Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan is a senior English teacher at Government Post Graduate College, Bannu. He has a master degree in literature from the University of the Punjab. He has been teaching English language and literature for 20 years in Pakistan and outside Pakistan. He remained AdvancED and CITA (Asia Pacific Region) accreditation advisor to a number of American and British curriculum schools. He has also conducted Teachers Effectiveness and Evaluation trainings working in collaboration with TEEP Project for IGCSE schools in the Middle East. He believes in international collaboration for advancement of teaching and learning beyond political divisions. He is a cancer survivor and has also faced a terrorist attack in which he sustained serious gunshot wounds. He believes in never giving up till the end and hopes the days are not far when war stricken Pashtun nation will get the right to education and social mobility in Pakistan. He is a staunch believer in human rights, human dignity, universal democracy and rule of law.
Sir thank you for giving us time for the interview. We are grateful to you.
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I really appreciate your efforts in highlighting issues facing our society and specially the Pashtun community and feel indebted for being able to present my views through your magazine.
Sir please, can you tell us why the education system of Pakistan is not making progress? What are the drawbacks in the existing education system of Pakistan?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I understand that the education system in Pakistan is the offshoot of the Indian education system which came into existence after the Indian Education Act of 1835 was passed into a law by the British parliament, on the recommendations of Lord Mecaulay. This was actually the first education system formally installed by any government anywhere in the world. In Europe, America and elsewhere it was the communities, the church and sometimes philanthropists who undertook education of children as a social service. However, in case of India it was the Indian government of East India company that initiated provision of funds for dispensing education services across the length and breadth of British India. It is a historical fact that the Indian education system reached maturity in a short span of 35 years. The cohort that went to Indian schools in 1860s, 70s, and 80s were one of the best ever educated in history of the subcontinent. Political leaders like Mahatama Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru, Johar, Liaqat and hundreds and thousands others made independence possible. They not only gained independence through civil and democratic means but were also able to run the new states successfully. The trend continued long after separation. Therefore it can’t be assumed that the education system in Pakistan has failed. Yes, There is a dysfunction experienced in our education system, which is not the case in India at all. This dysfunction came as a bye product of military rule and the dictators subservience to Western capitalistic philosophy. The Pakistani state under military didn’t represent the aspirations of its people instead military rulers entangled state machinery and policies into a plethora of defense and foreign aid jumbles and contorted rhetoric from which we as a nation have never been able to decipher or reinterpret. Education health and civic infrastructure development was deprioritzed. Weapons and defense infrastructure were acquired at the cost of sidelining public services and hence the state’s growth and development was hampered to alarming margins. It was then, quite natural that low priority areas like education and health spending would suffer; and that’s what happening till date. Also the Pakistan Education Code went into anonymity during the 1960’s martial law and today very few young teachers even know about it. We need to search it out, update it and pass it from the parliament so that education can be given priority in government spending and educational institutions could be run according to related laws.
Sir, for several years you have observed the American and British education systems in UAE and elsewhere and you are also the part of education system here in Bannu, how you will compare the education system of Pakistan with the successful international educational systems in the world?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: As mentioned earlier, our education system is one of the best in the world and the only thing needed to revamp it, is the implementation of the Pakistan Education Code which has been put under the proverbial red tap, in lieu of the craze for defense spending and arms race with India. I think that sordid paradigm consistently loses stream but is again pumped up by a bloated defense establishment which doesn’t have the capacity to scrutinize the security question from any other perspective apart from acquisition of weaponry and allocation of valuable resources for purely defense oriented plans. And this trend has put education and health on the back burner so there isn’t much happening in those areas and it won’t for many years may be!
How important is the role of a teacher, a lecturer and a professor in the field of dispensing education and ethics? And please also tell us, how much they are successful or failed in playing their due role while imparting knowledge to the Pashtun’s kids and youths?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: Gifted teachers are born and they are very rare but based on the experiences and observations of gifted teachers like Jean Piaget, Benjamin Bloom, Robert Gagne and Kagan, and Ibn Khaldun, the western world has come up with the idea of educating and training ordinary individuals to take up the role of teachers. If training is imparted effectively, teachers can perform miracles in changing society for the better. You are aware that in our country teachers’ training and education is also quite questionable. The fact is that the state doesn’t give education substantial priority so nothing changes.
Individually, however, many teachers have created success stories across the country and that’s why we still have educated human resource to run the society and the state, however, both are degenerating because the quality of education is consistently eroding.
The case of Khyber Pashtunkhwa is quite unique. From the gorilla warfare against the erstwhile Soviet Union to the present war on terror this unfortunate area has been the center of war politiking and military proxyism’s fallout. Policy decisions by our defense establishment must have had lots of terrible outcomes and, because the Pashtun people are only a minority group so it’s possible for the the state to consider their losses for three decades as sustainable collateral damage! The ruling majority has successfully covered up the devastating experience of the Pashtun people by creating an all encompassing narrative of patriotism which must be incorporated by all professing themselves as nationals of Pakistan.
