Going to school during Ziaul Haq’s time

Published: October 4, 2013
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As a student in Zia's 'Islamization' regime, I was less restricted than students in today's 'liberal' society. PHOTO: FILE

I was born almost a year after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to an Air Force family. Hence, my entire schooling was done in schools run by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) during General Ziaul Haq’s regime.

My first school was the PAF school in Sargodha and my English teacher resembled Shaista Zaid, the English news anchor on Pakistan Television (PTV), the only channel aired in the country at the time.

Although most people remember General Zia’s regime as oppressive and restrictive, my memories of school years are somewhat different. I studied in a co-education school, where boys and girls shared the two-person desks in class. In fact, girls and boys were discouraged from making same-sex groups and were encouraged to socialise with members of the opposite sex.

I still remember a concert I participated in on Parents Day when I was in grade one. We were going to perform on a poem about a train, in which all the participants acted as the compartments of a train. Hence, we all had to form a human chain with our arms wrapped around each other. I know of many parents  and teachers, in the so-called liberal environment of today, who would shudder at the thought of boys and girls hugging each other, even at the innocent age of five or six years. However, not back then; at the time when General Zia ruled the country, children were just children and there were no such restrictions.

What I am trying to say is that if there was ‘Islamisation‘ in those times, it did not affect students in the way that it has in times of today; the din over teaching Comparative Religions in schools and the whole NUST dress code tumult would not have been an issue in Zia’s time.

Being brought up in the cantonment areas and army bases, we, the Air Force Babies, often referred to as AFBs, had the freedom to play, cycle and swim to our heart’s content.

I was fortunate enough to spend my teenage years in Peshawar, some time from the latter half of the 1980s to the mid-1990s. This statement may seem absurd to teenagers today and they may wonder what fun there could be in a bomb- ridden, fundamentalist city like Peshawar. However, I studied in a co-educated school and although dupattas were required as a cultural norm, we were as liberal as it gets. Girls and boys were encouraged to befriend each other and even in sports we had both, boys and girls, on the same teams! I still remember the many volley ball matches I participated in side by side with boys while studying in Peshawar.

Other than just providing education, the British Council in Peshawar used to be a happening place for youngsters and most schools arranged weekly trips to Gora Bazaar where we would indulge in a vast collection of smuggled books. Students also participated in the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)volunteer programs regularly and even went on animal saving expeditions.

The only ‘Shariah-imposition’ I remember from the time, was the inter-college Quran quiz competition, which was part of the week-long Ramazan celebrations  and even this seemingly academic exercise always included celebrations and fairs such as the Meena Bazaar.

Then, during Musharraf’s ‘enlightened moderation’ era, I joined the PAF as an officer, along with some forty other women. This was a feat unheard of in the patriarchal Training Academy of Risalpur, in the heart of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. During my stint, I met many of my male childhood friends and trained alongside them. I truly believe that this confidence and vigour to be at par with men has been inculcated through the schooling system of my time.

However, unfortunately, times have changed and the change has been very drastic in Pakistan. Instead of evolving as a nation, we have become radicalised. The seeds of extremism, intolerance and discrimination, allegedly sown in the Zia Regime have suddenly sprung up. The schools we loved so much have become unrecognisable. Many have been reduced to rubble while the rest have separate classes and separate benches for boys and girls. There are no sports grounds in schools any more, and physical trainers have not been hired in government schools in ages.

Without any inter-mingling, girls and boys are being moulded into less confident, less aware, more intolerant beings – lacking an understanding of the basic norms of co-existence. Increasingly, the word co-education seems to be a luxury enjoyed in the universities and private schools in bigger cities of the country. Only time will tell what the fate of that luxury will be.

In the past the essence of the school system, apart from imparting quality education, was to make girls and boys more confident, and improve their understanding of each other. However, the current system encourages them to view members of the opposite sex suspiciously. This increasing tendency to restrict and regulate students can only result in producing a nation of ‘yes’ people. However, since the youth has a tendency to defy rules, this can also give rise to young people who outwardly adhere to the rules while they indulge in forbidden acts behind closed doors.

