Pakistan judge orders fake schools investigation

Updated 11 February 2013
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Pakistan judge orders fake schools investigation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top judge yesterday ordered a nationwide investigation of hundreds of “ghost” schools where teachers do nothing but draw salaries and buildings are occupied by animals.
“There are animals kept in schools and the buildings have been turned into stables. This is what we are doing to our children when education is a constitutional right,” chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said.
Education is a major challenge in nuclear-armed Pakistan, where the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says public spending on education is less than 2.5 percent of GDP. Only nine countries in the world spend less on education.
Nearly half of all primary school age children and nearly three quarters of young girls are not enrolled in primary school in Pakistan, according to a UN and government report published in December.
Last October, education activist 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taleban in the northwestern district of Swat. She is now recovering in England and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Chaudhry yesterday took up a petition dating back a year from a charity in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh asking the Supreme Court to investigate fake schools, most of them in rural districts.
He ordered district judges across Pakistan to survey fake schools and submit a report by March 18.
“The government has failed to provide any answer or details about the state of ghost and non-functional schools, while apparently funds and salaries were being disbursed as buildings remain abandoned or occupied by animals,” he said.
“This is not the court’s job to micro mange things, but we have to enforce fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution,” Chaudhry added.
Rehmat Ullah, the coordinator of charity Sindh Rural Development Society who brought the petition, said 60,000 children alone are not going to school in the rural Sindh district of Matiari.
He showed the judges photos and newspaper reports about a school being used as a police station in the village of Jati.
The Supreme Court has been at loggerheads for years with the government over a series of corruption and contempt cases, which brought down then-prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in June 2012.
Pakistan is due to hold general elections by May, which would mark the first democratic transition of power in the country’s history.


Kim’s ‘bitter sorrow’ as North Korea bus crash kills 32 Chinese

Updated 18 min 58 sec ago
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Kim’s ‘bitter sorrow’ as North Korea bus crash kills 32 Chinese

  • Beijing is Pyongyang’s sole major ally, providing an important economic and political buffer against international opprobrium
  • For some, North Korea provides a window into what Communist China may have looked like decades ago

BEIJING: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed his “bitter sorrow” after dozens of Chinese tourists were killed when a bus they were traveling in plunged off a bridge.
Thirty-two Chinese tourists and four North Koreans perished in the accident south of Pyongyang Sunday night, Chinese officials and state media said. Two other Chinese nationals were injured.
In a rare admission of negative news from North Korea’s tightly controlled propaganda network, the KCNA news agency on Tuesday said Kim met personally with the Chinese ambassador in Pyongyang and later visited survivors in hospital.
The Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling party, carried a front-page on Kim’s actions, including pictures of him in a doctor’s white coat, holding the two survivors’ hands as they lay in their hospital beds.
Although such a move might be unsurprising in other countries, it is an unusual portrayal of Kim, who is usually shown presiding over formal meetings or visiting work or army units.
Kim “said that the unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart and that he couldn’t control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives,” KCNA reported.
The North Korean leader said his people “take the tragic accident as their own misfortune,” it added.
The fulsomeness of Kim’s comments reflects the importance of China — and its tourists — to his country and economy.
Beijing is Pyongyang’s sole major ally, providing an important economic and political buffer against international opprobrium.
Their relationship was forged in the blood of the Korean War, and while it has soured more recently, with China increasingly exasperated by the North’s nuclear antics and enforcing UN Security Council sanctions against it, there has been an improvement in recent weeks.
Last month, Kim embarked on his first overseas trip since inheriting power in 2011 to finally pay his respects to Chinese President Xi Jinping and was warmly welcomed in Beijing.
China is by far the biggest source of tourists for the North, with direct flights and a long land border connecting the neighbor, and tens of thousands are believed to visit every year, many crossing via train through the Chinese border city of Dandong.
For some, North Korea provides a window into what Communist China may have looked like decades ago.
In contrast Western visitors to the North once averaged around 5,000 a year, but numbers have been hit recently by a US travel ban — Americans accounted for around 20 percent of the market — and official warnings from other countries.
Xinhua news agency reported that the bus had fallen from a bridge in North Hwanghae province.
China’s state broadcaster showed images of a large overturned vehicle, with light rain falling on rescue vehicles at night and doctors attending to a patient.
KCNA said the crash was “an unexpected traffic accident that claimed heavy casualties among Chinese tourists.” It gave no breakdown on the numbers killed or injured.
The Chinese foreign ministry said Tuesday a group of officials and five medical experts had arrived in Pyongyang to assist the North in treating the injured and dealing with the aftermath.
They also visited a temporary morgue for the dead to check their identities and express condolences, it said.
North Hwanghae province lies south of Pyongyang and stretches to the border with South Korea. It includes the city of Kaesong, an ancient Korean capital with historical sites and, until recently, a manufacturing complex operated with the South.
The tour group was traveling by bus from Kaesong to Pyongyang when the accident happened, according to the independent Seoul-based website NK News, which cited an unnamed source.
North Korean roads are largely poor and potholed, and in many areas, they are dirt rather than tarmac. Vehicles are sometimes forced to ford rivers or take detours when bridges are unpassable.
But the route from Pyongyang to Kaesong is one of the best in the country.
It runs north-south from the Chinese border to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with South Korea but has little traffic, like all North Korean highways.
Tank traps have been installed along the road in many locations — sets of high concrete columns on either side of the road that can easily be blown up to create an obstruction for invading armored vehicles.