In such a scenario, Pashtun have no other option except to take up education as top priority at individual and family level. Unfortunately KP is still in the eye of the storm and God knows when will the security paradigm of the state spare them the chance to develop like human beings elsewhere in the world. It’s best the Pashtun go all out for education at whatever cost!
The media in Pakistan is projecting Pashtuns as an illiterate, violent and barbaric people. On their TV screens and also in their newspapers, they show that Pashtuns are against education and especially against girls’ education, what do you think and what is your message to the world in this regard?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I know that’s the case. Being a minority and being economically well far behind others in the country, the Pashtun as well as the Baluch people have to undergo such treatment. But in actual fact, that’s absolute crap. Pashtun have produced outstanding men and women who are actively serving Pakistan in every field of life.
And hasn’t Malala Yousafzai shown the world what the Pashtun want? She has highlighted that the region is being used as a scapegoat by world powers/ and a security obsessed state, for testing policies and finding justifications for proxy wars through media manipulation. Pashtun must get out of the net and the only way to do is to opt for peace and education. Malala has done that successfully but because she doesn’t conform to the narrative of the dominant majority, she is being downplayed and maligned by the bias of alumni and the elite of Pakistan.
The recent demographic changes in lieu of mass migration of millions of Pashtuns is a sad experience but I am sanguine the IDP’s will learn their lesson well and will move into greener pastures for finding a better future for their children. I really think all Pashtun need to move out of their accursed territories to seek better life elsewhere through hard work and education. We do not have much of a chance in Khyber Pashtunkhwa. That’s our saga too. Migrants from Pashtunkhwa became kings in India is a known historical reality and it stands as good today as it was then!
Education should aim at the intellectual and moral development of people but in the textbooks of Pakistan; students are being taught wrong history and bias literature, what do you think about its impact upon the new generation?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: Definitely. The primary role of education is to change individual’s attitude positively. But during the last century indoctrination gained foothold in the realm of education. Well before the beginning of the cold war, Western Europe and North America sought means and ways to indoctrinate their respective populations against the temptations of communism and socialism. Our military rulers worked for Western powers during that era and followed suit of anti socialist ideology.
Resultantly the Pakistani state, being subject to tremendous social and economic tensions from within and hostage to dictator’s bloated threat perception based on superficial challenges from without; grew heavily dependent on indoctrination of the populace. In fact a very distorted version of history and the present world is being projected through curriculum and mass media. Resultantly, in decades to come Pakistan will find it increasingly harder as to how to integrate into a modern world with multiplicity of beliefs, cultures and customs. The rise of Taliban in 90’s, and that of the Islamic State recently is the result of such indoctrination by semi intelligent, quasi religious state policies devised by myopic strategists. I think India has a great anti Pakistan strategy, that is: Never allow Pakistan a chance to focus on education and health; and our strategists take every bait (because there is monetary benefits for them) and keep on escalating the stakes in the arms race. They should learn from the ignoble fall of the Soviet Union where weaponry development, under state policy, deprioritzed education, health, food and living necessities. And like Elliott says,’the world will end up in a whimper and not a bang!!!
(I don’t know how will our part of the world will end but most probably it will end in a whimper).
And in recent years the whole world has witnessed the failure of our policies. It’s time we start thinking beyond our pockets and stomachs and the state will for sure survive. Otherwise there is no chance….
Textbooks in Pakistan are full of gender discrimination, they always use HE and very rarely SHE, how these disparities could be knocked out of the textbooks?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: Pakistan hasn’t yet come out of its semi nomadic past. All economic activity is in the center as is all political will derived from there. And the very center has yet to find a viable national culture which is protected by the state apparatus and policy. But because the state is getting busier protecting itself from threats from within and without there is a meagre chance of non entities (ironically) like gender equality. The influence of the state in this area is at par with nothing. You see a couple of lady pilots and lady police officers once in a while and that’s it. It will remain so till the deep state throws away its cocoon; woven in response to bloated security threats within which only the ones in uniform survive and the rest keep on going down into primordial existence since day 1. In my opinion gender equality is a very long shot and given the pathetic condition of our civil society, it’s going to take us another half a century (I hope it doesn’t).
At the time when Cold War brought to Afghanistan; textbooks for the Pashtuns were published in Nebraska University of the United States and in these books they were indoctrinated the theme of violence and jihad to the Pashtun’s kids. The alphabets they taught to our kids were such as B for bomb, G for gun and J for jihad and so on. So what impact you can see in turn now?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: The impact of indoctrination is a Middle East drowning into abyss, a Pakistan lacerating it’s geography and its children with the most lethal weapons,
a population ready to explode into civil war, a new generation without a direction, a state structure run with life saving drugs made of concoctions of unprecedented magnitude.
At individual level we see murders, decoity, kidnapping, and other heinous crime take place around us on daily basis. That is the product of the policies of General Zia and General Musharraf devised for them by their friends elsewhere for serving the national interest of the United States and it’s allied Western European states.
