Arif Alvi on co-education: Why succumb to the Taliban?

Published: June 25, 2013

It is ironic how Alvi was voted in after immense controversy by the so-called educated urban elite of Karachi. PHOTO: PPI

Recently, a controversial statement was made by the champion of Clifton and Defence, MNA Arif Alvi, who also happens to be the Chief Whip of PTI. He felt, during a television talk show, that it was perfectly acceptable to give in to the Taliban’s demand for the abolishment of coeducational schooling.

He voiced his opinion on this topic and stated that segregating schooling was something cultural and acceptable.

Some Pakistanis including myself might believe that giving into anything that the Taliban demand by force is as bad a blow to Pakistani sovereignty as illegal drone strikes, but that’s just the pseudo-liberal lot and beside the point.

Alvi later took it to Twitter to clarify his stance and spoke about how parents had the right to choose whichever kind of schooling they wanted their children to receive and that kind of schooling (whether co-ed or single-sex) in any given constituency should be decided democratically.

It is worthwhile to mention here that the effectiveness of Twitter clarifications is also questionable due to the amount of Pakistanis that might use Twitter and Pakistan’s low percentage of internet penetration. The number of television viewers on the other hand has to be far greater. Also, such clarification after a massive wave of criticism seems more damage control than actual political stance, and once something of this sort is said, true opinion seems to come to light and it is very difficult to put the cat back in the bag.

Later revelations aside, during the said show, Alvi made some very interesting points. He thought coeducation was not exactly compatible with all of Pakistan and even hinted that if someone disagreed, St Joseph’s School in Karachi should be shut down. Also, with reference to a meeting with representatives of the Australian High Commission, he said we (the PTI) are very concerned about women’s rights but don’t believe in imposing these rights.

Again, most of Pakistan including myself might disagree and feel regardless of all politics and democratic decrees that both single-sex and co-ed options should be available to constituents, and that where ever women’s rights are being oppressed, those rights should be imposed irrespective of cultural norms or traditions.

On the topic of women’s rights, Khan also quite recently voiced his discontent over reserved seats for women in parliament and later went on to have his party represent the lowest percentage of women contesting on general seats during the 2013 election. The icing on the cake though has to be the agreement that PTI co-signed with a number of political parties in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), which they currently rule, to bar women from voting in Upper and Lower Dir. Let’s also not forget that PTI is currently coalition partners with Jamaat-e-Islami in K-P who have also historically not been the strongest supporters of women’s rights either.

Coming back to MNA Alvi, it is indeed very interesting that he supports the idea of the abolishment of co-ed schooling particularly in regions that the Taliban menace is rampant because the Taliban have also had a history of attacking girls’ schools and colleges and are very opposed to girls being educated. Malala Yousufzai seems like a very appropriate name to quote at this point. Thus, supposing co-ed education is banned by law, how comfortable might families be to send their daughters to places that could very well be obvious extremist targets is also a relevant concern.

This whole business of negotiating with irrational savages just seems confusing and futile. It has to be reiterated, so that there is no middle ground to accommodate what the Taliban want, while obeying the laws and regulations set by the Constitution of Pakistan.

One has to wonder what Alvi’s take might be on the workplace and whether he feels men and women should interact with each other after school and after completion of their education.

The economic viability of having to now build two different schools for both sexes also cannot be ignored in a third world country where primary education as a whole is already facing a significant number of obstacles and problems.

To conclude, it is ironic how Alvi was voted in after immense controversy by the so-called educated urban elite of Karachi; one must wonder whether this was the Naya Pakistan they spent hours in line to vote for, not once but twice, and then even risked their lives by protesting outside on the streets for days on end.

Surely, campaigning is a lot more fun than actually having to govern.

Read more by Shahryar here, or follow him on Twitter @Shahryar92


Shahryar Khan

A digital marketer and concerned citizen, who tweets @Shahryar92 (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Shumaila Aftab

    Gender apartheid being promoted by some people is very disappointing.Why are we determined to take back our society to the dark ages? This appeasement of religious fanatics will end where? Appeasement and surrender never work.The people threatening only get more encouraged when they see the other side capitulating meekly.
    Co-education should be allowed to go on,it only helps better understanding between genders and prepares students for life in the real world.Recommend

  • Abdul Basit

    But the beard is not only on the face,some people in our society are clean shaven but have the biggest beard in the stomach.They’re the real dangers,the ones pretending to be progressive but who are really in agreement with the religious extremists.Recommend

  • Hina Khan

    So it will start with gender segregation and end with women,gays,atheists being shot dead in public executions in sports stadiums like in Afghanistan.You’ll give them an inch and they’ll want a mile.Recommend

