullah Bamik is a Fulbright Scholar, education policy analyst, and a social development researcher. His research focus is on girl’s education and women empowerment, gender equality, good governance, and socio-economic development in South Asia but particularly Afghanistan. He has worked with World Bank Capacity Building Projectsat Supreme Audit Office of Afghanistan from 2013 to 2018 as a capacity building consultant. Currently, he is working as a social development researcher at Asia Culture House, a non-profit cultural and art organization based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Additionally, he is a frequent contributor on sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and social developmentissuesto Outlook and Etilaatroz, the two leading Newspapers in Afghanistan, and Modern Diplomacy, a leading European opinion-maker with far-reaching influence across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

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South Asia

Is PTM Genuine to its Cause?

Syed Nasir Hassan

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Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) v/s Sate is a fiery tale which none can anticipate how it will end. Sparked from the extra judicial murder of model aspirant Naqeeb Ulllah Mahsud on January 13, 2018, the movement continue to get a constant hype on the political spectrum of Pakistan. Initially named Mahsud Tahafuz Movement turned into Pashtun Tahafuz Movement when the case was put forward to the court and Rao Anwar was arrested. However, things got transformed as PTM started taking a constant nudge with the state. From the protest in front of press club in Islamabad, in 2018 to different rallies across country things shifted vigorously. PTM’s defiance is mainly pointed at criticizing the military institution and falsely blaming the institution for their plight. But the question rises that is PTM another mainstream political movement subjected for the elites rather than addressing the actual issue? And are they trying to internationally politicize the issue in order to demoralize the efforts of Pakistan?

On April 29, 2019, DG ISPR Maj Gen. Asif Ghafoor, military spokesperson, addressed PTM leadership and apprised them that the time has come when legal actions is mandatory to be taken against them. He further claimed that the financial records makes the existence of PTM skeptical as they are directly being funded by the foreign factions from neighboring countries  for their protests and rallies.  He was also of the view that PTM is being used by the foreign factions to instigate instability when Pakistan has achieved relative peace. However, the fact should not be neglected that the Government of Pakistan and military establishment acknowledges the demands put forward by the leadership of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. At various points both, government and military, tried to engage with them in a collaborative manner. Recently on April 16, 2019, Senate Special Committee met the PTM leadership along with the MNA Mohsin Dawar. Even before, when the movement was in its early phase military was the first one to engage with them. When a request was put forward by the PTM leaders to meet military in order to express their grievances, it was agreed. Meeting was held between PTM delegation of 15 members and DG, ISPR Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor on Feb 08, 2018, in which apart from primary demand of justice for Naqeeb Mahsud there were other 4 demands. The military showed consensus on all of them. But the duality of the PTM should not be unremembered as on one side it engages with the government and the military but at the same time the constant barraging on the state and its institutes continues through social media. Things got more complicated as the tone of PTM got discordant day by day. The relentless spewing of hate and impudent comments against the state and its institution clearly show as on whose side PTM is. Movement is kind of drifting away from the true cause when the anti-state and separatist slogans and hymns are openly vocalized in the rallies and are now directed to demoralize the standards of army rather than demanding the rights.

With constant efforts from both government and military the PTM appears reluctant to develop a consensus. Keeping this whole saga in mind One might consider that either PTM leaders are not well negotiator or they don’t want to negotiate and the picture is much larger then it seems.

In 2018, a commission was also formed to facilitate PTM which included high ranks from the military and reputable civilians. State was persistence in facilitating the PTM grievances. DG ISPR also highlighted in his briefing that in order to remove landmines, a team was formed and is currently putting every effort at their disposal. The team had cleared 45 percent of the area and in pursuit of the task 101 Jawans had lost their lives. State constantly acknowledges the demands of PTM but PTM and its virtual diaspora have failed to acknowledge the efforts made by the state.

