A closed chapter: Afghan refugees face an uphill task getting education in Karachi

Asma Rahimi, a 14-year-old Afghan refugee, during the interview with Arab News on Wednesday. (AN photo)
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Updated 03 August 2020

A closed chapter: Afghan refugees face an uphill task getting education in Karachi

  • Education is a provincial matter, and admission rules differ across Pakistan

KARACHI: When an Afghan refugee boy was one of the top matriculation exam scorers in Mardan, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, last month, Asma Rahimi says she was happy for him, but that the feeling was bittersweet.
It’s because she, too, is a child of Afghan refugees and knows well that she will not be able to complete secondary education in Karachi, where she lives.
“I won’t be able to study further,” the eighth grader told Arab News. “This will be my last year.” Education is a provincial matter, and admission rules differ across Pakistan.
While in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which host most of the 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, children face no legal obstacles in continuing education, in Karachi they have no chance of completing secondary school.
Rahimi’s family moved to Pakistan three decades ago, fleeing armed conflict in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province, which is now dominated by the Taliban. 
Her sister studies at Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School, a school for refugees in Karachi’s Al-Asif area, which is registered with the Afghan Ministry of Education and offers tuition up to grade 12. Its certification, however, is not recognized by Pakistan.
“If anyone wants to study further, he or she will have to go to Afghanistan,” Syed Mustafa, the principal of the school, said. 
Faced with this situation, Mustafa said, many parents have no other option but to send their kids to religious seminaries for any kind of education.
Rahimi, however, wants to go to university and become a psychologist. Instead of joining the refugee school, she enrolled in Alama Iqbal Public School in Karachi, only to realize that despite a lack of official restrictions, a ban is effectively in place that prevents her from studying beyond grade eight.
In 2012, the Board of Secondary Education in Karachi (BSEK), which is the authority responsible for the registration of private and government schools in the city, made it mandatory for ninth grade students to possess a Child Registration Certificate, commonly referred to as Form-B, which serves as an identity document for those who are below the age of 18. Refugee children cannot obtain it.

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They are unable to obtain the critical document for admission to secondary school.

According to Prof. Saeeduddin, the chairman of the BSEK, the decision was made at the request of the provincial government. He said that without it, immigrants would be able to get Pakistani nationality based on educational credentials. 
“If an immigrant does his exams, he could then say that since he has done his exams from Karachi, he should be granted nationality,” Saeeduddin said. 
However, Muhammad Riazuddin, the secretary at the Universities and Boards Department Sindh, said that in the province no regulation barred refugees from studying.
He said Sindh is an inclusive province and “strongly believes in children’s right to education, which is enshrined not only in the UN charters but also in the constitution of Pakistan.”
“The National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) cards give legal immigrants the right to have electricity, gas and water connections, as well as to obtain an education,” he said, adding that the same applies for Afghan refugees who have Proof of Registration (PoR) cards.
While there are no provincial restrictions, those in place in Karachi effectively prevent Afghan children in Sindh from studying because most of the province’s 60,000 Afghan refugee population lives in the city. 
“We are not allowed to get an education. I cannot study here,” Zahra Arif, a seventh-grader at Syed Jamaluddin Afghani School, said. 
“I want to become an engineer. I will make houses for the poor,” she said, adding that she was born in Pakistan and has never visited her native country.
Unlike her, Rahimi has been to Afghanistan and spent three months there. “Our uncle asked us to stay, but there was no school or college, and everyone was illiterate, so my father took us back as he wants us to study, to change our society,” she said.  “I want to study; I want to become something in life.” 

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Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

Updated 01 October 2020

Indian court accused of ‘betrayal’ over mosque verdict

  • Senior BJP officials acquitted of conspiracy to destroy historic Muslim place of worship

NEW DELHI: A special court in the northern Indian city of Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 politicians and senior leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in 1992, ruling that the move was not “preplanned.”

Muslims described the judgment as “yet another betrayal by the judiciary.”

The BJP under the leadership of then-party president Lal Krishna Advani led a political campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s to build a temple on the site of the disputed 16th-century mosque in the eastern city of Ayodhya, claiming that it was built by the first Mughal ruler Babar. 

On Dec. 6, 1992, in response to a call by BJP leaders, hundreds of Hindu extremists gathered at the disputed site and demolished the mosque, resulting in religious riots across the country that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Most of the BJP leaders and its affiliates were blamed for razing the Babri Mosque.

However, on Wednesday, Surendra Kumar Yadav, the judge at the special court, said that the demolition of the 500-year-old mosque was not pre-planned.

“They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defense lawyer K.K. Mishra said after the verdict.

Muslims reacted to the verdict with disappointment.

“The judgment pronounced by the special CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) court is wrong. We will appeal in the high court,” Zafaryab Jilani, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said.

The BJP was elated with the court’s decision.

“It is a moment of happiness for all of us; we chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’ (Hail Ram) after the court’s verdict. The judgment vindicates my personal and BJP’s belief and commitment toward the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement. Along with millions of my countrymen, I now look forward to the completion of the beautiful Shri Ram Mandir (temple) at Ayodhya,” 92-year-old Advani, one of the accused in the case, said.

Another BJP leader and former party president, Murli Manohar Joshi, who was also among the accused, called the judgment “historic.”

“This proves that no conspiracy was hatched for the incident in Ayodhya. Our program and rallies were not part of any conspiracy,” Joshi, 86, said.

The verdict comes 10 months after the Supreme Court’s controversial judgment giving the disputed land to a Hindu trust and awarding five acres of land to Muslim petitioners to build a structure of their choice at another location in the city.

“It’s a betrayal by the court,” Ayodhya-based Hajji Mahboob, one of the original Muslim petitioners, told Arab News.

“So many BJP leaders have claimed openly that they were involved in demolishing the Babri Mosque. If the court gives this kind of one-sided verdict, I can only say that it is compromised,” he said.

“We know that there cannot be any justice for Muslims in this country because all the decisions given by the courts are wrong,” he added.

Reacting to the verdict, the main opposition Congress party said it was “counter to the Supreme Court judgment.” 

The apex court held that the demolition of the Babri mosque was clearly illegal and an “egregious violation of the rule of law.” 

“But the Special Court exonerated all the accused. It is clear that the decision of the Special Court runs counter to the decision of the Supreme Court,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.

The demolition of the mosque was “a deep-rooted political conspiracy to destroy the country’s communal amity and brotherhood, and to usurp power at any cost,” he added.

According to Hilal Ahamd, of New Delhi-based think tank Center for the Study of Developing Societies, there is a growing belief among Muslims that India is a Hindu country and “they have to adjust themselves accordingly.”

Meanwhile, former chairman of the minority commission Zafar ul Islam Khan said the verdict will encourage the BJP to take the law into its own hands in the belief that the police and judiciary will protect them.

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi political analyst who has written several books on the Hindu right-wing politics, said: “The demolition of the mosque was a criminal offense and the failure to establish guilt after 28 years is unfortunate.”

He described the verdict as “a betrayal for Muslims and risky for the security of the country if its largest minority keeps getting marginalized like this.”