Prioritizing Problems

I meant to post this a while ago but Memorial Day festivities took over. Even with the elapse of several days, I’ve been ruminating about the shooting targeting the Ahmadi community in Pakistan and its gotten me thinking about a whole lot of other issues as well.

The killing of innocent people is always senseless but targeting of places of worship is plain despicable. Like hospitals, places of worship are sanctuaries, sites that need to be recognized as safe zones. But then again, I guess we are talking about people that don’t play by the rules.

Ahmadis believe in the same six articles of faith as the Sunnis (with the exception of Mohammed as the last prophet) but yet they have been forced by law to not call themselves Muslims or their places of worship Mosques, under the leadership of General Zia-ul-Huq. To use an imperfect analogy, this is akin to the relationship between Protestants and Catholics.

I can go on about how the Pakistani Constitution is unfair and how this bigoted perception of the Ahmadis is perpetuated throughout the general populace but that is not the point I intend to make, at least not today. The Pakistani government has been plagued with problems, many of them its own doing, that are a lot more “sexy”. Border/land disputes with India coupled with nuclear posturing as well as the complicated relationship with the United States (needing a country as an ally against terrorism but still using drones against the state seems to be the very definition of complicated) has put things like human rights on the back burner. But what Pakistan doesn’t seem to realize is that stability has to come from the inside.

Since 1958, Pakistan has gone through cycles of alternating democratic and authoritarian rule. The country has more or less been in limbo for almost half a century, and it shows. Freedom House gives it extremely low ratings for civil liberties as well as accountability. Less than half the population is literate, and a paltry 2.6% of the GDP is used in education (155th in comparison to the rest of the world). Ignorance is perpetuated by the lack of education and this is what we see in Pakistan.

Just by being able to read the newspaper and write letters to politicians, a wider strata of Pakistanis can be involved in government. Grass root efforts to promote civil rights could take place. People can know that there is a better way than the status quo. Yes, security is the primary priority for any state but there needs to be the readjustment of the importance placed on it, in relation to other goals. For seemingly small things like literacy offer long-term benefits to make stability and prosperity possible.

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