Pashtun makes up to 15% of the total population of Pakistan. What will happen if this number of population, a province indeed is brought in confrontation with the state? It will be enough to vandalize the socioeconomic fabric of Pakistan. Pashtuns of Pakistan have always been delicate segment of Pakistan as they were in the crossfire between Pakistan’s efforts against eradicating terrorism. It makes them soft target and vulnerable to be used by animosities against Pakistan. The point to ponder is that despite the efforts, and acknowledgement of their grievances by the state why this matter is getting more intense whereas the fact should not be forgotten that both parties are on same line in terms of addressing the problem. The only way this can be resolved is when the PTM stop being patsy against Pakistan and show real concern to give solace to the Pashtun community rather than exploiting their grievances

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RSS: Grim Reality under the Secular Veil of India

Syed Nasir Hassan

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Religious extremism is not something novel to mankind. Between 132-136 CE, Romans faced the confrontation with the Jews. A Jew extremist, Simon Bar Kokhba, led the revolt against Romans known as Kokhba Revolution. He succeeded in establishing a Jew state which lasted for just three years, ultimately falling again in to Roman hands.

Under constitutional veil almost every other nation has some sort of religious or ethno extremist factions in their ranks with mass support. India too, which claims to be a true secular model in the subcontinent has their own version of extremist militia and what is worth worrying is that it is well organized and well structured.

RSS or Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is an extremist Hindu vigilante militia which is being nurtured by many political hands. It came into existence in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar – a Hindu nationalist. Initially it was established to retaliate against the British raj and Muslims and unite Hindus to devise a Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation) but in post-independence scenario it became a blot on the secular veil of India. Indian Constitution makes it a secular country but RSS finds it against the norms of Hindustan. It is not the RSS which shifted its discourse but it was India which became a secular state by constitution. Even before the inception of RSS various Hindu nationalist emphasized on the existence of solely Hindu nation. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar,the founder of Hindu nationalist ideology Hindutva (an ideology which aims to form hegemony of Hindus) stated that there is a dire need of a solely Hindu nation.

RSS was banned three times in its post-independence continuity. First it was banned in 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by a Hindu nationalist. The interesting fact is the man named Nathuram Godse, who murdered Gandhi, was not an active RSS member at that time but was once. In 1975 RSS came into scrutiny again when Indra Gandhi banned extremist organizations and imposed emergency across the country, and then in 1992 when dispute over Babri masjid erupted and it got demolished.

But what is making the organization function with full momentum? The organization has a fully functional website where one can recruit itself in the organization. Its proper hierarchical order makes it worth worrying as there is a National leader and then there are Regional leaders to oversee the local dealings. It also conducts daily quasi military exercises in parks and open spaces. On many occasions, the members of RSS were involved in the lynching of Muslims and lower casts Hindus. RSS’s Cow protection squad was constantly involved in various incidents during Modi’s reign.

Indian Prime minister, Narendra Modi, during an interview revealed that the personality and the discipline he has, RSS played a major role in shaping it. He also said that he became part of the organization at very young age. RSS also played major role in the putting the throne of Delhi under the Modi’s feet and is again playing a major role in running his election campaign for upcoming elections.

The institutionalized structure of the RSS makes it unique as it has a Cow protection squad, women wing, Labor union and a farmer union to outreach mass population. On its website, they claim that they have more than 50,000 shakhas, a Hindi word for branches, in villages and different cities across the country. Utar-pardesh, a city with largest population in India and major electoral club in the lower house; it is reported that there are 8000 shakahs only in UP which are there obviously to influence the elections and win majority in the house.

Embedded hate against Muslims and other minorities is not something new, in fact, it is in the core beliefs of the organization. M.S Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghchalak (head of RSS) wrote a book named Bunch of Thoughts which comprised of the lectures he had given to shakhas over the country. In his book he wrote that internal elements pose far greater threat to national security than outside aggressor. Golwalkar than identified three major “Internal Threats: i) Muslims; ii) Christians; iii) Communists. Not just this, in an article published in THE HINDU on November 26,2006 it was revealed that the murder of Mahatma Gandhi was somehow celebrated by the RSS. Moreover, giving reference to the secret documents which he had seen the writer divulged that Golwalker had called a meeting on December 6, 1947, where RSS workers of Govardhan, a town not very far from Delhi. As per the police report regarding the meeting, assassination of the leading persons of the Congress was discussed to create terror and panic among the public and to get hold over them. Just after two days. Golwalkar again addressed several thousand RSS volunteers at the Rohtak Road Camp, Delhi. The police reporter notified that the RSS leader had clearly said that Sangh would not rest content until it finishes Pakistan and if anyone was a hindrance in their way they would not spare them either whether it was Nehru’s regime or any other.

