Stalled commission in Sindh

Article published in The Express Tribune on 26 April 2017

Women face numerous challenges to get access to justice in our country. Although the Constitution recognises the rights of all citizens without any distinction, women are usually discriminated against men with regard to education, health, access to justice, employment opportunities, etcetera. In a bid to end such discrimination, the National Commission on the Status of Women was established in 2000. One of its main goals was to devise laws affecting women and to look into the institutional policies for resolving the issues related to violations of women rights.

Following the 18th amendment to the Constitution in 2010, women development became a provincial subject. Accordingly, Punjab Commission on the Status of Women was constituted in 2014 followed by the K-P Commission on the Status of Women in 2016. In May 2015, the provincial governor approved the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Act of 2015 for immediate enforcement. The Act outlined the establishment of the commission to promote women’s rights. However, this 21-member body has not yet been constituted despite the stipulation that members must be appointed within 90 days of the passage of the Act. The delay clearly shows how muddled the government’s priorities are.

Such a dysfunctional forum discourages women from contacting the department(s) concerned. This lack of access to the real stakeholders cannot produce useful data to analyse the current situation of women in the province, which is imperative for policy planning and formulation. A majority of women who need help and support are based in the rural areas. Hence, restricting the commission to a federal extent is most likely to hinder the formulation and implementation of laws against discrimination of women. In the absence of a provincial commission, the access of the officials concerned is next to impossible at the local level. Women-centric issues cannot be dealt with a commission where the access of its staff is limited. Localising the commission will not only help in reaching out to all women but will also bring them into the mainstream for resolving their problems. A provincial commission, however, will serve as a springboard for active involvement of women in all spheres.

A more holistic way to address women issues is to have a widespread setup at district level. The Women Development Department or the Social Welfare Department in Sindh can play a lead role in housing the commission’s offices in every district or even tehsil in their existing office spaces. It is important that the district and tehsil level offices of the commission should not only be fully functional but also involved in educating women about their rights and what role the commission can play to alleviate their grievances. The commission office will surely act as a meeting or social gathering place for local women to discuss the day-to-day problems and help them make informed decisions. Its offices can host workshops in different towns to educate and enlighten women about its functions and the role it can play in women’s rights. Sindh has not appointed a minister as yet for this very important office. This shows the existing apathy towards the women of Sindh by a political party that is currently at the helm of affairs in the province.

Both the Child Marriage Restraint Act and the Hindu Marriage Act are welcome moves but the establishment of Sindh’s very own commission on the status of women will provide greater impetus to legislation affecting a larger segment of women. As a first step, Sindh authorities must show their resolve in putting a dedicated minister in place followed by the formation of a provincial commission to protect the rights of women. The formation of the commission must not be delayed any further.

Where are our female engineers?

The article was published on The Nation’s website on 21 June 2015

STEM

Recently Pakistan Medical and Dental Council abolished the merit-based system for admissions in medical colleges. Instead, a gender-based quota was introduced to balance the number of male doctors against female doctors in Pakistan. Currently majority students in medical colleges are female. However, the situation is grim in the representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.  Skills in STEM are the integral part of the economic well-being of any country. Advancement in science and technology are the center of wealth in today’s world.  For example Japan’s economy is heavily dependent on manufacturing and exporting the vehicles, computers, watches etc. Almost every year girls outshine boys in matriculation and intermediate examinations but we see them little in engineering universities. Most of these girls either want to be a doctor or a teacher.  There are few women at the undergraduate level in STEM subjects and even fewer at the top echelons. I have yet to see a woman chief engineer in Pakistan Railways or WAPDA.  Few reasons why women don’t opt for STEM subjects are:

·         Beliefs, Bias and Stereotypes:  Many a times I have heard this suggestion that “Never take tuition for mathematics from a woman” The reason behind such advice is the common bias we have against women in STEM. It is a general belief that women cannot be good with numbers. It’s not only at the university level that women are judged and thought to be less competent than man but they also have to encounter the same bias at the workplace. They have to work harder than their male counterparts to show their competence. Women are not particularly welcomed in engineering jobs as these jobs are considered “masculine”. It is therefore very difficult for a women to make a successful career due to unwelcoming behavior of her male colleagues.

Stereotypes about capability of woman in proving herself in STEM fields does exist. The most common stereotypes are: women are not as good as men in mathematics, and scientific work are done better by men and hence are not suited to women. Research has found that these negative stereotypes may affect the performance of a women and her future aspirations in STEM subjects through a phenomenon known as “stereotype threat”

According to a research carried out by Stanford University a “growth mindset” (which considers intelligence to be a changeable quality that can be enhanced by effort) which opposes the idea of “fixed mindset” (which deem intelligence as an inborn, uncontrollable trait) can result in greater perseverance against adversity and finally success in any field.  Usually, we have a fixed mindset about women that they cannot do exact calculations and measurements. Such mindset makes a women less confident about her mathematical skills and makes her belief that STEM subjects are not for her.

·         Popular Culture: Culture also plays a significant role in the decisions of women regarding their career. Girls grow up looking women in powerful positions as doctors, lawyers, journalists and politicians; making them their role model. Media also promotes stereotypes. While “Dexter” is a genius, his sister Dee Dee is always ruining his experiments. Children, particularly girls develop a belief that they cannot pursue a particular career because it’s not suitable for them

How to improve the number of women in STEM

As almost half of Pakistan’s population is women, we cannot afford to ignore them in STEM fields. It is important to educate and recruit women in STEM fields in order to be technologically advance.

·         It is important to fight the “fixed mindset” from early childhood. Children should be taught at home and at school that skills can be acquired through practice and hard work. Encourage them to take challenges and learn from the mistakes which are fundamental part of scientific contributions. Never ridicule them for their failed experiments.

·         Teachers at all levels should be made aware of this “stereotype threat” against women in STEM. They can play a part in encouraging the young girls to study STEM subjects and to make it their career.

·         The names of accomplished female scientists (similar to the compulsory topic of Muslim Scientists) and their achievements should be included in the curriculum so that young girls can make them their role model. Learning about successful female scientists and making them their role model will help girls in overcoming the stereotype threat.

·         Encourage children in school to develop cognitive and spatial skills. These skills help in getting success in the field of mathematics, engineering, economics and architecture

·         It is important to have different groups (professional or student) which provide a platform to women where they can discuss issues which are specifically women centered. IEEE Pakistan has opened up many Women In Engineering (WIE) student chapters which is a good sign. Such platforms help women in curbing the stereotype threat through seminars and workshops.

·         Teachers should be made aware of the “growth mindset” phenomenon. Even academics at the higher education level are often biased about women’s ability to reason and think which are the essentials of STEM fields. Professors often call their female students as “rattoo tota” who are good at memorizing stuff without understanding. This biased attitude towards women should immediately stop in our education sector.

Women play a vital role towards the economic progress. However, this is not possible unless they are thought to have equal intelligence as men. The biased attitude towards women is keeping them away from STEM fields.  The need of the hour is to educate and recruit women in STEM fields. Lesser women mean less economic progress as these days economic progress is directly proportional to technological advancement. Although the number of women studying STEM subjects have increased but it remains far lower than the women in medical science. Gender equality in STEM fields cannot be achieved overnight but we can at least try changing the stereotypes and the mindset which is keeping women away from the STEM fields.

