Tag Archives: South Asia

Pakistan’s new education policy

Raza Rumi responds to the new education policy for Pakistan

Yet another educational policy has been announced for Pakistan and its hapless citizens. We should not cast aspersions on the motives of an elected government, for we have been bitten by endless rounds of authoritarian rule which have not only destroyed the institutions of civilian governance, but have also demolished the integrity of our curriculum and mode of instruction. Decade after decade, dictators chose to glorify martial rule and later legitimized the abuse of jihad and violence. Even those who have studied at elite, expensive schools have somehow been doctored by the same curse of malicious textbooks. The surreal curricula have glorified looters and plunderers like Mahmud Ghaznavi only because they happened to be Muslims by a sheer coincidence of birth. Not to mention the Hindus, with whom we have coexisted for nearly a thousand years; they have been painted as treacherous, villainous and vile creatures ready to destroy the Muslims.
One would have expected that a legitimately elected government, representing the aspirations and pluralism of Pakistan’s small provinces would take a strong stance on the revision of pernicious curricula. Alas, this is now a distant, buried dream for all. The policy is silent on that. This is a government that is waging wars on terrorism rather successfully and with clarity of purpose, but the educational policy makes little mention of the madrassa reform which is now an imperative for the very survival of Pakistan as a viable state. Thousands of madrassas scattered all over the place, funded by external powers preach hatred, bigotry and a reversion to the Dark Ages. Who will reform these madrassas if the national education policy does not even bother to lay out a strategy and provide resources? The new policy promises that by 2015, the budgetary allocation for education would increase to seven percent of the GDP from the current 2.1 percent of the GDP. This is surely promising but how can a policy not envision the need or the strategy to mobilize such resources? Have we not heard such sanguine proclamations in the past?

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Pakistan’s Wheat Management and the South Asian Hunger Bomb

Source:  Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad, Pakistan.

Hunger’s direct victims: Every year in Pakistan, over 420,000[1] children under the age of five die because of malnutrition that affects their health. In June 2008, the annual food price inflation was running at about 20% and this figure is feared to be looming at 34% by mid December because of widespread unemployment and economic meltdown. Price hike of the sensitive commodities also increased in some cases to 40% during the same period of the year when compared to 2006. In a country that boasts to be a nuclear power and leader of the “Muslim Ummah,” the UNICEF report estimated that 38% of all Pakistani children were underweight, 37% stunted and 13% “wasted or unable” to attain the expected weight in their entire childhood. Pakistan made “insufficient progress” in tackling the hunger and children malnutrition. In addition to these hunger indicators, an appalling 44% of the Pakistani population does not have access to tap-water and only 42% use fixed toilets.

What’s actually happening?
Like many developing countries, Pakistan has been facing food shortage as an international phenomenon particularly in 2007. Not that the domestic management was perfect; the government’s Continue reading


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POVERTY: World Bank report on poverty, including India’s

Source: POVERTY: World Bank report on poverty, including India’s

The World Bank has released a new report on poverty. From the press release:

New data show 1.4 billion live on less than $1.25 a day, but progress against poverty remains strong

WASHINGTON, DC, August 26, 2008 – The World Bank said improved economic estimates showed there were more poor people around the world than previously thought while also revealing big successes in the fight to overcome extreme poverty.

The new estimates, which reflect improvements in internationally comparable price data, offer a much more accurate picture of the cost of living in developing countries and set a new poverty line of US$1.25 a day. They are based on the results of the 2005 International Comparison Program (ICP), released earlier this year. Continue reading


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Common economic agenda vital for the region – Cabraal


The South Asian region has to work for a common economic framework/model fitting to each country in the region to achieve a sustainable economic growth in the long term perspective, the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Ajith Nivard Cabraal said.

“We are the people creating our society, therefore we have to find our strategies for the best interest of the future generation in the next coming decades,” addressing the SAARC Finance Governors’ Symposium and Inaugural International Research Conference held at Central Bank said.

The event was organised by the Central Bank and Governors and its officials participated from all SAARC member countries.

He said the South Asia known to be quiet region at one time, but during the last few years this region took a new stunt achieving a high growth momentum especially India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. Continue reading

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Pakistan’s education performance poorest in Asia

Mohsin Babbar (The POST)

ISLAMABAD: Despite getting ample funding from International Financial Institutions (IFIs) for education sector reforms in the country, Pakistan is rated as poorest performer among all the Asian countries receiving funding from Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Ranked at 120 as a whole, Pakistan has shown an extremely poor performance in almost all indicators of education sector, suggest an ADB report entitled “Education and Skills: Strategies for Accelerated Development in Asia and the Pacific”.

According to the EFA Development Index and its Components in ADB developing member countries, Pakistan’s EDI rate was 0.64, the lowest in the region, while Kazakhstan was leading with 0.992. Even India, Bangladesh, Nepal has better rates with 0.797, 0.759 and 0.734, respectively. Continue reading

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Cities of South and South-East Asia – Sustainable Urban Future?

