Monthly Archives: September 2016

Recent Events in Afghanistan

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As mentioned in the previous posting about the recent events in Pakistan, both Afghanistan and Pakistan have been affected gravely by war and violence in the last decade. Afghanistan has also faced internal strife in the last few years as a result of the rise of the Islamic State. The Islamic State also known as ISIS and ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant respectively, are commonly referred to as Daesh. The Islamic State was formed by a group of individuals that use Salafi Islam, a sect of Sunni Islam, to give grounds to their violent behaviour towards minorities who are considered to be heretics and to justify their goal of building a Caliphate.

Afghanistan is no stranger to oppressive regimes and leadership structures and religious fundamentalism in its history. Despite this, the Afghan President, Ashraf Ghani, has waged a war on ISIS and has been quite successful in defeating them in the Eastern part of the country where they were known to have infiltrated certain provinces.

ISIS’ violence in Afghanistan and other countries in the Middle East and South Asia has generally been targeted towards members of minority communities such as Yazidis, Ahmadis, Zaidis, and Shia as they are considered to be “infidels,” “apostates and “heretics” as per the ISIS based on Salafi ideology.

On Sunday the 24th of July, two ISIS suicide bombers killed upwards of 80 peaceful civilian protesters, and injured 200 others. This attack was the most fatal one since 2001, which is when the Taliban insurgency began. This lead to a day of mourning as declared by the government and the interior ministry motioned to ban public gatherings in order to avoid attacks like this one. The gathering was described to be a “Shia gathering” as most of the protesters belonged to the Hazara community. Hazaras mainly live in Afghanistan, Balochistan and Karachi and are considered both ethnic and religious minorities, as they belong to the Shia sect of Islam. Their minority status makes them targets for ISIS-led violence, and since they are losing their presence in Afghanistan, they want to stay relevant. To read more please visit this link.

In an article in Al Jazeera, the writer addresses how recent conflict in Afghanistan has resulted in decreased national security and significantly diminished the livelihood of those who depend on their harvests. There has been a wave of economic migrants that have left Afghanistan for better economic opportunity, but have returned due to being unwelcome in the countries that they migrate to. The article states that out of the 384 districts in Afghanistan, over 300 are not secure. This has resulted in 1.2 million individuals being internally displaced across safer provinces. The article also reports that out of the 300 districts that have been rendered not secure, 10 have no governmental infrastructure at all. The militant insurgency and ISIS are long-term effects of the US invasion in Afghanistan, this leaves returnees, members of minorities, teachers, journalists, judges, lawyers, political activists and farmers at risk. Read more here.

Although the Taliban controls a fraction of what it once used to, they are still considered to be a threat by the United States and Afghanistan alike. On September 19th the US lead an airstrike, which killed eight Afghan police officers instead of actual threats such as Taliban leadership, was described by the US as either a mistaken set of coordinates or the security forces getting caught in the middle. More information on this event can be found here.

This image provides a visual understanding to who controls what in Afghanistan and more information can be found at this link.

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Recent Events in Pakistan (9/14)

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Pakistan and Afghanistan are both countries that have been plagued by war, civil unrest and sectarian violence in the last decades. Many argue that these unfortunate set of circumstances are what set these countries back compared to other countries especially in terms of education.

In a recent article published by the The News International according to the UN Global Education Monitoring Report – 2016, Pakistan is 50 years behind in primary education and 60 years behind in secondary education. In 2015 global leaders collectively agreed upon the terms that by 2030 both boys and girls should have access to state-sponsored primary and secondary education. As per the UN report 57 million are illiterate and 24 million children are not in school: 5.6 million of whom are of primary school schooling age, 5.5 million of whom are of secondary schooling age, and a whooping 10.4 million of whom are of upper secondary schooling age are all out of school. This indicates the difficulty that Pakistan will have in helping to achieve the global goal set for 2030. Additionally, in poorer rural areas among the male literacy rate is at 64%, whereas the female literacy rate is a dismal 14%. Much of female illiteracy is due to the influence of conservative leaders and the Taliban in rural areas.

Despite the situation in Pakistan, politicians are reacting because the reality is that a country does not grow without education. Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif, the Punjab Chief Minister’s vision of promoting education has been executed by Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan, Provincial Minister for Education. The education reforms are not limited to the primary and secondary school level, Khan has been instrumental in leading an initiative for Pakistani students to go abroad and obtain their PhD. To read more about this read this article in the Pakistan Observer.

An article in Dunya News discusses a similar movement has come to light that is being lead by the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The HEC has pledged to send 10,000 PhD candidates to the United States to pursue studies in Agriculture and Food Security, Medical and Allied Health Sciences, Energy, Water, Climate Change and Advanced Digital Technology. Although this is positive progress in terms of education, the focus on tertiary education has been criticized when levels of primary and secondary education are so low and ignored by certain provincial leaders.

Pakistan declared September 13th to be Eid al Adha, which is also a national holiday. Eid al Adha marks the end of the holy pilgrimage of Hajj, one of the five pillars in Islam, in Saudi Arabia. Although this day is supposed to be celebrated with family, friends and food, once again Pakistan was hit by a wave of deadly violence. After a bomb blast in Quetta, there were two police casualties and eight others were injured. Additionally, the bomb caused chaos and resulted in a stampede.

In Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir a mainly Muslim state, there are curfews imposed and prayers cancelled at mosques after there was deadly violence. Two individuals were shot and killed by security forces, and several more were wounded. Another 50 people were injured when security forces tried to stop protests near Srinagar airport. They were injured by the use of tear gas and pellet guns.

Although many Muslims consider this day to be one of the holiest days on the Islamic calendars, unfortunately most have become desensitized to the deadly violence that takes place on holy days or any other for that matter.

We hope to keep you up to date with news of the South Asian region! Stay tuned for postings about current events as well as the situation in the area for women and the issue of education.