Unsupervised madrassas have destroyed Sindh’s pluralism

The article was published on The Nation’s website on 27 March 2015

The-nation

Sindh is a land of Sufis where people belonging to all religions have lived in harmony for centuries. Jhoolay Laal or Laal Shahbaz Qalander of Sehwan is respected by Hindus and Muslims alike. Both throng the shrine of Qalander annualy for his urs. The recent attack on an Imambargah in Shikarpur may have shocked many due to the pluralistic and tolerant history of Sindhi society, however, it was not something unexpected. The first attack on Shias in Sindh had occurred in 1963 in Therhi town of Khairpur Mirs’ district. More than a hundred Shias were killed. The killers were associated with a wahabi madrassa in Therhi.

More than 50 years have passed since that incident but not much has changed. There have been many attacks on Shias during these 50 years, resulting in countless killings. As a formality, FIRs are registered but little action is taken against the culprits. Murderers of innocent people in the name of religion roam freely. We cannot ignore the factors that have harmed the pluralistic characteristic of Sindhi society. The state has knowingly either ignored or nurtured extremism in Sindh. It’s not just the Shia sect that is under severe threat but Ahmadis, Hindus and Sikhs are equally persecuted. The proliferation of madrassas preaching hatred and extremism is posing a threat to the suficulture of Sindh. Umerkot has more than 400 hundred madrassas despite the fact that half its population is Hindu. In Khairpur alone 93 madrassahs out of 117 are not registered. There have been several incidents of violence against minorities ignored by the government resulting in strengthening of fanatics. Let us look at the recent such incidents.

  • A Hindu temple was set on fire by a mob in Larkana in March 2014. . Days after the attack on the temple there was another attack on a Hindu temple in Hyderabad where the deity Hanuman’s idol was broken and the temple was set on fire. Later the temple in Larkana was repaired and visited by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while perpetrators of the crime are still at large.
  • An estimated 20 or more Hindu girls are kidnapped and ‘converted to Islam’ every month in Sindh. It should be noted that in most of these cases of conversions, girls have been married to Muslim men. Also, it is very rare for a Hindu man to convert who should actually be more in numbers due to their exposure and freedom to intermingle with people from different backgrounds. According to Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Dr. Azra Fazal, Hindu girls are forcibly converted by various madrassas in Sindh.
  • According to a survey conducted by the Sindh Home Ministry in 2013 about 67 per cent of madrassas are owned by people who do not have a Sindh domicile. 74 per cent of the madrassas are in urban Sindh. About 600 madrassas are termed dangerous in the survey. Despite that we see little action against those who are preaching hatred in the name of religion in madrassas.
  • Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat’s (ASWJ) recent rally in Karachi and the arrest of Muhammad Jibran Nasir(who was released after a few hours) clearly shows that the Sindh government has no intention to curb the growing militancy. ASWJ is a banned organization but their rally was given full police protection. Civil society members, meanwhile, were arrested when they protested against a banned militant outfit.

The above incidents are indicative of the presence of madrassas backed by militant jihadi outfits.  In order to curb this wave of militancy in Sindh every one should play their part to root out this menace from the province. The government that has the greatest responsibility, instead of providing police protection to the banned jihadi organizations, should prosecute those who are involved in the murder of the innocent citizens.

Hatred against non-Muslims or people from different sects is not just taught in madrassas but also in private schools, universities and our homes. The curriculum promotes religious bigotry. The word Hindu is a synonym for enemy in the textbooks. There is a lesson from 10th grade Urdu book titled “Somnath ka mandir” or “the temple of Somnath” where Mehmood Ghaznavi, a warrior of 11 century has been portrayed as a Muslim hero. His famous statement “I would like to be known as an idol breaker instead of an idol worshiper” which has so proudly been written in the book leaves a mark on the young minds and they start believing that idol breaking is a great service to Islam and Muslims. Such curriculum has resulted in people breaking idols in today’s Sindh. It’s about time that the curriculum is revised and is made free of any religious prejudice.

The state should be oblivious to the religious inclination of its citizens. It’s time that we revisit our official documents and make necessary amendments so that minorities can have equal say in the government. The Quaid-e-Azam himself was an Ismaili Shia and he believed that no one should be discriminated because of their religion. In his address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan he said

“You will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus, and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.

Unless the government is serious nothing can stop the growth of religious bigotry. Even the message of Sufis will be forgotten if we do not pass that on to our children. There are many dimensions to this one single problem of religious hatred. We need to change our attitude towards religion. We have to understand that religion is a personal choice and should not be imposed. Religious extremism in any form should not be tolerated. We did not take actions against those attacking our Hindu brothers in Sindh and now Shias have become their target. If we do not stop it today, these monsters will start killing Ismailis, Bohras, Parsis and then everyone.

گوسڑو ماستر تعلیم کے لیے خطرہ

Published by DAWN NEWS on 03 January 2015

آج کل سوشل میڈیا پر سندھ کے اسکولوں کے غیر حاضر اساتذہ کے خلاف ایک تحریک چل رہی ہے جسے ‘گوسڑو ماستر’ (غیر حاضر استاد) کا نام دیا گیا ہے۔ (دیکھیے یہاں، یہاں، اور یہاں

ایسے اساتذہ جنہوں نے کبھی اسکول میں قدم بھی نہیں رکھا، لیکن باقاعدگی سے تنخواہیں وصول کرتے ہیں، اب ان کے خلاف فیس بک اور ٹوئٹر پر مہم چلا کر انہیں شرم دلانے کی کوشش کی جارہی ہے۔

ایک عرصے سے حکومت گھوسٹ اسکولوں اور اساتذہ کے خلاف ایکشن لینے سے کترا رہی ہے، پر اس مہم نے متاثرہ طلبا اور ان کے والدین کو آواز فراہم کی ہے۔ سندھ کے سیکریٹری تعلیم نے بھی اس بات کا اعتراف کیا ہے کہ سندھ کے چالیس فیصد اساتذہ ‘گھوسٹ’ کیٹیگری میں آتے ہیں۔

سوشل میڈیا پر اس مہم کے آغاز کو ابھی کچھ ماہ ہی ہوئے ہیں، کہ سندھ کے رہنے والوں کو تبدیلی نظر آنا شروع ہوگئی ہے۔ نومبر 2014 میں صرف ضلع خیرپور میں 77 گھوسٹ اساتذہ کو معطل کیا گیا۔

میرا تعلق سندھ کے ایک چھوٹے سے گاؤں سے ہے، اور میں نے کچھ نہایت محنتی اساتذہ کو دلجمعی کےساتھ انتہائی سخت حالات میں کام کرتے دیکھا ہے۔ ایک طرف ہمارے پاس آسو بائی ہیں، ایک ایسی خاتون جو جسمانی معذوری کے باوجود معاشرے کی بہتری کے لیے تعلیم کے شعبے میں رضاکارانہ طور پر کام کر رہی ہیں، تو دوسری طرف ہمارے پاس گھوسٹ اساتذہ کی بھرمار ہے۔