The question is what do we want our children to be? Do we want them to have more confidence, leadership skills and honesty or would we rather rear a more outwardly agreeable but less truthful and less self-assured generation?

Quratulain Fatima

Quratulain Fatima

The author is an Oxford Graduate in public policy, a Weidenfeld Scholar and an Oxford Global leadership fellow. She tweets @moodee_q

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

  • Shiv

    Your days at school was the time when the cancer cells of extremism started growing in the body of Pakistan. It takes time and a threshhold for these cells to become dangerous and fatal. It could 20 years for the young children who went through ‘Islamized’ education that falsified history to become terrorists.Recommend

  • Rabea Mahfooz

    Very well written. The time has changed. People prefer status symbols than the quality of education. Children of today’s age are losing their innocence. In this age,parents are more worried about the staus quo than building refined personalities of their children. May Allah guide us.Recommend

  • ss

    I am not an AFB ,am I allowed to have an opinin?Recommend

  • Osama Sajid

    One of the best pieces I have read in the recent past. The growing radicalization and polarization in our society needs to be addressed on an emergency basis.Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    Because actual problem of Pakistan is neither socialism, nor secularism, nor islamism nor any other “ism”. Our problem is injustice, inequality, unequal opportunities to the rich and the poor, lawlessness. Thanks to pseudo intellectuals like you from so called “Liberals”and religious fanatics like “Taliban”, our nation might never understand its real problems. Keep going towards the self-deception, lies and misinformed opinions.Recommend

  • Javad Shafeeq

    …a society takes time to change….when u were growing up…our society was changing…towards Zia’s Islamistaion….in 90s n afterwards….this society has changed….it has radicalized to the extent…tht each n everyone of us is a suicide bomber….the only difference is…tht our limits vary….!!Recommend

  • SUB

    Enough for Zia bashers. No advocacy for the dead or political futile so tom, dick & harry can have a go on Zia, Ayub & Yahya Khan eraRecommend

  • Salim Ansar

    Great piece and eye opener and true reflection of good old daysRecommend

  • Ahmed

    May Allah raise the ranks of Zia ul Haq and reward him for what he did. Zia was the best thing that ever happened after the creation of Pakistan. He made Pakistan what it was born to be.Recommend

  • Absar Tabish

    Actually we are confused society , We want everything , We wanted to be a best Muslim when its about religion , we wanted to be most modern when its about lifestyle . Both of them can be shared but you need to be smart to manage them , with proper education you can make a ballance between both . With modern education you can practise religion in a much better way.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    I cannot argue with your personal experience. If you felt it was a more liberal time, it was a liberal time…for you.

    It’s not a mystery to us, the kind of laws that were passed and implemented under Zia’s regime; that’s documented history. Maybe you personally did not feel the effects of the Hudood Ordinance, reinforcement of blasphemy laws, public flogging, “blood money” ordinance, ehtaram-e-ramazan restrictions – all crafted and implemented under Zia’s rule.

    That does not mean that nobody else felt the impact of these restrictions, or that of the rolling snowball of Islamization ever since.Recommend

  • jin

    Its so strange. All you people seem to know the problem, who the problem creator is and where the problem is coming from and I find this extremely funny, that all of you seem to be blaming the vast majority. Have u ever read a comment on ET which goes along the lines of “Hurray Taliban! we support you” and yet countless comments/articles/blogs/ seem to depict we are extremists when we are NOT! When is this trend of Pakistan bashing going to end???Recommend

  • Aamna

    Probably because back then even Obscenity hadn’t taken our society up by storm. Kids, in those days were innocent. Now, even a 12 year old has a boyfriend whom she talks all night long on her personal cell phone.Recommend

  • Shah Ali Asghar

    less self assured nationRecommend

  • Imtiaz Awan

    I am glad I left pakistan years ago and don’t have to live in the country which has become a shit place.Recommend