  • Maria anwar

    What’s next? Compulsory Burkas,hijabs,abayas,niqabs? If we give into the demands of the religious lobby once,they’ll keep on asking for more and more until they have complete control of Pakistani society.Recommend

  • Sana Mushtaq

    If we surrender to the religious fanatics once,we’ll gradually have to surrender to them on everything.Recommend

  • Tahir

    Why not give people the choice? What’s wrong if people don’t want co education in their schools in first…Poeple in my village and almost whole of chakwal don’t want coeducation beyond Primary school…hence why impose your liberal fascism on them? This all has nothing to do with Talibans…Dragging Talibans in any matter is simply ridiculous and nonsense…Let people decide what they want..

  • Tanzeel

    Arif Alvi: MNA PTI, The then Jamat e Islami memberRecommend

  • AK

    It is difficult to choose which statement/act of PTI leadership is more deplorable
    1- Arif Alvi’s statement as mentioned in this blog
    2- Shaukat Yousufzai’s golden words “Dhamaka hee to hua hay konsa qayamat a gai” [][1]
    3- Shaukat Yousafzai’s statement that he has not heard about any threats to MQM,PPP and ANP and will not condemn them. (Shaukat Yousafzai happens to be an information minister btw)
    4- U Turn again by PTI leadership and Mr. Khattak deciding to stay in CM house.
    5- Separate assembly for women
    the list goes on and on.. Recommend

  • shadytree

    Arif Alvi said, the priority should be education. The decision to get children educated in co-ed or segregated schools should be with parents and parents should have a choice.
    Many people don’t send their children to schools in rural ares due to co-ed system.
    Education is not just having a co-ed system.

    There have been many great people who were educated in segregated educational systems.
    You guys just feel threatened that you wont be able to fulfill your funny desires.Recommend

  • ABZ

    so what????????

    whats so big in it that such an hype has been created..We people are only good in making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    There is No Harm whatsoever in segregating the schools.

    Seems as if The so called Secular & Educated Class took it up as a Personal Attack..

    Get over it & have some life, Losers !!!Recommend

  • Sceptic

    PTI=Pro-Taliban InitiativeRecommend

  • Sceptic

    there is no harm in doing anything unless it is you who decide doing it and is not slammed down ur throats by the Taliban…

    PS: this can also help avoid girls’ schools being target-practice of rocket launchers mebbe…. Recommend

  • Whatever

    Agree with Tahir…..
    Why is it that still parents want their daughters to study at Convent of Jesus & Mary, ST. Joseph’s Convent School or Mama Parsi…These schools are one of the best till date.
    Our so-called liberal class only know how to create a fuss…..Let’s face it!! Let’s give our girls education which is most important then studying in a co-ed or not….
    Why do we compare the likes of KPK with the urban socieities? Parents are more comfortable in rural areas with segregated school system.Recommend


    What in the world is harmful in segregating the educational system of the country. Dont know what is the point of conflict in it. If someone does not want to go to a co-education system its his/her’s right and there is not a micron’s doubt that it falls in gender discrimination.But if religiously following west is the only point to support the claim then i am sorry that our secular class are the biggest fanatics. Recommend

  • Mj


    If racists/nationalists want their children to only sit with students of their own race, should we give in to their demand? Recommend

  • shadytree

    This is not a topic of discussion for racists/nationalists. Stay on topic. No ifs and buts.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @Tahir …Arif Alvi never talked about choice on the show it was only after a stink was raised that he brought in the choice angle…watch the show before speaking…his position was that since the TALIBAN want to impose seperate schools we should let it happen, this is not a parental choice but a TALIBAN choice.

    Nobody is raising issues with parents choice in selecting a co-ed or single-sex school but that is NOT what Arif Alvi said on air…please stop trying to protect an indefensible position have the guts to call out your party when they are wrong…

    PS. Where was your indignation when your party conspired to prevent women from voting?Recommend

  • mind control


    Poeple in my village and almost whole of chakwal don’t want coeducation beyond Primary school…hence why impose your liberal fascism on them?

    And people of Jhang want to do something else with some other citizens.