اب آئیں اس بات کا جائزہ لیتے ہیں کہ یہ ‘گھوسٹ’ اساتذہ کیوں اسکول جانے سے کتراتے ہیں، اور کس طرح معاشرہ ڈیوٹی پوری نہ کرنے پر بھی ان کی حوصلہ افزائی کرتا ہے۔

اگر اسکول گاؤں میں ہے، تو زمیندار کا ہے

جاگیردارانہ نظام دیہی علاقوں میں تعلیم کی ترقی میں بڑی رکاوٹوں میں سے ایک ہے۔ جاگیردار یہ نہیں چاہتے کہ کوئی شخص ان سے زیادہ اہمیت یا طاقت حاصل کرلے، اور اسی لیے اپنے گاؤں میں محنتی اساتذہ کی شہرت برداشت نہیں کرپاتے۔

اس دفعہ مں نے ایک زمیندار کی جانب سے دی گئی بہت دلچسپ دلیل سنی: ‘کیونکہ زمین ان کی ہے، اس لیے حکومت کو اسکول کے لیے صرف جاگیردار کے نامزد کردہ اساتذہ بھرتی کرنے چاہیئں۔ کوئی بھی دوسرا استاد ناقابلِ قبول ہے۔

معاشرے کی بے توجہی

شاذ و نادر ہی ایسا ہوتا ہے کہ والدین گھوسٹ اساتذہ کے خلاف شکایت کریں۔ عام طور پر لوگوں میں یہ سوچ پائی جاتی ہے کہ چونکہ گھوسٹ اساتذہ کو تنخواہوں کی ادائیگی ان کی جیب کے بجائے حکومتی خزانے سے ہورہی ہے، اس لیے انہیں ان سے سوال کرنے یا ان کے بارے میں شکایت دائر کرنے کا کوئی حق نہیں ہے۔

اس کے علاوہ برادری نظام بھی آواز اٹھانے کی راہ میں رکاوٹ بنتا ہے۔ لوگ سمجھتے ہیں کہ اگر انہوں نے اپنی برادری کے کسی شخص کے خلاف شکایت کی تو وہ تنہا کردیا جائے گا۔

گھوسٹ اساتذہ کی معاشرے میں قبولیت

سوشل میڈیا پر گھوسٹ قرار دیے گئے زیادہ تر اساتذہ میں مشہور نام شامل ہیں جو قومی اور بین الاقوامی فورمز پر تعلیم کی اہمیت پر بڑی بڑی باتیں کرتے ہیں، لیکن اسکولوں میں اپنی ڈیوٹیاں پوری نہیں کرتے۔

سوسائٹی نے آہستہ آہستہ ان افراد کو ان کے اس جرم کے ساتھ قبول کرلیا ہے۔ اب ان لوگوں کو مزید شرم نہیں دلائی جاتی اور نہ ہی ان سے ان کی منافقت کے بارے میں سوال کیا جاتا ہے۔ اور ایسے ماحول میں ڈیوٹی پورا نہ کرنے کا کلچر پروان چڑھتا ہے۔

دوسری دنیا میں رہ رہے بابو

محکمہ تعلیم کے ذمہ داران اور دیگر اہم سیاسی شخصیات شاید ہی کبھی اپنے ٹھنڈے آفسوں سے باہر نکل کر یہ دیکھنے کی زحمت کرتے ہیں کہ اسکولوں میں کیا ہورہا ہے۔ جو لوگ ملوث ہیں، ان کے لیے تو یہ بالکل درست ہے۔ اور کچھ ذمہ داران جو کبھی جاتے ہیں، وہ بھی اپنے سامنے موجود اس زبردست چیلنج سے نظریں چراتے نظر آتے ہیں۔

اور وہ ایسا کیوں نہ کریں؟ ان اشرافیہ کے بچے مہنگے ترین پرائیویٹ اسکولوں اور بیرونِ ملک یونیورسٹیوں میں پڑھتے ہیں، اور اس لیے وہ ایسی کسی بھی چیز کو درست کرنا اپنی ذمہ داری نہیں سمجھتے، جس سے ان کا لینا دینا نہیں ہے۔

بھرتیوں میں اقربا پروری

تعلیم ایک بہت بڑا محکمہ ہے، اس لیے پسندیدہ افراد کے لیے جگہ بنانا کوئی مشکل کام نہیں۔ مختلف تعلیمی سطحیں رکھنے والے لاتعداد لوگوں کو اس طرح بھرتی کیا جاتا ہے۔ ان لوگوں میں وہ بھی شامل ہیں جنہیں الیکشن سے پہلے نوکری کی یقین دہانی کروائی گئی ہوتی ہے، اور وہ بھی جو باقی کسی بھی جگہ نوکری حاصل نہیں کرپاتے۔ ان سب لوگوں کو کسی نہ کسی طرح محکمہ تعلیم میں ‘ایڈجسٹ’ کرلیا جاتا ہے۔

پھر اس میں کوئی حیرت کی بات نہیں کہ اساتذہ سے لے کر اعلیٰ عہدیداران تک، بہت ہی کم لوگ ایسے ہیں جو واقعی اہلیت رکھتے ہیں۔ دلچسپ بات یہ ہے کہ 2013 میں خواتین امیدواروں کو صنفی رعایت کے طور پر مرد امیدواروں سے 20 مارکس زیادہ دیے گئے۔

لیکن ایک عورت ہونے کے باوجود میں یہ سمجھتی ہوں کہ یہ مرد امیدواروں کے ساتھ سراسر زیادتی ہے۔

حالات بہتر کیسے بنائے جائیں؟

  • حکومت کو گھوسٹ اساتذہ، گھوسٹ اسکولوں، اور ناکافی سہولیات کی شکایات کے ازالے کے لیے ایک شکایت مرکز بنانا چاہیے۔ محکمہ تعلیم کے افسران تک ای میل، فون، اور ڈاک کے ذریعے رسائی حاصل کرنا ممکن ہونا چاہیے۔ اس بات کو بھی یقینی بنانا چاہیے کہ شکایت کرنے والے شخص کی شناخت مکمل طور پر راز میں رکھی جائے۔
  • یہ وقت ہے کہ معاشرہ اب مجموعی طور پر تعلیم کے لیے اٹھ کھڑا ہو۔ ایسا کوئی بھی استاد جو اسکول میں باقاعدگی سے نہیں آتا، اس کی نوکری بھی باقی نہیں رہنے دینی چاہیے۔ گاؤں والوں کو چاہیے کہ وہ مقامی حکام پر زور دیں کہ وہ ایسے اساتذہ کو ان کے اسکول نہ بھیجیں، جو اپنی حاضری یقینی نہیں بنا سکتے۔ یہ جان لیجیے کہ اساتذہ اپنی غفلت کے لیے صرف محکمہ تعلیم کو ہی نہیں، بلکہ بچوں اور ان کے والدین کو بھی جوابدہ ہیں۔