  • Arif Rahim

    a very rightly pointed out the overt , ever growing conflict of identities, mostly in the Islamic Republics. the menace is not into our society only, if one looks it outside the prism of religious extremism and take it in a broader spectrum by analyzing the same on the parameters of societal studies. Its not an issue of religious zeal in the eastern societies but the split and divide at a group level challenging the social fabric by producing intolerance for the other. last few decades saw the movement of Islamiazation like Iranian revolution, talibanisation , and Islamist Reformistsin the Arab world. the debate should not be misled by diverting it to Islamic states only, but the evidence of ethnic and religious extremist at societal and state level holding the top positionsin biggest democracy who is so called secular by constitution. contrary to east the west capitalist societies emerged in a more coherent manner in the post cold era. the thought process should be into this identity crisis in east.Recommend

  • Indian Doc

    ‘Pseudo intellectual’..’so called’ liberal…
    Sir,how are these appropriate terms for the author ?
    Recommend

  • Parvez

    Nicely written.
    The feeling seems to be that the educational system has somehow slipped into this mould that is less about education and more about creating a class with a limited world view who would be easily manipulated and used. This has not happened by default, it was planned and executed to achieve the result you anguish about. After the Russians left Afghanistan the euphoria was strong and no one really bothered to realign systems, especially the education system and the system for hard line religious proliferation ( madrassa system ) and those with agendas took advantage of this laxity …………..and the nation has been paying the price, ever since.Recommend

  • Quratulain fatima

    Thankyou osama, these are my heartfelt words, and i sincerely hope to make world a better place for the futureRecommend

  • Usman Akram

    Its a heartfelt blog. an excellent reference to the innocence of pastRecommend

  • Quratulain fatima

    I cannot agree lessRecommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    Likewise Qurtulain. Though we share similar background @ex forces and current civil officer but I am sorry, I have to strongly disagree with you. Kindly concentrate on what really matters for country. Taliban is not a disease but a symptom. The disease is injustice, inequality and illiteracy coupled with non-uniform education policy.
    Our problem is more of social nature rather than ideological or religious. So please concentrate on actual problem. Do not disorient people and yourself by bringing other issues in it. I am not sure if I can share any link here, I wish I could, I wrote an article on same theme. That might help me make my point of view clearer.Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    Indian Doc

    Reasons were explained above sir. I call those people pseudo intellectuals who try to treat cancer with Disprin :)Recommend

  • Amrita Yasin

    *yawn* nothing new presented……ET is becoming a collection of personal blogs….too much ‘My hypothesis based on my experiences’….it is a blog but it’s a blog associated with a news websiteRecommend

  • Zeeshan

    @1ba2d3c1a11c284cdb557536ed515141:disqus,

    What cancer cells were manifesting in the cancerous body called India which culminated in your Ayodha, Gujarat and Muzaffarabad? How come your middle class Indians are rarely “terrorists” despite the murders you commit?Recommend

  • Keep it Simple

    I really can’t understand what actually was the reason to write this article.. i mean what actually do yo wanna portray by saying that boys and girls were somewhat of “Jigars” at your time and past and present and whatever.. this is not the issue weather we allow Girls and Boys to mingle or not … The main issue is our Education System, Dear Ma’am i think yo should next time focus on that too what actually you learned at school rather than how good you were a friend of the “Opposite Sex”Recommend

  • Keep It Simple

    LOL You are so Funny …
    What other things you are glad about, do let us know ? :)Recommend

  • crazy8051controller

    ever society and religion have some boundary and limits. if an institution have a dress code then it must be followed . before admission everything is described in prospectus .if jeans were the uniform of nust and then some girls were fined because of not wearing jeans then i am damn sure no one will pay attention to it.Recommend

  • Usman Sajjad

    I am student of class 8th. I really appreciate the article, depicting the aspirations of a school going child. I think the writer fully enjoyed his teenage life during that times which is wrongly interpreted as the tyrannical. I have nothing to do with politics of that times or that of the present times but I wish that the children be provided facilities to enjoy leisure time. This requires, apart from other things, a peaceful and secure environment, otherwise at the age of 33 I will be unable to recall my memories of teenage as the kids of my age have been caged either in school or at home.Recommend

  • UzairH

    Ahmed, your statement is Poe’s Law in action :) It is impossible to tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Can you clarify?Recommend

  • youth_of_today

    Dear lady,

    Regrettably so, I fail to decipher the very point of your
    article. You have easily discarded what was the state policy in zia regime,
    with a mere example from your educational (and that too a school experience)! And
    how easily you have dismissed the ample historical evidence to the contrary by
    saying: ‘What I am trying to say is that if there was ‘Islamisation‘ in those times, it did not affect students in the way that
    it has in times of today; the din over teaching Comparative Religions in schools and the whole NUST dress
    code tumult would not have been an issue in Zia’s time.’

