Monthly Archives: October 2016

Recent Events in Pakistan

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A very warm hello from the Barakat team this afternoon! Below you will find short summaries of major news stories across Pakistan, and links to news sites that provide more details and facts to the events that took place.

  • Disaster risk education to become focus in Pakistani schools

Areas that are flood-prone in Pakistan are proving to be vulnerable to extreme weather, a result of climate change. As per the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), “about 10,000 educational institutions were damaged or destroyed in mega-floods that affected a fourth of the country in 2010, Since then another 10,000 schools have been damaged in subsequent floods through 2015, the authority said.” The question to be asked is, in a country that already struggles to provide adequate education to its people, how do they protect the existing places of learning by reducing risk schools and creating better infrastructure? Naturally, suggestions have been made to improve infrastructure by setting new construction standards, but there are also suggestions to create disaster management plans, holding evacuation drills, and just generally raising awareness for the risks that come with extreme weather. To learn more about disaster risk education in Pakistan schools read here.

  • India to expel Pakistani Mehmood Akhtar for “espionage”

The conflict between India and Pakistan has always been an ongoing, fluctuating one. Most recent in their conflict, India is set to expel a Pakistan High Commission official, Mehmood Akhtar, for engaging in “espionage activities.” Akhtar was detained on Wednesday October 26th, and has been given 48 hours to leave the country after a brief detention. For more information please read this article.

  • Quetta Police Academy


On Monday the 24th of October, 2016, a police academy in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan, was under attack and the attack resulted in at least 60 fatalities. The Islamic State has already claimed responsibility, but local authorities and military officials believe that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Pakistan-based group that has been associated with Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack. The Sunni militant organization has been linked to deadly attacks against the country’s Shia Muslim minority. Similar devastating attacks have taken place at this police academy in 2006 and 2008. The question now remains is what makes Balochistan, the largest Pakistani province, an easy target? Despite Balochistan’s abundance of natural resources, it continues to be the poorest Pakistani province. Additionally, the province lacks security, and has become a place of refuge for militants that are traveling to and from Afghanistan in between military operations. An article in Al Jazeera also states that in addition to security, there is “no proper law and order in place.” The borders of Balochistan reach Afghanistan and Iran, and are largely unmanaged and not monitored making the area a safe haven for militants that travel through and from these places. Another issue that makes it hard to run functional and effective security, is that Balochistan is sparsely populated and largely remote, and the history of sectarian violence has created separatist groups. That being said, both members of these groups and terrorist organizations have “greater freedom of action in this area as it is a big province and very underdeveloped. [Because] the province is also pretty remote, which makes it easier for terrorists to come and hide there.”

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The Treatment of Minorities in Pakistan

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The treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan is nothing short of a crisis and religious freedom  is not a luxury that everyone can afford. According to the Library of Congress 97% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, and the remaining 3% of the population are Christian, Hindu and other. When discussing the treatment and status of minorities, one must understand that certain groups of Muslims are mistreated as well as non-Muslim religious groups. Nearly all muslims in Pakistan belong to the sect of Sunni Islam, however there are members of the Shia community, the Ahmadi community and other smaller groups like Sufis. Furthermore, approximately 1.8% of the population is Christian, 1.6% are Muslim and there are smaller numbers of Buddhists, Sikhs and Parsis/Zoroastrians in Pakistan.

Pakistan is not an ethnically and religiously diverse nation, and part of the reason for this is that Pakistan was founded during the partition of India in 1947 on Islamic principles by the former President of the Muslim League, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

On Sunday, March 25th in Lahore, 72 people died in a suicide bombing that targeted Christians that were celebrating Eastern in a busy park. The group that claimed responsibility ws Jamaat al Ahrar, a branch of the Taliban in Pakistan. In an article  in the Washington Post explains that before partition Pakistan was a more ethnically diverse place, however during the partition many non-Muslims left the state and there was a mass migration of Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims to Pakistan, creating a relatively homogenous nation state. Although this act of terror was directed towards Christians, more Muslims than Christians were killed.

The war on minorities lead by fundamentalist entities like factions of the Taliban is not only a war against non-Muslim groups, but a war against Muslim minorities such as Shias, Ahmadis, and Sufis. Fatima Bhutto, the niece of Benazir Bhutto, states that “Shias have overtaken Hindus and Christians as targets of sectarian killings [..] And in this predominantly Muslim country, it is no longer Hindus or Christians who face the largest threat of violence from orthodox and radicalised groups but Shias.” In an article in Dawn New, Bhutto discusses that the violence against Shias has become a serious concern in Pakistan.

The irony of the treatment of Muslim minorities is that the Bhutto family, a very prominent Pakistani political family are Shia and the founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah also belong to the Shia sect of Islam.

The Taliban’s War on Education

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The Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist organization that are responsible for a movement in Afghanistan that began as a militia in 1994, became the official government of Pakistan in 1996 and transitioned into an insurgent group in 2004. The movement gained strength as a result of the Afghan Civil War, and became a prominent faction that held immense power in Afghanistan from 1996-2001. Their methodology and practice includes a strict interpretation of sharia, the Islamic law, and their main goal in Afghanistan during their time of power was the implement it. The conservative culture in the region coupled by the backward views of the Taliban has prevented girls from receiving an education.

Leaders of the Taliban strongly believe that the education worth receiving is the one they preach, in fact the Taliban bans girls from receiving an education after the age of 8. The primary reason that the Taliban and other conservative entities have the power they do, is because they provide food, healthcare, and security in areas stricken by poverty and violence. That being said, education is a cost of these “benefits” and therefore, these communities are set back by this leadership because educating members of the community could eventually generate a political threat.
An article in the Guardian describes the Taliban as being “alarmingly efficient” in their war on education. Between the Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar in December 2014, to numerous other acts like acid acts and other violent behaviours towards students and teachers, mostly female, the Taliban has made it evident that going to school, and educating anyone, specifically girls, is not on their agenda. In Swat valley, Pakistan, where the Taliban has taken over girls are ‘banned’ from being enrolled in schools. The article states that “in Swat alone, about 120,000 girls and 8,000 women teachers stopped going to school.” With the Taliban’s influence still pretty strong in particular provinces across Pakistan and Afghanistan, going to school and being female is not only dangerous, it is illegal.