  • ایسا کوئی بھی شخص جس پر گھوسٹ استاد ہونا ثابت ہوجائے، اسے کسی فورم یا کسی جگہ گفتگو کے لیے نہیں بلانا چاہیے۔ ہمیں اپنے بچوں کو تعلیم دلانے کے لیے خودغرضی اختیار کرنا ہوگی۔ بھول جائیں کہ ایسے لوگ آپ کے بھانجے بھتیجے اور کزن ہیں۔ اگر وہ آپ کے بچے کے مستقل کو سنجیدگی سے نہیں لے رہے، تو آپ بھی انہیں تنہا کریں۔

  • کئی گھوسٹ اساتذہ پرائیویٹ اداروں میں کام کر رہے ہیں۔ حکومت کو چاہیے کہ ایسا کوئی بھی ادارہ جو گھوسٹ اساتذہ کو اپنے پاس بھرتی کر کے ان سے کام لے، اس پر جرمانہ عائد کرے۔ محکمہ تعلیم کو چاہیے کہ وہ ہر ضلع کے اساتذہ کی لسٹ بنائے، اور یہ لسٹ اپنی ویب سائٹ پر جاری کردے تاکہ پرائیویٹ ادارے کسی بھی شخص کو اپنے پاس بھرتی کرنے سے پہلے چیک کرسکیں کہ کہیں وہ شخص پہلے سے سرکاری استاد تو نہیں۔

  • صوبائی دارالحکومتوں میں بیٹھے بابوؤں کو چاہیے کہ وہ تمام ضلعوں اور تعلقوں میں موجود اپنے ماتحتوں سے اسکولوں کے بارے میں ماہانہ رپورٹ طلب کریں۔ اگر وہ ہر ماہ کچھ دنوں کے لیے فیلڈ میں جائیں اور مختلف اسکولوں کے سرپرائز وزٹ کریں تو انہیں کوئی نقصان نہیں ہوگا۔ جو لوگ بھی اپنی ڈیوٹی سنجیدگی سے انجام نہیں دیتے ان کے خلاف سخت کارروائی ہونی چاہیے۔

  • بھرتیاں صرف اور صرف میرٹ کی بنیاد پر ہونی چاہیئں۔ میں ایک عورت ہوں اور استاد ہوں، اور مجھے خیرات میں 20 مارکس نہیں چاہیئں۔ خواتین اپنی اہلیت خود ثابت کرسکتی ہیں۔ اگر شکایت مرکز فعال ہے، تو لوگ کسی بھی ایسے شخص کے بارے میں شکایت درج کراسکیں گے جو نوکری کے لیے رشوت لے یادے رہا ہے۔

اساتذہ قوم کی تعمیر و ترقی میں اہم کردار ادا کرتے ہیں، لیکن اگر ہمارے اساتذہ نے یہ ذمہ داری نہیں نبھائی، تو ہماری قوم تعمیر نہیں ہوسکے گی۔

ہمارے پاس بہت سے ایسے اساتذہ ہیں جو پوری دیانتداری کے ساتھ اپنی ذمہ داریوں کی ادائیگی میں مصروف ہیں، لیکن گھوسٹ اساتذہ کو سسٹم سے باہر نکالنا وقت کی اہم ضرورت ہے۔

مجھے ڈر ہے کہ اگر ہم نے جلد از جلد قدم نہیں اٹھایا، تو یہ گھوسٹ اساتذہ رول ماڈل بن جائیں گے۔ بلکہ ایک طرح سے یہ بن بھی چکے ہیں۔ لیکن سوشل میڈیا مہم اس رجحان کے اختتام کی جانب ایک مثبت آغاز ہے۔ اس کے مثبت نتائج سامنے آئے ہیں، اور اگر اور کچھ نہیں تو یہ ضرور ثابت ہوا ہے کہ سسٹم تبدیل کرنے کی چاہت موجود ہے۔

وقت ہاتھ سے نکلتا جارہا ہے، کیا حکام کو اس بات کی فکر ہے؟

Why we have ‘Ghosro Masters’ and how to put an end to them

The article was published on Daily Dawn’s website on 30 December 2014

Ghosro

These days, a campaign ‘Ghosro Master’ against ghost teachers in Sindh, is underway on social media (take a look here, here and here).

So-called teachers who have never stepped inside their schools but are regularly drawing their salaries from the country’s exchequer are being identified and are shamed on Facebook and Twitter.

As the government drags its feet on action against these ghost schools/teachers, I believe this campaign has given a voice to the suffering students and parents. Sindh’s education secretary has also confessed that about 40 per cent of school teachers in Sindh fall under the ‘ghost’ category.

Just a few months since the start of this social media campaign, residents of Sindh already seem to have witnessed one instance of change: In November 2014, 77 ghost teachers were suspended in Khairpur district.

I belong to a small village of Sindh and have seen some very dedicated teachers working under harsh conditions. On the one hand, we have teachers like Asu Bai, a differently-abled lady who has worked voluntarily and against all odds for the betterment of the society we are living in. On the other hand, we have scores of ghost teachers.

Let us explore the reasons why these ‘ghosts’ are so reluctant to attend their schools and how they are being encouraged by the society for not performing their duties.

If it’s in the village, it belongs to the landlord

It is true that the feudal system is one of the biggest structural impediments to education in the rural areas. Landlords are mostly averse to letting any person become more important/powerful than them. They’re unable to digest the popularity of dedicated teachers at work in their villages.

This one time, I learned a very interesting reasoning given out by a landlord: since the land belongs to them, therefore the government should only send those teachers to the school who were nominated by the landlord. Any other teacher was just not acceptable.

Lack of interest by the community itself

Hardly ever do we see complaints lodged by parents against ghost teachers. The community believes that since they are not paying the teachers, therefore they have no right to question them or complain against their regular absences from school.

Another factor which hinders the community members from raising their voices is the strongbiradari (community) net. People believe that if they complain against their fellow tribesmen, they may end up alienating themselves.

Social acceptance of ghost teachers

Most of the ghost teachers identified on social media are famous names. They advocate the importance of education on national and international forums and portray themselves as paragons of education without showing any concern or interest about their own duties at school.

Society has shown an acceptance of this criminal act. No more are these people shamed or questioned for their hypocrisy. Obviously, the ducking of duties flourishes in this conducive environment.

Babus living in a different world

People in the education department and most key political figures hardly ever leave their air-conditioned offices to check what’s happening in the schools. That is true for at least most who are involved. And the few who do go out tend to avert their eyes and hide beyond excuses to avoid confronting the massive challenge that lies before them.

And why shouldn’t they? The children of these elites study in top notch private schools and universities abroad — they don’t feel responsible for correcting something for which they are not the supposed stakeholder.

Nepotism and cronyism in appointments

Since education is a huge department, there is lots of space for cronies to be stuffed into. Countless appointments are made of persons with all levels of qualification. Everyone from those promised jobs prior to elections, to those who have failed in securing jobs anywhere else, are welcome, and are somehow adjusted in the education department.

No wonder, then, that from the higher officials down to the teachers, few people have real knowledge of the subjects. Interestingly, history was made in 2013 when, female candidates were given extra 20 marks for “gender relaxation“.