    Kindly revisit your thought process on logical lines, and
    rather than conveniently over-seeing the root cause behind the radicalization
    you see today, kindly research and identify in solid, unambiguous terms. And to
    answer your concluding question, we want the children of today to be raised on
    values of sensitivity towards their environment and of free thinking – values that
    they allow them to carefully examine their personal experiences together with
    the bigger picture. Such are the qualities of a visionary and a leader.Recommend

  • Quratulain fatima

    share the article , i would like to read that. u may email itRecommend

  • Quratulain fatima

    Yes go aheadRecommend

  • Quratulain fatima

    Thanks ur feedback s valuableRecommend

  • Miles to go

    To earn the term, ‘terrorist’, they need to attain a few more goals like – seige in a luxury hotel in a neighbouring country,wearing suicide bombs,carrying weapons,beheading soldiers of other nationalities,being important enough to be chased by drones …
    Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    It was also the era that when HInduvta was growing in your country that there were deadly riots in Meerut the Hashimpura massacre took place which finally resulted in the Ajodhya incident. Hey but who cares as long as you can curse Pakistan non-stop. By the way the results of your education is clear in your comments and the brave educated Indian youths who take part in Massacres against Muslims an example Gujarat. Now please leave us alone Troll.Recommend

  • HMZ

    During Zia’s time, radicalization was introduced to elongate ruling period. Later some of his leftovers and the like, pitched that up for their advantage. South Asians are traditionally emotional about religion rather than rational, which combined with illiteracy, injustice and distinct class system reminiscent of the British idea of ‘progress’, made radicalization reach at a point we see today.

    Moreover, there are many top tier schools that are truly co-ed and they cater for the higher income brackets. The criticism comes from outside these shells, and then inflated to someone’s advantage.Recommend

  • HMZ

    Can the seeds of ‘enlightened moderation’ reverse the trend in the next 20 years? Zia and Musharraf used opposing ideas to enhance their rules.

    I am witnessing a hidden change in the higher educated classes.. Some who had a radical outlook some time ago are slowly giving up radicalization. it will take more time for that to spread.

    Our media too highlights radical stories as sections of the society are radicalized and that may be part of their target market.Recommend

  • NBaig

    Oh..I wonder what you are showing about your education by calling someone a troll as a rebuttal ..Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    Agreed Talha Rizvi dear. The so called “Nation of Religious Fanatics i.e., Pakistan” has never given majority to any religious extremist political party of Pakistan. Can the same be said about our dear enlightened, moderated, secular, liberal and shining India? Where a religious extremist party like BJP fueled by terrorists like RSS have been given majority by peace loving, tolerant and secular Indian Hindus.

    P.S: Try to read and understand every word between the lines to enjoy the bites of reality about Pakistan and India both :)Recommend

  • Madhur

    Mr Rizvi,

    Hinduvata is not declared policy govt of india and constitutionally India is a secular country unlike pakistan which is declared and constitutionally islamic nation .
    We can’t leave you because wave of islamic terrorism originating from Pakistan is hitting us and worldRecommend

  • Ibrahim kakar

    Q Fatima,can you tell me please you are the one who topped CSS exam.now coming to your analysis,QF yes you are right,you might have witnessed a suitable environment and surroundings when you was being born and bred in the so-called “islamisation”era which is now became a fashion for liberal brothers to stand it responsible for any incidents which happens in any corner of our homeland.but as it is said that devil is in the details, can we ignore the prevailing intolerance and the spectre and ghost of extremism and different layers of fundamentalism in the overall fabric of our society.the heroin and Kalashnikovs culture promoted and muster up by General zia notwithstanding,it was he who made intervention and interference in other countries affairs a cornerstone of our foreign policy vis_a_vis Afghanistan.leaving aside the schooling environment,isn’t he destroyed the social and ethical fabric of our society.Recommend

  • Duck Pound

    Don’t be a dhekaydar of the world.Recommend

  • Afrooz

    you speak the tongue of the great kafthaan taliban khan. I hope you are smarter than Im the Dim.Recommend

  • Ibrahim kakar

    Byes you are very right.Recommend

  • Afrooz

    “Our problem is more of social nature rather than ideological or religious. So please concentrate on actual problem.”

