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DAWN Editorials – 14th March 2016

Rebuilding Malakand

IT has been more than half a decade since a massive military operation was undertaken in Malakand division to restore the writ of the state there. But the job of rebuilding the division remains unfinished.

A damage and needs assessment carried out by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank said Rs68.7bn would be required for the rebuilding exercise, of which the federal government had pledged to provide Rs17bn and the rest was to come from donors, both multilateral and bilateral.
Of this, only Rs2bn have been released thus far, and repeated attempts by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance to get answers from the finance ministry have produced no acceptable response.
In a series of hearings where the standing committee has been looking into this affair, the latest one on Friday, the finance ministry has pledged little more than to seek out answers and revert in the future.
This is patently unacceptable. Dealing with the aftermath of conflict is a major responsibility, and the lack of action in Malakand casts a cloud over the question of the displaced people from Fata as well. That job is also stuck in partial limbo.
The government has reiterated its pledge to repatriate all IDPs this year, but thus far the resources for their rehabilitation are nowhere in sight, nor has anyone seen a damage and needs assessment for Fata.
Only last month, the apex committee of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa complained of the slow disbursement of funds for the exercise, where reportedly only 15pc to 20pc of the allocated funds had been released.
Procedural issues were cited as a big reason for the delay, while a summary to streamline some of these bottlenecks in the matter of housing reconstruction have awaited approval from the prime minister since December. But if the experience of Malakand is anything to go by, the displaced families are more likely to be provided grants to facilitate their return and then left to their own devices.
The problem is a big one and significantly impacts the return to normalcy following intense conflict. The government should either provide a reason for the delays and difficulties it is experiencing, or it should release the funds.
The hearings under way in the Senate provide a good forum to do this, and rather than hide behind vague answers, the finance ministry should take advantage of the hearings to put its point of view out in the open.

Sindh Police in turmoil

ALLEGATIONS of illegal appointments, misallocations of police funds, a tug of war between the courts and the Sindh government, a new provincial police chief installed by the federal government to replace the previous chief under investigation — the recent turmoil in the Sindh Police epitomises much that has gone wrong with law enforcement in Karachi and the province generally.
The problems are both short term and long term. While the PPP government in Sindh has not done itself any favours and is perceived to select senior police officers on the basis of loyalty rather than professional competence, the provincial set-up is being interfered in unduly by federal elements.
For its part, the PML-N government in Islamabad may say that intervention became inevitable after the Supreme Court appeared to suggest that the ousted police chief is prima facie guilty of allegations that NAB is set to investigate.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the hidden hand of the army-led security establishment is likely adding to all the chaos and confusion.
It is has long been an open secret that police appointments in Sindh have been heavily politicised affairs. The province has been bedevilled by the twin problem of an under-resourced police force and a politicised one.
But the main culprits in Sindh’s miserable law-enforcement history, the PPP and the MQM, may well respond that the situation is no different in the other provinces.
Indeed, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab’s police forces are hardly models of professionalism and depoliticisation.
Yet, in the decline of Karachi and the overall thrust of policing in the rest of Sindh there is ample evidence that the emphasis of successive PPP governments in Sindh has been on controlling the police rather than letting them get on with their job.
One of the allegations against the ousted IG, Ghulam Hyder Jamali, was the shocking police attack on supporters of Zulfiqar Mirza inside the Sindh High Court. Even Mr Jamali would perhaps struggle to suggest that the incident was purely a policing decision and not a political one.
The bigger and longer-term problem is that none of the provincial governments appear interested in true police reforms. While Khyber Pakthunkhwa has touted its so-called police reforms, lasting administrative and legal changes have not been made.
The true test of police reforms lies in creating a system where the police can work with and not work for whichever government happens to be in power.
Sindh, caught in a vice applied by forces at the centre, may not be in a position to enact meaningful reforms at this moment — though paradoxically the province may need reforms most urgently.
Yet, why is police reforms not an issue for the PML-N government in Punjab? Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif presides over arguably the most stable province in the country — should that not be reason to effect real reforms?

Mischief-making syllabi

THE passage of almost three decades has provided ample time for this country to recognise the disservices done to it by the Zia dictatorship.
As such, it is unfortunate that even now, in ways big and small, we continue to suffer from that regime’s divisive and backward-looking tactics and policies.
Consider, for example, the Grade 12 sociology textbooks that are being taught in Punjab. The issue was raised in the Senate on Friday by Senator Mir Kabir: the Baloch have been disparaged in the textbook, with words such as “uncivilised” being used for them.
Also read: Describing Baloch as ‘uncivilised’ in textbook irks Senators
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said that this syllabus had been prepared under an ordinance promulgated during Gen Zia’s days in power. It really is nothing less than “stabbing the nation in the back”, as the Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq commented.
And especially in the context of the legitimate grievances the people of the province have long held against the state, that such commentary remains on the books goes a long way towards revealing the priorities of successive leaderships.
While this piece of mischief must immediately be rectified, it provides good reason to look into curriculum reform in general. It is well known that portions of texts being used to ‘educate’ the young in the country carry prevarications and obfuscations if not downright misinformation; some texts are laced with troubling views; and others can be seen as divisive.

Even the text that came under fire in the Senate contains other problematic statements: as pointed out by Mr Rabbani, the book teaches students the ‘benefits’ of dictatorship, and while the break-up of the country is dealt with in one paragraph, there is no mention at all of the long struggle for democracy this country undertook.

There can be little argument that students raised on antediluvian syllabi will make for a poor future.
Even as the prime minister promises to put every child in school, his government needs to ensure that the schooling being provided is worth having.
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