I, despite being a woman, believe that it is nothing but an utter injustice to male candidates.

To-do list for improving the situation

  • Education department should make a complaint cell for lodging complaints against ghost teachers, ghost schools and insufficient facilities at the school. Education department officials should be accessible to people via email, telephone and post. It should also be ensured that the identity of the complainant is kept strictly confidential.
  • It’s time that the community as a whole stand up for education. Any teacher whose attendance is not regular should not be allowed to stay in that school. Villagers should put pressure on the local education authorities for not sending any such teacher to their school who is unable to ensure his/her attendance. It’s time to realise that school teachers are not just answerable to the education department but also to the pupils and to their parents for their apathy to the school.
  • Any person who is found guilty of being a ghost teacher should not be invited to speak at forums or gatherings. We have to be selfish in order to get our children educated. Forget about them being your nephews or cousins. If they are not taking your children’s future seriously, you should stop taking them. Isolate them.
  • Many of the ghost teachers are working in private institutes. The government could impose a fine on any organisation hiring ghost teachers and asking them to work for them during term time. It is also important that education department makes a district-wise list of all the teachers and make this database publicly available via their website. This will enable private organisations to check if a person is already employed by the education department.
  • Babus sitting in their offices in the provincial capitals should seek monthly report from their subordinates from every district and taluka regarding schools. It will do them no harm if they go out in the field for a few days and pay surprise visits to different districts every month. Strict action should be taken against those who are not taking their duties seriously.
  • Appointments should be made only on merit. I am a woman and a teacher and I don’t think women need 20 marks in charity. They can very well prove themselves. If the complaint cell is functional, people will be able to register complaints against anyone attempting to bribe them for appointment.

Teachers play a vital role in building nations, we’ll never build ours if our teachers are not up to the task.

While we have had plenty who devoted their lives to this cause, becoming role models for the next generation; the elimination of ghost teachers is the need of the hour.

I am afraid if we don’t act fast enough, these ghost teachers will become the role model, in fact they might already have. In any case, the social media campaign is a positive development to the end of countering this trend. It has had some positive results and if nothing else, at least proves there is a will to change the system.

Time is running out. Do the authorities care?

پاکستانی یونیورسٹیز میں ریسرچ کی حالت زار

Published by DAWN NEWS on 23 November 2014

ترقی یافتہ ممالک میں یونیورسٹیوں میں باقاعدہ ریسرچ کلچر موجود ہوتا ہے۔ تعلیمی شعبے میں ہونے والی ریسرچ ان ممالک کی ترقی میں سب سے زیادہ کردار ادا کرتی ہے۔

پاکستان کی یونیورسٹیوں میں کلاسز میں پڑھانے پر تو کافی زور دیا جاتا ہے، لیکن اگر ریسرچ کی بات کی جائے تو پاکستان کو اس کی معاشی، سماجی، اور سائنسی پالیسیاں بنانے میں مدد کے لیے بہت ہی کم کام کیا جارہا ہے۔

میں گذشتہ سات سالوں سے اکیڈمکس اور ریسرچ سے وابستہ ہوں، اور ہمارے ریسرچرز کی جانب سے کی گئی ریسرچز کی کوالٹی نے مجھے ہمیشہ ڈسٹرب کیا ہے۔

پاکستانی یونیورسٹیوں میں ریسرچ کی خراب صورتحال کی کئی وجوہات ہیں، لیکن صحیح سمت میں اٹھائے گئے کچھ اقدامات سے ان میں سے کئی مسائل کو حل کیا جاسکتا ہے۔

پروموشن کے لیے ریسرچ

2002 میں ہائیر ایجوکیشن کمیشن (ایچ ای سی) نے یونیورسٹیوں میں اصلاحات لانے کا کام شروع کیا تھا۔ ہزاروں اسکالرز کو اعلیٰ تعلیم کے لیے باہر بھیجا گیا تھا، جس میں سے کئی اب واپس آچکے ہیں اور پاکستان کی خدمت کر رہے ہیں۔

لیکن بھلے ہی ایچ ای سی اس بات کو قانونی بانڈ کے ذریعے یقینی بناتا ہے کہ اسکالرز ملک واپس ضرور آئیں، لیکن ایچ ای سی کی جانب سے پی ایچ ڈی کے دوران ریسرچ پبلیکیشنز کی تعداد اور کوالٹی کے متعلق کوئی معیار موجود نہیں ہے۔

کچھ ریسرچ سپروائزر اپنے ریسرچ گروپ کی انٹرنیشنل رینکنگ کی وجہ سے ریسرچ کی کوالٹی پر زور دیتے ہیں لیکن زیادہ تر کو اس بات سے کوئی فرق نہیں پڑتا۔ باہر کے ممالک میں نامور یونیورسٹیوں سے اپنی تعلیم مکمل کر رہے اسکالرز تھوڑے لیکن اچھی کوالٹی کے پیپرز پبلش کرتے ہیں، لیکن یہاں پر تو معاملہ ہی الٹ ہے۔

پاکستان کی یونیورسٹیوں میں پروموشن کے لیے پی ایچ ڈی کے ساتھ ساتھ پیپرز کی ایک مخصوص تعداد ہونی چاہیے۔ ترقی کے معاملے میں پبلیکیشن کی کوالٹی کو نظرانداز کر کے صرف اور صرف تعداد دیکھی جاتی ہے۔ نتیجہ یہ نکلتا ہے کہ ایک ایسا شخص جس کی پبلیکیشنز کم، لیکن سینکڑوں حوالہ جات کے ساتھ ہوں، وہ پیچھے رہ جاتا ہے جب کہ نامعلوم جرنلوں اور کانفرنسوں میں پبلش ہونے والے غیرمعیاری پیپرز کی بنا پر پروفیسر کا رتبہ حاصل کرلیا جاتا ہے۔ اس وجہ سے اکیڈمکس اپنی پی ایچ ڈی مکمل کرنے کے بعد محنت کرنے سے کتراتے ہیں، اور ایک بار پاکستان واپس آجانے کے بعد وہ ہر طرح کی مبہم کانفرنسوں اور جرنلوں میں اپنے پیپرز شائع کرا لیتے ہیں۔

فیکلٹی کے درمیان حسد اور عدم تحفظ

یہ بات اہم ہے کہ یونیورسٹیوں میں تعلیمی ڈپارٹمنٹس کے اکثر سربراہان خود باقاعدہ طور پر ریسرچ کی سرگرمیوں سے دور رہتے ہیں۔

اور یہی وہ بنیادی وجہ ہے جس کی وجہ سے ہیڈز آف ڈپارٹمنٹس اپنے اپنے ڈپارٹمنٹ میں ریسرچ کا کلچر بڑھانے پر توجہ نہیں دیتے۔ ان میں سے کئی اس بات سے بھی خوفزدہ ہوتے ہیں کہ ان کے جونیئر کہیں اچھی کوالٹی کا پیپر شائع کرانے میں کامیاب ہوکر ملکی یا عالمی شہرت حاصل نہ کرلیں۔

