We all cry over the plight of Rohingya Muslims. We also fiercely condemn the inhumane treatment meted out to Muslims at the hands of religious bigots anywhere in the world – especially in the West. We also demand equality and freedom of religious practices. All is justified. But do we practice what we preach? Are minority groups in Pakistan safe? Are they getting equal rights? The recent death of a Christian student, Sheron Masih, in Burewala highlights the growing intolerance in our country. Hypocrisy is at its best. Owing to the radicalisation of our education system it is hardly surprising that a Christian student was allegedly barred from using a water cooler as his action would contaminate water, making it unfit for pious Muslim students to drink. This would have led Masih to remain thirsty for long hours of schooling in this hot weather. However, Masih rebelled and his attempt to drink water from the cooler cost him his life. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. The country’s education system has deeply been radicalised at all levels. Paradoxically, universities have become breeding grounds of intolerance and extremism. Militant organisations recruit students from these universities. The cases of Noreen Laghari, Saad Aziz and Karim Sarosh Siddiqui supplement the fact that extremism in universities is increasing. Hostels are sanctuaries of the ‘agent of chaos.’ Also, the investigation in the Mashal Khan case revealed that there is an unholy nexus between corruption and extremism in campuses.
The scenario is gloomy and for sure a serious threat to the country. It demands urgent but comprehensive work plan to fight the menace of corruption in universities. The education institutions across the country should be order to adopt relevant controls to improve the security of campuses and to properly monitor students’ activities. These steps are necessary in order to prevent any misfortune. However, if we want a long-term solution of this problem, a drastic change must be brought into curriculum. The one of reasons for our radicalised society in is teaching of distorted and monolithic history which breeds hatred in the hearts of students. Hence, a pluralistic narrative is required. Second, extracurricular activities and free thinking must be encouraged. Third, student union and politics should be revived as it will fill the vacuum which is now filled by religious and sectarian motivated forces in the face of ban on students’ unions for long time now. Time is short and the country’s security is at the stake. It is time to act or to face international isolation and embarrassment.
Kashif Hakro (Karachi)