The leading Pakistani urban planner and commentator Arif Hasan (of Urban Resource Centre) wrote this think-piece in June 2007 as a Discussion Document for UN Event on “Sustainable Urban Future: Urbanization in an Era of Globalization and Environmental Change” – New York, July 09 – 10, 2007

The Reality

International capital is desperately looking for a home. Cities of South and South-East Asia are attractive destinations since they have a weak regulatory framework and have undergone structural adjustment. Here, this investment, is increasingly determining not only the shape of the city but also social and economic relations[1].

New terms, such as “world class cities”, “investment friendly infrastructure”, “foreign direct investment” or ”FDI” as it is called, have entered the development vocabulary. All politicians and official planners in the Asian cities I know are using these terms and it is largely because of them that the whole approach to planning has undergone a change. Local governments are obsessed by making cities “beautiful” to visitors and investors. This means building flyovers and elevated expressways as opposed to traffic management and planning; high-rise apartments as opposed to upgraded settlements; malls as opposed to traditional markets (which are being removed); removing poverty from the centre of the city to the periphery to improve the image of the city so as to promote DFI; catering to tourism rather than supporting local commerce; seeking the support of the international corporate sector (developers, banks, suppliers of technologies and the IFIs) for the above.

The above agenda is an expensive one. For this, sizeable loans have been negotiated with the IFIs on a scale unthinkable before[2]. Projects designed and funded through previous loans have not met their objectives and there is evidence to show that they will again not meet their objectives. Many of the projects are being floated on a BOT process. Projects have replaced planning. This is especially true of transport related projects[3]. In addition, there has never been more liquidity in banks and leasing companies. However, due to the freedom that these loan giving institutions have today, this liquidity is used to provide short-term high interest loans which do not bring any benefit to the city or to the majority of its residents[4]. Continue reading

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SOUTH ASIA: Caste-based discrimination and analogous forms of inherited social exclusion: Discrimination based on work and descent

February 22, 2008

A joint written statement submitted by the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Catholic Organization for Relief and Development (CORDAID), Minority Rights Group (MRG), Diakonisches Werk der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland, Anti-Slavery International, and International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) to the 7th session of the Human Rights Council
SOUTH ASIA: Caste-based discrimination and analogous forms of inherited social exclusion: Discrimination based on work and descent (1)
The former Commission on Human Rights, in its resolution 2005/109, gave a mandate to the former Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to undertake a study on discrimination based on work and descent, and to develop draft principles and guidelines for the elimination of this form of discrimination. This was the first occasion on which the UN’s leading human rights body sought to address comprehensively the entrenched form of discrimination that affects, among others, the Dalits of South Asia, estimated to number more than 200 million people.
Three years later, the Sub-Commission experts entrusted with this mandate, Professor Yozo Yokota and Professor Chin-Sung Chung, have completed their task and sought to deliver a final report which includes the draft principles and guidelines widely anticipated by organizations representing affected communities around the world. However, with the abolition of the Sub-Commission, their painstaking work lacks a forum for its consideration and finalization, and has become caught in a transitional limbo. This situation points to a lacuna in the institution-building process in the Human Rights Council – the lack of clear transitional arrangements for the pending work of the Sub-Commission.
One of the key criteria for judging the success of the reform of the UN’s human rights architecture must surely be that the achievements of the Commission on Human Rights in promoting and protecting the human rights of the victims of violations around the world should at least not be undermined or neglected. But here is a clear case in which an entrenched system of discrimination which has led and continues to lead to some of the most egregious violations of the rights and freedoms of a significant proportion of humanity – and which the international human rights system has for far too long failed to propose a systemic response – risks being overlooked again.
Accordingly, the co-sponsors of this statement urge the creation of an appropriate procedure for the consideration and adoption of the final report submitted by Professors Yokota and Chung regarding discrimination based on work and descent, and for appropriate action on the draft principles and guidelines included in that report.
Making caste-based discrimination a priority on the agenda of the Human Rights Council as a serious contemporary human rights issue in Asia and the other parts of the world in which affected communities are found is an essential step for the realization of human rights for millions upon millions of the Earth’s most vulnerable and marginalized people. We are somewhat encouraged that the focus areas for the Asia-Pacific region outlined in the OHCHR’s Strategic Management Plan 2008-2009 are impunity, weak institutions and discrimination, all of which are key factors in contributing to the systematic discrimination against Dalits. More specifically, caste-based discrimination is mentioned as a specific human rights concern to be included in the OHCHR’s field of work in the next biennium.
The continuing salience of caste-based discrimination is well-attested to by a growing chorus of concluding observations and recommendations issued by multiple treaty bodies concerning affected countries, as well as by material submitted for the forthcoming examinations of several affected countries under the UPR mechanism.
The Human Rights Council has, appropriately, a special focus on implementation, and on improving the situation of the victims of human rights violations on the ground. The draft principles and guidelines developed by Professors Yokota and Chung can be a very important tool for fulfilling this responsibility to the more than 200 million people who still continue to struggle under crushing yoke of caste-based discrimination and analogous forms of inherited social exclusion. We call upon the Human Rights Council to take up this tool, and use it.
(1) Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU School of Law; Dalit Network Netherlands; Dalit Solidarity Network, United Kingdom; and Justice and Peace Netherlands also share the views expressed in this statement.
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About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

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