مجھے یقین ہے کہ یہ مضمون پڑھنے والوں میں سے کئی لوگ اس مسئلے سے اتفاق کریں گے۔ عدم تحفظ کا شکار ہیڈ آف ڈپارٹمنٹ اپنے ماتحتوں پر کام کا زیادہ سے زیادہ بوجھ ڈالتے ہیں، یا بنیادی وسائل جیسے کہ پرنٹر اور لیپ ٹاپ وغیرہ فراہم نہ کر کے رکاوٹیں ڈالتے ہیں۔

یہ سب چیزیں مل کر ہمارے اداروں میں اکیڈمکس کی پسماندہ صورتحال کا باعث بنتی ہیں۔

رابطے اور تعاون کی کمی

ریسرچ کو دوسروں تک پہنچانا، اور مستقبل کے کام کے لیے تعاون کرنا، اچھی کوالٹی کی ریسرچ کے لیے نہایت اہمیت کے حامل ہیں۔

پاکستان میں یونیورسٹیاں اپنے ٹیچرز کی ریسرچ کو آگے پھیلانے کی جانب کوئی توجہ نہیں دیتیں۔ اس کی وجوہات بھی تقریباً وہی ہیں جو اوپر دی گئیں، یعنی ناپسندیدگی، تعلقات اور نیٹ ورکنگ کی کمزوری، حسد، اور ایسے کلچر کا موجود ہونا شامل ہیں، جس میں پسمنظر میں رہنے کو ترجیح دی جاتی ہے، اور جس کے خلاف جنگ کافی مشکل ہے۔

اگر ریسرچ اتنی خراب کوالٹی کی ہے کہ وہ آگے پھیلائے جانے کے قابل بھی نہیں، تو الزام کسے دیا جائے؟

فنڈنگ حاصل کرنے کا مشکل طریقہ کار

اور زیادہ تر ریسرچ اتنی خراب کوالٹی کی کیوں ہوتی ہے؟ اس کی ایک وجہ یہ ہے کہ اصلی اور حیران کن ریسرچ کے لیے فنڈنگ کی ضرورت ہوتی ہے۔

ترقی یافتہ ممالک میں یونیورسٹیوں کے پاس اپنے اکیڈمکس کی تربیت کے لیے خصوصی فنڈز ہوتے ہیں، جس سے انہیں سمر اسکولز اور ورکشاپس میں بھیجا جاتا ہے۔ سیمینارز کرانا معمول ہوتا ہے، جس میں دنیا بھر سے مشہور اسکالرز کو مدعو کیا جاتا ہے تاکہ وہ نوجوان ریسرچرز کے سامنے اپنی تحقیق پیش کرسکیں۔

ایچ ای سی کے پاس کانفرنسیں کرانے کے لیے فنڈز موجود ہیں، جبکہ کانفرنسوں میں شرکت کرنے کے لیے ریسرچرز کو ٹریول گرانٹ بھی دی جاتی ہیں، لیکن اس کا مرحلہ کافی طویل ہوتا ہے۔ ریسرچرز کو کانفرنس میں شرکت کے لیے ویزا کے لیے اپلائی کرنا پڑتا ہے، اور فنڈنگ ملنے کے طویل مرحلے کے باعث کئی دفعہ ریسرچرز وقت پر ویزا حاصل کرنے میں ناکام رہتے ہیں۔

اکیڈمکس اور انڈسٹری کے درمیان فاصلے

پوری دنیا میں انڈسٹری اکیڈمکس کے ساتھ مل کر کام کرتی ہے تاکہ بہترین کوالٹی کی ریسرچ سے موجودہ مسائل کا حل نکالا جاسکے۔ اکیڈمکس سے انڈسٹری کی جانب معلومات کا یہ سفر ہی ترقی یافتہ معیشتوں کی ترقی کا راز ہے۔

پاکستان میں اکیڈمکس اور انڈسٹری کے درمیان یہ خلیج بہت وسیع ہے۔ نہ ہی انڈسٹری کے مسائل کے حل کے لیے ریسرچ کی جاتی ہے، اور نہ ہی یہ اتنی اچھی ہوتی ہے کہ کوئی مسئلہ حل کرسکے۔ حقیقی دنیا سے تعلق میں کمی بھی اس بات کی وجہ ہے کہ ہمارے گریجویٹس کو پروفیشنل دنیا کے لیے بےہنر اور ناکافی سمجھا جاتا ہے۔

اس سب کو درست کیسے کیا جائے؟

یونیورسٹیوں میں صحتمند اور فائدہ مند ریسرچ کا کلچر پیدا کرنے کے لیے ہمیں طویل مدتی اقدامات کرنے ہوں گے، اور اپنی یونیورسٹیوں میں ایسا ماحول پیدا کرنا ہوگا، جو ریسرچ کے لیے سازگار ہو۔

۔ سب سے پہلے تو ایچ ای سی کو اپنی پالیسی پر نظرِثانی کرتے ہوئے بھرتیوں اور ترقییوں کے لیے صرف ان پیپرز کو مدِنظر رکھنا چاہیے جو کہ کسی اچھے اور اثرانگیز کانفرنس یا جرنل میں شائع ہوئے ہوں۔

۔ سینیئرترین اکیڈمکس کو ریسرچ میں مصروف رکھنے کے لیے یونیورسٹیوں کو اس بات کو لازمی قرار دینا چاہیے کہ وہ ہر سال کم از کم ایک اچھی کوالٹی کا پیپر پہلے مصنف (first author) کے طور پر ضرور شائع کریں۔ اس سے یہ ہوگا کہ ٹینیور حاصل کرچکے پروفیسر بھی پوسٹ حاصل کرچکنے کے بعد ریسرچ کو فل اسٹاپ لگانے کے بجائے ریسرچ میں عملی طور پر حصہ لیں گے۔

۔ اسکالرز کی بڑی تعداد کی پاکستان واپسی کو مدِنظر رکھتے ہوئے یہ ضروری ہے کہ ان نئے آنے والوں کے لیے آسانیاں پیدا کی جائیں اور انہیں سسٹم میں جگہ فراہم کی جائے۔ معمول کی بنیاد پر ہفتہ وار میٹنگز کرائی جائیں جس میں فیکلٹی ممبران پراجیکٹس کو ڈسکس کریں۔ یہ بہتر رابطے و تعلقات، باہمی انڈراسٹینڈنگ اور ریسرچ کو ملک اور ملک سے باہر دیگر ریسرچرز تک پہنچانے میں مددگار ثابت ہوگا۔ اس طرح کی کاوشوں سے زیادہ بہتر تعاون پر مبنی ریسرچ سامنے آئے گی۔

۔ ایچ ای سی کو چاہیے کہ ٹریول گرانٹس کی منظوری کے طویل مرحلے کو چھوٹا کرے، اور اگر ممکن ہو تو کڑی شرائط کو بھی تھوڑا آسان کردیا جائے۔ اسکالرز کو سیمینارز وغیرہ کے لیے باہر بھیجنے کا طریقہ کار آسان ہونا چاہیے۔