    I wager you to find me a country in the Ummah where this is not true and yet people like you refuse to blame religion, dogma and extreme ideology as the root cause of all social evil. 25 years ago, Ahmadis could have a mosque that had a spire, Hindus and Christians could live in dignity as opposed to the wretches they have become, Shias were almost considered social equals with the rest of us – compare that with now. The country has steadily become Mullah-ized and the common man has become ever more intolerant. Are you still saying that our problems are just social and do not have religious cause??Recommend

  • Ibrahim kakar

    QF ,are you the one who topped CSS exam?plz tell us.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    I have seen Indians gloating over the deaths of Pakistanis in suicide bombing even floods and Earth quakes. Is this humane? What I meant was stop coming here and posting. Indians acted like bullies on every news item whether or not related to them. What do you say about those who even make fun of people dying in natural disasters?Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    ok sorry I overlooked your email tab above. I will mail you soon.Recommend

  • Zuhra

    a good comparison of past and the present. Depiction of the schooling without discrimination is a theme that require a thought in violence prone era of today, Although I dont agree with all the contents, but i agree the undertone that tolerance and humanity is deteriorating in our society and the easiest victim of this loss are the children.Recommend

  • umer

    i share the same views and should have written the same. the writer has naive approach .Recommend

  • Dr.N.Khatoon

    Dear Talha,
    I have been reading blog comments here for a few months now & I have seen most Indians give logical rebuttals..some with references & links that can be verified-some polite,some annoyed… ( pakistanis never provide links/urls of reputable sites to back up their allegations )
    I haven’t seen any comments with anyone gloating over any earthquake,flood,suicide bombing death…instead,I’ve even seen condolences from Indians,including those to martyred pakistani army soldiers who died in old wars.
    In contrast,I saw a pakistani Khan saab,commenting that the thousands of hindu pilgrims who died in the Uttarakand landslides was ‘Divine retribution’.
    Isn’t that sad ? Recommend

  • bob

    And was Pakistan born to become a country where the lives of ordinary citizens are no longer safe? What religon are you talking about? Zia was an uneducated person who has destroyed the very fabric of why Pakistan was created. I do not care what is happening in India. They will sow their own rewards for the fanatical Hinduttava culture. I am only concerned about Pakistan and its existence as a decent country respected by all.Recommend

  • Misterio Vida

    I completely agree with you.. maybe there is a 1 percent religious element but 99 percent it is sociological … and i am not theorizing it sitting in a drawing room in Isb/Khi/Lhr/London/USA or somewhere else… I have seen it first hand in my area and we had to live for many many weeks as IDPs …Recommend

  • Mushtaq Minhas

    I agree the biggest victim of the intolerance prevailing in the society are the children and the youth. They are living the Dilemma of ideals and this is the reason for the confusion which has its roots in military take overs and political instability plaguing us since 66 years. The struggle for Independence was a struggle against extremism , ethnicism and sexism, so much so a woman-Fatima Jinnah, was the first one who challenged the military dictator in the presidential elections almost 50 yrs ago, we were a much stable society then, so something went wrong in the process of nation building after we got freedom and that can only be cured by political process and not some Islamism or enlightened moderate military dictator.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Really? What about the comments on Balochistan Earthquakes justifying it as God’s retribution for Peshawar church bombing? What about the Indians making jokes on Floods saying that now no Pakistani can say that they are withholding water any more? What about Indians gloating on the Bombing in Quetta one day before Eid saying stuff like Eid Mubarak ,Pakistanis getting a taste of their own medicine etc. Don’t deny the obvious. One Indian commented n the news item of a Rickshaw’s cylinder exploding saying it’s divine retribution for Sarbajit’s killing. please don’t try to cover the heinous comments of your countrymen.Recommend