    Why impose ‘Liberal Fascism’ on them?Recommend

  • Aamina

    I think voting for pti was my mistake!! Recommend

  • ss

    to all those against separate schools for girls, it’s not like if girls study in Girls School she’s going to miss anything, i have seen girls who have never studied in co-ed system and yet they were able to beat everyone girls or boys :-/Recommend

  • Liberal

    Go away ARIF ALIV AND Taliban Khan.Recommend

  • Mj


    The problem is not with single-gender schools, but with the reasoning employed by Arif Alvi. A case can be made for single gender schools based on local sensibilities, but taking dictates from Taliban to appease them is pathetic and cowardly capitulation.Recommend

  • Izhar Khan

    please read the post carefully. Was there any choice in Alvi’s TV statement?Recommend

  • GhostRider

    First this blunder by Arif Alvi and then later the remarks of Yousfzai on recent Peshawar bombing…I am hating myself for casting my vote for bat. You are turning out to be real hypocrite PTIRecommend

  • Insaan

    Real problem is hormones. Segregation can’t stop natural attraction and interaction with opposite sex. Segregation can actually make things worse, make the interaction fast-forward, by forcing people meet in private.

    Some people believe men can’t control themselves when they see a woman’s face/hair. Recommend

  • sab sach heh

    People need to grow up and listen,The UK recently published reports admitting separating sexes at school was more beneficial, I would not personal want my daughter especially in a mixed school has any one seen what the male youths of our society have become would any sensible parent deny the truth,,, Recommend

  • endag

    PTI is infact trying to please taliban this way so that they stop attacking KPK. . And off course, they want to secure their own lives too…Recommend

  • Aqil

    Seems like many of the liberal fascists in the Pakistani media have never been outside their homes. If you go to rural Pakistan, a very large portion of families refuse to give their daughters an education because they think that co-education is against their cultural norms. Having single sex schools or colleges will only help increase literacy and education in women and in the long run will result in a forward thinking society. Recommend

  • Gp65


    @shadytree, @Tahir
    There is nothing wrong in boys only or girls only school. The problem is that if you listen o what Arif Alvi actually said on the show, he said it is okay to shut down existing co-Ed schools if that is a TTP demand. That does not add choice, that reduces choice. One more point to consider – in those areas which are poor and can afford only one school, if you shut down a coed school then you will be left only with a boys only school and no place for he girls to go.

    To give in to TTP notions of women’s education in the name of local culture is frankly indefensible for the member of a party that talked about education emergency in their manifesto, TTP after all has blown up a thousand plus girls schools. Recommend

  • Omar

    I agree with Arif AlviRecommend

  • goggi (Lahore)

    As it is easy for a blind to describe what is light, likewise it is easy for a biased mind-set to oppose co-education from which it has no personal experience. THE LESS ONE KNOWS THE MORE HE BABBLES BOLDLY AND IMPOSES HURDLES!

    I was brought-up in a co-education, anti authoritarian, nonviolent, multiethnic, multireligious school of Lahore, perhaps those days the only of its kind in the whole city. At this juncture I would like to applause and pay my respects to the progressive thinking parents of all those hundreds of girls who entrusted their daughters to this great insitution very similar to Waldorf schools.

    In the school we got very naturally that basic education of human life from which most of my country fellows(especially the preachers with their sick morality) are deprived of, i.e. the education of the eye!

    We all of us, boys and girls of Cathedral High School, in the course of the years, learnt very instinctively and spontaneously, a very natural social intercourse with each other.
    In the ninth and tenth class we were almost 16 boys and 16 girls in three double rows, one boy one girl! The girls had always the upper hand and enjoyed great respect and were very active in sports, music and other social activities. Recommend

  • Gingo

    Arif Alvi should first make gender segregations in Alvi Dental Clinic before giving in to the Taliban demands.Recommend

  • WomenRule

    To all those opposing co education, first of all the idea behind desegregating was to promote diversity for the overall development of society. It wasn’t a western philosophy where gender discrimination still exists. As far as sending girls to St. Joseph’s is concerned, now many people can not afford Karachi Grammer School, The City School etc .. because they are simply either too expensive, or do not offer admission to people with a not so great socio economic background. They have no other choice but to send their girls to St. Josephs, but at the same time, their boys to St. Patricks which is next door. de segregation also helps to save a lot of money since you do not hire two different teachers for the same class. Apart from that, desegregation has been observed to have helped alleviate gender discrimination, and greater respect amongst boys for their female counterparts. Eventually, men and women have to interact with each other.

    About liberal fascism is like saying atheist muslim. And no, nobody’s imposing it on you, but yeah, if you are going to force your daughter or sister to give up on life because your chauvinistic and patriarchal traditions and ego do not allow it, then we wouldn’t mind sending in the army to protect our women from your mindset. And yeah,
    And oh yeah, btw, I am a guy myself! And yeah, I am bestowed with the duty to ensure that my women have all the rights that they deserve, and which I, as a man, enjoy in this world. Recommend

  • Gingo

    Funny that you label Catholic and Parsi schools as best for Muslims Girls than recommending Madrassahs.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    First of all having no co-ed is not Talibisation it is called ‘segregation of sexes’ and that is what Islam tells us to do. It is also the best way to live in a society. But why would the secular-liberal people want this. They don’t consider fornication, LGBT as wrong so why would it bother them, that intermingling of sexes promotes that.