۔ انڈسٹری اور اکیڈمکس کے درمیان تعلق نہایت ضروری ہے۔ اگر پراجیکٹس میں طلبا کو شامل کیا جائے، تو انڈسٹری کے مسائل کو کم قیمت پر حل کیا جاسکتا ہے۔ اس کا ایک طریقہ یہ ہے کہ بیچلر اور ماسٹرز کے طلبا کو ریسرچ پر مبنی چھوٹے پراجیکٹس دیے جائیں، جن میں پہلا سپروائزر یونیورسٹی سے، جبکہ دوسرا سپروائزر انڈسٹری سے ہو۔

طلبا اکثر اوقات انڈسٹری کو درپیش مسائل کا کم قیمت حل ڈھونڈ نکالتے ہیں، جو کہ کمپنیوں کے لیے پرکشش ہوگا۔ دوسری جانب یونیورسٹیاں ان کے آئیڈیاز کے بدلے انڈسٹری سے فنڈنگ اور آلات حاصل کرسکتی ہیں۔

پاکستان میں اکیڈمک ریسرچ ابھی نسبتاً نئی ہے، لیکن پھر بھی ایچ ای سی کو اعلیٰ تعلیم کے لیے اپنے اسکالرز کو باہر بھیجتے ہوئے ایک دہائی سے زیادہ عرصہ ہوگیا ہے۔

اب آگے بڑھنے، اور انڈر گریجویٹ اور پوسٹ گریجویٹ پروگرامز میں ریسرچ پر مبنی پراجیکٹ متعارف کرانے کا وقت ہے۔ ہم ایک رات میں مکمل طور پر نیا کلچر تو تشکیل نہیں دے سکتے، لیکن کم از کم اتنا تو کرسکتے ہیں کہ انڈرگریجویٹ سطح پر ریسرچ کی بنیادی تعلیم دیں۔

Why our universities are miserable at research and how to fix it

The article was published on Daily Dawn’s website on 2 November 2014

HEC1

Universities in developed countries have an established research culture. The research output of academia greatly contributes towards the development of these countries.

While universities in Pakistan have the convention of strong classroom teaching, when it comes to research, too little is being carried out to help Pakistan shape its economic, social and scientific policies.

I have been associated with academia and research for more than seven years, and it has always disturbed me to look at the quality of publications most of our researchers produce.

There are several reasons for the sloppy state of research activity in Pakistani universities. But many of these can be resolved with a few steps in the right direction.

Research for the sake of promotion

In 2002, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) started to introduce reforms in universities. Thousands of scholars were sent abroad for higher studies and many of them have already returned and are now serving in Pakistan.

However, although HEC makes sure that scholars do come back after completing their education in foreign countries by signing a legal bond with them, the HEC has set no criteria for the number and quality of publications produced during the course of these PhDs.

Some supervisors fuss over the quality of research due to the international ranking of their research group, but most do not bother at all. Scholars pursuing their studies from reputed universities abroad publish fewer but quality papers whereas for the ones here, it is the other way round.

Universities in Pakistan require a certain number of publications along with a PhD for promotion. The quality of publications is conveniently ignored and so a person having fewer good publications with hundreds of citations is left behind while someone having lot of publications in unknown conferences and journals grabs the position of a tenured professor. This puts off academics from working hard after completing their PhDs and once back in Pakistan, they end up publishing in all sorts of shady journals/conferences.

Jealousies and insecurities amid faculty

It is important to note that most of the people heading individual teaching departments in universities are not actively involved in research themselves.

That is a major reason why these HoDs (Heads of Department) are lax in pushing their departmental colleagues on research, too. Many even feel threatened by the prospect of their younger colleagues getting a high-quality paper published and obtaining critical acclaim or national/international recognition.

I’m sure many of the readers here are more than familiar with this issue — insecure HoDs burdening their subordinates with extra workload; creating hindrances by withholding basic resources like laptops, printers etc.; being generally lazy and what not.

All these factors contribute heavily to the decrepit state of academics in our institutes.

Poor communication and collaboration

Communicating the research and collaborating for future work are two main ingredients for carrying out quality research.

In Pakistan, universities pay no attention to communicating and disseminating the research of their teachers. The reasons for this are much the same as those detailed above: indolence, poor networking and relations, jealousy and just an entrenched culture that has accepted mediocrity as its hallmark and has long been hopeless in the fight against it.

All said, if the research being done is too poor to even merit proper dissemination, who could one really blame?

Tortuous processes of acquiring funding

And why is most of the research poor? Well, a primary reason is because original, groundbreaking research needs funding.

Universities in developed countries have special funds for the training of their academics, for which they send them to summer schools and workshops. Regular seminars are conducted and renowned scholars are invited from all over the world to communicate their research to the young researchers.

HEC does have some funding for organising conferences and travel grants for researchers attending conferences, but the process is too long. Researchers have to apply for the visas before traveling to the conference venue and due to the long process of funding approval, sometimes they are unable to get the visas on time.

Gulf between academia and industry

Around the world, industry works in collaboration with academia so cutting-edge research can solve the relevant problems of the age. This transfer of knowledge from academia to industry is of primary focus in developed economies.

In Pakistan, however, the gap between academia and industry is too wide. Neither is research shaped by industry concerns, nor is it good enough to address them anyway. The detachment from the real world is also the reason our graduates are deemed ill-equipped and inadequate for the professional world, when they go out job-hunting.


How to fix the decrepit research culture


For inculcating healthy and fruitful research practices in academia, we need to start thinking long-term and create research-conducive environments in our universities.

  • To begin with, HEC must follow a policy of accepting only those publications for promotion/selection, which have been published in high-impact places.
  • To keep the senior-most academics involved in research, universities should make it mandatory for every faculty member to publish at least one good quality paper as a lead author every year. This will ensure that even the tenured professors take active part in research and do not put a full stop to it after securing their post.
  • Seeing as a significant number of scholars are now returning to Pakistan, it is the next natural step to facilitate these new inductees and help them gel into the system here. To this end, regular, weekly meetings shoud be conducted, where faculty members get together to discuss ongoing projects. This will be a step towards better communication and networking, mutual understanding and improved dissemination of knowledge to fellow academics not just across but outside of Pakistan. Ultimately, efforts like these will result in more productive research collaborations.
  • To tackle the issue of lengthy processes of travel-grant approvals, HEC must streamline processes and maybe loosen up the requirements a bit, if possible. Sending abroad/inviting home scholars for seminars should be much easier than it currently is.
  • The symbiosis of industry and academia is imperative. Industrial problems can be solved at lower costs if students are involved in the projects. One way of doing this is to assign small research-based projects to Bachelors and Masters students, with the first supervisor from academia and the second supervisor from the industry.

Students usually offer industrial solutions at a small price, which should be attractive to companies. The university, on the other hand, can complement their research by securing funds and equipment for students from the industry in exchange for their ideas.


Although academic research is new to Pakistan, it has already been a decade since HEC started this programme of sending scholars abroad for higher education.

It is now time to forge ahead and introduce research-based projects in our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. We cannot conjure a whole new culture overnight, but let us at least start with introducing the basics of research at undergraduate level.