  • Saad

    Months? ive been seeing indian trolls for years, and i have seen them writing all forms of craps from laughing over Pakistani deaths to baseless propaganda with no credible links at all. So your view of Indians being all logical is somewhat one sided. From my end it seems they are more interested in running our country then their own.Recommend

  • Dr.N.Khatoon

    How can I ‘cover up’ … I haven’t seen those comments & if I do see them,I can’t delete them-so ‘covering up’ is out of the question.
    If what you allege is true,then you can see they’re as bad as the Pakistani Khan saab’s comments about the 5748 people who died,just because they were hindus pilgrims & not muslims.
    I guess there are ghoulish people everywhere…it’s an error to make it country specific.
    Loss of life is a tragedy,no matter which side of the border it’s on.
    I apologize for all the negative comments you’ve come across.
    I’m truly sorry read about all this.Recommend

  • Sane

    You have missed many incident of Muslims massacre including of Samjhota Express burning of Muslims alive planned and executed by a serving Indian Army Col. Prohat and very recent of Muzaffar Nagar anti-Muslim riots by Hindu extremists.Recommend

  • Sane

    @ Madhur
    Your implanted agents were caught and have confessed of bomb explosion in Pakistan killing innocent Pakistanis including Christians.Recommend

  • Sane

    Have you ever analyzed to find cause of this radicalism? Why this radicalism is rampant in Islamic states? Would anybody put some light on it. In my view this is retaliation of brutal and biased treatment with Muslims in every part of the world.Recommend

  • Hmmm…

    Provide a link from a reputed non-pakistani newspaper to support your bizarre allegations,please.Recommend

  • Open your eyes

    Sir,where do you get your information from ? Do make it a habit to read international news also. In this modern age,we don’t have to get our weekly news from friday sermons & old people’s gossip.Did any one from the govt.admit that obl lived in pak ?Did the average pakistani believe international reports that bin laden & other terrorists, were sheltered in pak ?You should read up,get yourself up to date & free your mind from traditional conspiracy theories which have kept people brainwashed for 65 years.Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Oh I suppose all the semi-illiterate Indians who post rubbish about Pakistan such as raj, lol,Lalakimaa,Pakimujahid are all renaissance men of multiple talents. That you stooped to this level to answer me actually show your own education and background. Just see the Indian’s comments on Pakistan on any day especially on Erum Sheikh’s blog to see the depths to which you Indians fall.Recommend

  • Asha Singh

    you mean secular and liberal parties such as Muslim League?Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    @disqus_FaesIMVr6w:disqus
    Muslim League was not and is not by any means a religiously extremist party. You probably need to take your history course again :)Recommend

  • Gasp

    Are all Pakistani’s as lovely as you … ?
    Try anger management ..Recommend

  • Timsal

    just tell me ont thing ??
    being liberal only means to have interaction with opposite sex and being religious/fundametalist/extremist or whatever you say only means to avoid making relationship with opposite gender …if this is definition than 70% of PK youngster is very much liberal thanks to mobile technologyRecommend

  • Timsal

    one thing more ….i ve been studying this liberal and anti liberal phenomenon …problem is that in PK specially …liberalism is all about making womens cloth shorter and shorter and being religious only means to cover women as much as possible
    …there is nothing we can call moderate .. both sides are on the height extremism .one is extremist liberal other is extremist religious ..there is no one true liberal or true religious ..Recommend

  • Humanity

    Don’t forget Zia killing fields in Jordan, where over 30,000 Palestinians were killed under his command.

    He decimated humanity out of the nation in his zeal for bigotry and intolerance. Connect the dots and Zia shows up as a mere speck in the line of bigots that goes all the way back to the Ahrars, the JIs, the Khaksaars, and all the other thekedaars of Islam.

    Today’s Pakistan is a result of the intolerance and hatred that was openly prcaticed and preached by the state and at the pulpit.