    BTW, why is it even an issue. Shoudn’t we be focusing on good quality education rather than if there are girls in the same school as boys?Recommend

  • Ahmed

    O and also… it’s not a woman’s right to mix with guys…..Recommend

  • Nawabzada Aurangzeb Farooqui

    I disgree with Arif Alivi sahab when he says that the decision to choose b/w co-ed or non co-ed schooling should be of Parents.Recommend

  • Nawabzada Aurangzeb Farooqui


    Sir please dont let secular/liberal propaganda misguide you. The demands which Taliban make which are in accordance with islamic teachings then plz accept those and which are not in accordance with islamic teachings then yes reject those and the demand to abolish the co-ed system of education is fully in conformity with islamic law and teachings.Recommend

  • JI Khalid

    He’s a weak fool, my sympathies- you give an inch and they’ll take a mile…Recommend

  • JD

    If you liberal fascist think you can change perception of majority of Pakistanis overnight….dream on.

    Liberal fascism is the reason why extremist are created. Recommend

  • Ali Shah

    Arif Alvi is right..These liberal fanatics and extremists are a no lesser evil than the Taliban..Recommend

  • talal

    stupid talk shows, ridiculous atmosphere to talk about such sensitive issues. Every one wants to prove his or her point and in doing so they dont realize what they are saying. This is not the way to discuss such matters. Recommend

  • Tabish Bilgrami

    Taliban Khan showing his colors… The list of such pro Taliban statements made by PTI office bearers is long. All the young guns of the nation who waited for PTI, “Just wait and watch…”Recommend

  • Mj

    @Nawabzada Aurangzeb Farooqui:

    Sir please dont let secular/liberal propaganda misguide you. The demands which Taliban make which are in accordance with islamic teachings then plz accept those and which are not in accordance with islamic teachings then yes reject those and the demand to abolish the co-ed system of education is fully in conformity with islamic law and teachings.”

    We as a nation should look forward to building a better future instead of racing to emulate social norms and traditions of the 7th century.Recommend

  • Farman

    Although he has changed his party for better political opportunity but now he is exhibiting what was not mature. What he thinks does not apply to all nation. This was the wrong choice of Clifton, Defence voters. They voted for change but chooses wrongly That is why it is said think before do………….. Recommend

  • Working Woman

    @Abdul Basit:
    Oh, So you fear the beard??? AwwwwRecommend

  • Mj

    My comment was unnecessarily cut. Not cool, mods. Recommend

  • True Karachiwala

    Pakistan presently is in a state where except two parties i.e.MQm and ANP no one is ready to clearly challenge Talibaan and other radicals who are simply blind barbarics. Almost every oinion maker and decision maker is hiding his/her head under sand..

    I bet PTI’s failures and idealogical contradictions will appal Pakistanis.Recommend

  • Asr

    IT is a learning process. So called educated voters of Defense/Clifton and other so called enlightened voters should see the performance of PTI and wait for next elections. These guys made a fool of themselves in the recent elections.Recommend

  • Parvez

    The PTI are receiving a crash course on ‘ how to squander an opportunity given ‘………..and from the look of it, they are learning noting………..pity.

  • ab

    i am sure major population will support this view not!!. forget the taliban ideology progress and success lies in following the teaching of quran and sunnah to the fullest not following the west. Recommend

  • Maxwood

    PTI Zindabad, Imran Khan ZindabadRecommend

  • Insaan

    @sab sach heh:
    I would not personal want my daughter especially in a mixed school

    Would you send your son to a mixed school? When you were young did you want to go to mixed school? Recommend

  • Insaan

    @sab sach heh: has any one seen what the male youths of our society have become

    Why do you think Arabs force Muslim girls/women to wear burqa? Why do you think Saudi Arabia does not let women drive or eat out alone? All this is done to keep men and women from connecting with each other. Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Shouldn’t be surprised by the disingenuous and irrational arguments put forth here by the pro-Taliban Islamist conservative extremists, who have displayed their lack of critical thinking skills and education, and willing to enforce their tyranny and totalitarian agenda.

    You can have segregated schools. But the Taliban want to enforce ONLY segregation on you with NO CHOICE of co-education for Pakistanis. And places where there is only one school where co-education is unavoidable, the Taliban will kick out, if not attack, the girls from school or close it down altogether, hence no education to half or all of the children. This is the huge difference and spouting otherwise is typical dishonesty for enforcing your own twisted ideological bias.