Quota for women in medical colleges

Published in The Frontier Post  on 2 November 2014

Medical-Colleges-in-Lahore

Every year we have an orientation day for the new entrants in the university. After they have been introduced with the faculty and informed about the university rules, they are allowed to ask questions. Few years back one student asked a question that, “Why can’t you limit the intake of girl students. They just get married after graduation whereas boys struggle to find a job with low merit” To this one of the faculty members simply replied “Who has stopped you from studying. Why don’t you work hard. Also, allow your wife to work once you get married”

On 27 September 2014 Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) made its new admission policy public. According to this new policy, girls will not be given more than 50 percent seats even if they are on merit. The reason behind this decision of PMDC was the fact that girls don’t practice medical due to various reasons. Instead of addressing the real problem the government has conveniently decided to kill merit. Its like calling a heart surgeon to treat a bone fracture. Medical is a profession where a little negligence or incompetence can lead to someone’s death. PMDC is now openly allowing incompetent men to enter the field of medicine to avoid competent females.

Due to increasing number of female students its about time that we address the reasons behind them leaving their professions. Its never easy for a a women who has burned the midnight oil to acquire higher education to leave her profession. She has to make a choice between her family and a career, and its always the family that wins.

Countries like United Kingdom allow women to take one year leave after giving birth to a baby. This gives women enough time to spend with her newborn and breastfeed the baby for one year as recommended by the health department. Although, Pakistan is a Muslim country and Islam directs woman to breastfeed her children, women are only allowed to take 12 weeks maternity leave. Lactation break during working hours have never been given due consideration by the organizations hiring women. The woman is not even settled in her new role as a mother when she is required to go back to her work. This often results in a constant feeling of guilt of ignoring her baby and leaving him at the mercy of maids at this young age. This guilt leads to the decision of leaving professional life for good.

There are not enough day care centers where women can leave their children while they go to work. Also, there are no after school clubs where children can be occupied while mothers are at their workplace. Flexible working hours for women with small kids should also be introduced. Facilitating women in carrying out their familial duties will automatically result in women pursuing their careers. It is important to understand that given the opportunity women can lead a very successful career and a very happy family life. It needs to be understood that if you want a women to work you cannot ask her to choose either family or career. She cannot stop being a mother and a wife if she chooses a career. Working environments need to be made conducive for women. Killing merit will not solve the problem. It will instead aggravate the problems due to the incompetent lot who don’t have the merit for the jobs they are doing. This decision of PMDC makes me afraid that it will set a precedent. Tomorrow Pakistan Engineering Council might issue similar notification. Such biased decision will only result in limiting opportunities for women in every sphere of life where they already have too little choices to make.

Trouble in the cloud leaves businesses tied to their servers

Published in the Conversation on 15 May 2014

Republished by phys.org on 16 May 2014

Cloud

Cloud computing is being heralded as the next big thing. Gone are the days when people and businesses need to maintain expensive hardware to store their information, they can now pay someone else to look after it and access it whenever or wherever they like. But problems with the way the cloud operates are holding us back. Users are not quite ready to move completely to this brave new world because of some potentially serious glitches.

One particularly exciting feature of the cloud is the cost of using it. You spend money on storing information on someone else’s server rather than maintaining your own.

But the cloud has a significant caveat. It is essentially a black box. Users know little about its internal structure, how it functions and who has access to the data inside. We put information up there and hope it comes out again, without knowing anything about what happens in between.

Amazon Web Services, one of the biggest providers in the world, has tried to win the confidence of users by publishing information about its security mechanisms. But a look at this informationreveals that, due to the unpredictable nature of the internet, the company cannot guarantee the security of user data. The users are therefore responsible for protecting and backing up their content.

Careful reading of Amazon Web Services’ customer agreementshows that the company is not liable if your data is altered or deleted, nor if it is affected by any kind of security breach. The only thing the company promises in the service agreement is that the cloud will be available 99.95% of the time. If it isn’t, the customer gets compensation in the form of credit.

That means if the customer has paid upfront for using the cloud for ten hours, they are tied to the contract, even if the uptime was below 99.95%. All they get if the service was down is more time in the cloud. They don’t even get a refund.

This is a significant problem that could put customers off. If a business has stored large amounts of data in a cloud service and there is a fault, the cost of the downtime – even if it is very short – may be significant. It might even be more than the investment made in using the cloud service in the first place.

Getting locked into the wrong cloud in this way is a major concern for users and prevents them from adopting the new service. Due to the non-negotiable nature of service agreements, users have little recourse if things go wrong. The cloud service provider is always in a win-win situation.

We identified a number of other risks that cloud users might come across. These included the potential for insiders with malicious intent to access their data; difficulty accessing the data for other reasons; and the need to comply with certain standard set by the industry.

Problems like these could lead to financial losses, a loss of customer trust, damage to business reputation, losing company secrets and even the risk of going bust. The risks are huge and cannot be ignored.

Silver lining

Most of these problems can be solved though, and the solution lies in the agreements users make with cloud providers.

A university, for example, is subject to the freedom of information act in the UK. That means it has certain obligations relating to how it handles data. A university cannot afford to send its data to any cloud whose data centres are based outside the European Union because of the Data Protection Act 1998. Those servers may be based in a country that does not have the same regulations as the UK so the data may not be as secure.

Similar problems are faced by health authorities that need to store sensitive information about patients. Even organisations who store less sensitive information may have to deal with completely unanticipated problems if they store their information on servers in far away places.

For these reasons and more, a cloud service provider must inform potential customers if they send data to centres in other countries. For UK universities, this means stating if the centre is based outside the EU. The terms of service are the ideal place to raise this.

Since the cloud is a black box, customers have to rely on the information given to them in the terms of service to make decisions about whether to use the cloud. They also need to rely on the reputation of providers to decide which service to choose. This is of utmost importance because they are, in many respects, handing over the governance of their data to a private company.

At the moment, the terms of service offered by cloud providers are far too static. To make the adoption process work, it is important that they negotiate their terms of service with users according to their requirements.

Different organisations have different needs and that will have to be reflected in terms of service if our future really rests in the cloud. As well as stating where servers are, individual contracts should also be able to provide clear information to customers on any other factors that might undermine their commitments to local legislation.

Businesses want to use the cloud. It is a cost effective way to store the immense amount of data being created these days. But they are wary because of the risks still inherent in cloud adoption. Significant creases need to be ironed out before they can safely ditch their servers.

Banking hours for employees

The letter was published in Daily Dawn on 31 August 2013

This is apropos Hasan Shariq’s letter ‘Banking employees’ woes’ (Aug 27). The writer has well described the woes of the bankers.

I second his argument that the State Bank of Pakistan is extremely strict about bankers arriving at their workplace before 9 o’clock.

The job nature of bankers does not allow them to leave their work place during office hours in spite of the fact that the banks usually require their staff to be in office after office hours.

One may usually find the bank staff in their respective branches till 8pm. Decisions to open branches on Sundays usually happens for the collection of income tax and other government duties.

As a regulator senior SBP officials should make surprise visits to banks after office hours and if any staff is found in any bank’s premises, the bank should be fined.

GHAZANFAR ALI ZARDARI
Hyderabad