Having such militant Hindu organizations flexibly working without any state censorship and proliferating into Indian society is a threat to Indian secular dream. Aimed at making India a purely Hindu state such far-right groups in subcontinent will make exclusive societies rather than inclusive. Intra-state tensions will continue to mount. Which will create the so-called nonpolitical groups like RSS propagating into the Indian society through political interference and can make India’s future bleak. With such intra-state terror groups Indian vision for secular and inclusive India will remain a chimera.

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IMF bailout package and public opinion

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The 22nd bailout package for Pakistan at its final stages. There exists a mix of public opinion on this package, some are in favor and some differ. Both lobbies have own reasons and strong justifications, which makes a common man even more confused.

PM Imran Khan was criticizing previous governments for seeking IMF bailout packages in the past and expressed that he will not go to IMF, and may prefer suicide over begging. In the early few months of his Government, he was hesitant to go to the IMF and tried his best to seek help from friendly countries alternatively. Some of the friendly countries extended helping hands too, which includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, and China.

But the economic situation was so serious and dangerous that the country was at the edge of collapse or default. Still some of his advisors of the opinion that there exist other options instead of going to IMF. The deal under consideration is US Dollars 6 billion over a period of 39 months. It means less than 2 billion a year, which it really too little. If we control our imports of luxury items and un-necessary item, we may reduce our import bill by US Dollars 5 Billion easily. Or with a little bite of our efforts, we may be able to increase our exports by US Dollars 5 Billion easily. Some experts are thinking only for US Dollars 2 billion a year, we should not accept the harsh terms and conditions of IMF.

In the 7 decades history of Pakistan, 21 prgrammes of IMF were not good enough to make Pakistan a sustainable economy. Why one should expect, this 22nd will do something good. During the previous 21 programmes, Pakistan was a very close non-NATO ally of USA. Pakistan was on the right side of the US, a partner in Cold War Era, Front Line State in War on Terror. Politically, Pakistan was one of the favorite nations of the US and secured all possible support.  But today the situation may be rather different, as, after the Abbottabad Incident and Salala Incident in 2011, Western World has almost written-off Pakistan. USA has signed Major Defense Partner (MDP) agreement with India. The USA has created the Indo-Pacific Alliance with India, Japan, and Australia, to counter China, where Pakistan is engaged with China under BRI/ CPEC.

Against the tradition, people of Pakistan have voted Imran Khan, who so ever was given ticket of PTI, the public has voted him or her blindly in good faith & trust to Imran Khan. A few of his candidates might not be having very high capabilities or very good reputation, but, the public has trusted Imran Khan blindly. Imran Khan is the third most popular leader in Pakistan, after Jinnah the father of nation, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s.

Unfortunately, he failed to form his own team and was depending on a team lobbying for IMF, World Bank or Western World. They have encircled him and kept on lobbying for their agenda. They finally pushed him to a stage, where he agreed to accept IMF. Close to him, sources think, he was never convinced but was made to accept. We are afraid, if this lobby can isolate him from nationalists and patriots, may succeed in the implementation of their agenda.

PM Imran Khan, is honest, hardworking and people loving leader. He loves Pakistan and common citizens of Pakistan. He really wanted to bring a change in the Society, where common man’s welfare is a top agenda. He is sincere with the nation and wanted to establish a total comprehensive welfare state. Unfortunately, he was lobbied wrongly and opted for IMF.

People of Pakistan have blindly trusted in Imran Khan and possess very high expectations from him. I know, Imran Khan understands it very well. He is an honest, brave and visionary leader and I believe he will not disappoint his voters.

Hope PM Imran Khan may educate people of Pakistan about the details of the IMF package and try to convince the masses. The welfare of common man and all other promises made with the nation before elections may be explained to masses, this is required urgently before he loses credibility and popularity among the masses.

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