    Alvi is willing to appease the Taliban and force a dictated order from those ignorant jahils, who have a history of blowing up all girls schools and even all boys school. This is not about what local parents want, co-education or segregation, or good education or bad education…this is about capitulating to what the Taliban wants, which is implementing their absolutist extreme ideology. Plain and simple.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @ab: . forget the taliban ideology progress and success lies in following the teaching of quran and sunnah to the fullest not following the west.

    Talibans got intensive training in how to make people follow Islam. Talibans are following Quran and Sunnah, just like Saudi Arabia government.
    Muslims should stop going to Western countries.Recommend

  • Moz

    @Ali Shah:

    why they killed somebody in your family???Recommend

  • Moz

    @sab sach heh:

    A valid point, but you can’t generalize. Secondly, if you want a separate school for your daughter, then also build a separate street from home to school, so she can walk there and back everyday without seeing any men or being gazed by that dirty look of theirs. Recommend

  • Moz


    That is why west is way ahead of you, right now. Maybe you have a different definition of progress and success. Recommend

  • Moz


    It is not your right to talk about women, unless if yourself are one. Recommend

  • adil

    So whats the principle at play here? If coeducation destroys morals then lets not have it. And then why should it be allowed in Colleges, Universities or even workplaces? How can someone raised in segregation all of a sudden adapt to the other sex at a later stage if they have not been raised to understand and adapt to it? This is just a back door attempt to recreate Saudi Arabia without the oil wealth that allows such wastefulness. If young men and women will go crazy by studying with each other its parental fault not a system. Otherwise by all means let us continue to raise and educate a youth who cannot function in a global economy like our role model Saudi.Recommend

  • Sara T

    What I don’t understand is, why are we always looking at the smaller issues rather then the bigger ones?
    More than two-thirds of the population is not even educated in our country – let alone, going to schools. Our priority should be education first then comes the issue of a co-education schooling for girls. In a society where they don’t let the girls even see the face of a school and get them married when they haven’t even reached puberty, do you think it makes any sense to even have a debate over co-education or all girls schooling?
    The primary issue is to educate the masses. Once the foundation is laid and the mindset is developed towards seeing education as a “good” thing that benefits the families and societies at large as phase 1, only then comes the debate of co-education vs. all-girls schooling system, later in phase 2.
    Please try seeing the bigger picture rather than taking out flaws in every move towards a slight betterment in this country. It is very easy for the already-educated class in our society, that has plenty of resources and opportunities to choose from, to raise such criticism, but we must try understanding the dynamics of our country first and then start such debates, that is, if we truly are the educated ones with exposure at our hand.
    Exposure gives you a broader perspective, which I don’t see coming ashore in this article or the debate in the comments section.Recommend

  • Aamina


    I certainly agree with you. I do regret voting for PTI! Imran Khan’s party is showing its flaws and true self now. I wish I could rewind the whole election thing and I wish I didn’t vote at allRecommend

  • Aamina Suleman

    In that case, men should lower their gaze when walking past a woman! This is also what Islam says… why is everything only applicable on women? Why don’t men read in the Quran, what is written for them! Then Ahmed dare not watch a woman or girl on television, poster or on street who is not your sister, mother or wife! Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Moz: also build a separate street from home to school, so she can walk there and back everyday without seeing any men or being gazed by that dirty look of theirs.

    that is a good one….Recommend

  • Sana

    This whole article justifies the saying: “People hear what they want to hear”
    Everyone is so eager to see PTI fail that even if they hurt a fly they’d be called murderers. I’m so sick of dealing with these people here who are just watching PTI like hawks. They are more interested in PTI than there own parties…PTI makes one controversial remark and the whole world is on their case while on the other hand our government is passing laws and budgets that will wipe out the whole lower class by suffocating them with inflation and loadshedding. Literacy is the bigger issue at hand. bring quality education first than talk about co-ed and single-ed or whatever. Recommend

  • Anoop

    Poor adolescent boys and girls of Pakistan.

    Caught between the pull of the radically-Islamist-minded-pseudo intellectuals and people who are not. The group with firepower always wins and that is the former in this case.Recommend

  • wajiha

    who got the ticket for NA 1 Peshamwarnfrom PTI? any one has any update?Recommend

  • Zain Shah

    To be very clear PTI contested elections from all over Pakistan with a huge amount of candidates participating, for the assembly seats but all the voters were voting for one man IMRAN KHAN and no one else… twice i had to go just to cast my vote and i MUST ADMIT I AM EXTREMELY DISAPPOINTED BY PTI all they had was NAYA PAKISTAN and nothing else..