    Garbage in, garbage out. Now deal with the self created shit load.Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    I decided not to bombard you with my own article first. As my article was not purely on your subject so it might not have very clear message directed at your article. So I am writing a bit detailed comment on your article since you showed a willingness to pay heed to what someone else says. Otherwise I would have been content with few brief comments. So there you go.

    First of all you wrote this article very well. It was quite clear and the conclusion you reached was fairly organized. Secondly I share the exact same background as you. We are almost from the same “time period” as well. I also witnessed Zia’s era during my school days.

    You are correct at some points and I disagree with you on some of your conclusions. Pardon me but I feel more comfortable writing my observations point wise.

    1. Indeed Zia’s era was more liberal than today

    2. True, today we cannot even imagine those things which used to be a routine at that time

    3. However what you present as an evidence to show “seeds sowed by Zia” have evolved today could actually be used to conclude exactly opposite. Read next point for How?

    4. Zia ruled our country for more than 10 years. Taliban were more powerful then. After Zia’s regime, we spent almost 13 years up to 2001 without witnessing too drastic change in the culture. Up to 2001 we had a Taliban government in place in Afghanistan

    5. General Musharaf introduced the concept of ‘enlightened moderation’ after 2001 which resulted into your inclusion in Air Force as well

    6. Keep point 4 and 5 above in mind and we will be fair to conclude that things today are more in the favour of liberalism than what they were twenty years ago. (Weak Taliban, No Zia, Musharaf’s Policies, very free and vibrant media showing almost everything, revolution in the field of telecommunication especially cell phones and internet, access of more people to contrasting ideas and new ways to look at the things)

    7. Now the question is what actually went wrong? To investigate that answer in depth, I suggest you read an awesome book, “The Reluctant Fundamentalist”.

    8. I give you a quick and brief answer here. Pakistan has become a battlefield of ideologies right now. We have liberals pulling nation at this side and religious fanatics pulling nation on another.

    9. Actual ordinary Pakistani is neither too liberal nor too religious. He hates both extreme schools of thought. He dislikes the likes of Marvi Sarmad etc who in the name of liberalism leave no stone unturned to ridicule religion, country and our army. He also dislikes Taliban kind who kill innocent people in the name of Islam. An ordinary Pakistani is 1000 times more liberal than these flag bearers of Liberalism in Pakistan. He is also 10,000 times more religious than those who kill people in the name of Islam

    10. Now comes the evidence for point 9 above. Pakistanis have never elected a religiously extremist political party in a majority on federal level. Even India which is usually considered as a standard for democracies has several times elected parties like BJP fuelled by religious hatred from groups like RSS. We ordinary Pakistanis offer prayers, listen to music, dance, enjoy variety of cultures as well. If someone keeps beard, we do not mind it and if someone does not keep it, we do not object it

    11. Now why did I sound bit harsh in my comment to you earlier? It frustrates me when I see even educated people trying to treat cancer with Disprin. Our actual problem is social injustice, inequality, non-uniform education. These things were less true in times earlier, they are more true today.

    12. So we should rather concentrate on the issues told above. Liberalism or no Liberalism debate will come at a much later stage.
    13. Concentrate on few very simple things; Police, Judiciary, Uniform Education, Local Government reforms. Once they have been accomplished, extremists of all kinds will automatically vanish. No legislation, no debate, no arguments can convince a person suffering from injustice that he should not get reactionary. Things told in this point basically act as a fuel for hate and extremist groups.

    14. I would conclude by saying, do not start following a mob of ET which is in habit of blaming everything on religion or army. Make an opinion of your own. Do not follow the trends. Set trends yourself. And if this humble writing made you curious about my point of view and you want to understand it more, now I can send you my articles as well only if Urdu does not bitter your mouth because I write for a wider audience who do not understand English.

    Thank you very much for your precious time.

    P.S: I am emailing it to you as well.Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    Afrooz I wrote a detailed reply in response to author of this article. Please read that. I hope you find some of the answers. Sorry in advance for the efforts you might have to make in search of that comment. Hint: “It is the lengthiest” :)Recommend

  • Waqar Qureshi

    And by the way, are you also suffering from the same psychological disease which is in fashion in Pakistan these days? “Imrano-phobia” :)Recommend