The Muslims think that education turns people into infidels and therefore modern education is considered a taboo in Muslims’ societies? What is your response to the question?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I come from a Pashtun family and I have been through the process of religious indoctrination. The only people and the only knowledge that made me abhor religion were the mullahs and their attitude with us as children. They talked of obscene things like ladies menstruation, expulsion of fluids from body parts and some such noon sense while we were still 7/8 years old. One mullah hit me on the head because I didn’t touch the ground with my nose during prostration in (Sajda). I stopped going to the mosque and never liked to go there long after. I found God in books of literature, in poems, in the mountains, in the rivers and in the jungles, in the company of enlightened friends, and wise men and women. I want to remain in these places forever, with my God, being there too!
Pashtuns are at war. They are mostly thrown out of their homes and are lived as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Schools are blown up in Pashtun land and Pashtun’s kids in schools are being slaughtered, how do you see the future of Pashtun nation regarding education?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: Your question remind me a very moving story of the mass migration of the American Indians after the Indian wars. I think the title of that narrative is ‘ The Trail of Tears’. I see close resemblance between the migration of the Pashtun from their mountains and the forceful eviction of the Lacota, the Sioux, and the Crow nations from their ancestral prairy lands in central United States. The Americans have realised their injustices to minorities and are integrating Africans, Latin Americans and the Indians into the nation by affording them opportunities of education and development. The case of the Pashtun is however quite different, while the military and political elite fully comprehends the implications of their policies, they have yet to consider the Pashtun as equal citizens in any case. I heard an Afghan minister on Fox News proclaiming that Pashtun and Baluch should be considered the servants of Pakistan’s dominant majority and their territory the servant quarters. I think the analogy is quite pertinent. The state needs to give some space to deprived minorities to engender sustainable citizenship across it’s geographic and political outreach.
Please would you explain, what is Kalashnikov culture in educational institutions? Why this tradition is in vogue in our colleges?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I have lived in Kalashnikov culture all my life and its a life little better than in a jungle with primordial beasts. I have seen maniacs and wackoes spill the blood of the innocent and the gifted and I have seen murderers and hired assassins reach high offices and status during the last thirty years. We haven’t come out of that yet. Perhaps we never can if our security perception and policies are not reviewed and modified ASAP.
Many years ago, perhaps in 1996, I joined Army Public College, Peshawar as a young teacher. There I wrote an essay ‘ A nation in arms or a nation with learning’. One of my students presented it very effectively in some military institution and he won the first prize. In that piece I had denounced arms and arms race and had tried to make the audience understand the horrible fallout of the nonsense practiced in the highest offices of the state vis-a-vis the Afghan proxy wars at the time.
Many would’ve heard it but nobody listened till it came to our back yard. The landing of a super power in Afghanistan should be considered one of the most blatant failures of intelligence anywhere in the world. They say that the worst nightmare of a strategist is a surprise and this was the worst and the most successful surprise in world history. There shouldn’t be any room left for further surprises in our poor, sick and injured homeland!
The current COAS is doing a fine job and if his policies are allowed to continue by his predecessors, I have a hope that Kalashnikov culture would end in less than five years.
Pashtuns are famous and recognized for their talent but even with good talent they are legged behind in the field of modern education? They have very less scholars, scientists and intellectuals, why?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: Thirty years of cold war, proxy wars, and money wars have been enacted in or just around our homes and cities.These have effected every aspects of our lives irretrievably. Our children grow violent with years and take up arms where only a fist fight is needed. Violence has become our culture and violators of law and norms stand out as heroes. Terror is considered a lasting and productive influence. Imagine, when fighting the terrorists the functionaries of the state proclaim the slogan ‘to establish the writ of the state’ and ‘not to enforce the rule of law‘. In such a highly charged, tense and polarized society it’s extremely difficult for the youth to remain stable. let alone having their talent groomed, they’d be lucky if they make it to becoming normal humans.
In Pakistan, Pashtuns are not taught their Pashto literature, history and the Pashtun’s values called Pashtunwali. In such circumstances what role your institution is playing. Do you have any such courses, subjects or seminars for the students to educate them in their social values, literature and history?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: In answering one of your previous question, I made it explicitly clear that being a minority community in Pakistan Pashtun have to adopt the national narrative. Note it please! that includes national language, culture and social norms and ethos too. And moreover, it’s not the government or the state that will promote our language and culture. It’s the TV and the Social Media which shall define the future of Pashtun language and culture. let’s see how it fares in the years to come.
Politically, it’s not possible for the ruling majority to nurture our system of life because they themselves are following the footsteps of Indian advancement in culture, propagated through Indian media.
I believe, in this age of information technology, we as individuals can contribute more in a year than the pashto academies of Peshawar University or the university of Kabul have done in decades. There are a number of websites run by young boys where you come across excellent samples of Pashtun music, folklore and expressions of artistic abilities. I was very impressed with the stuff projected on those websites. I think they will do a lot to preserve our culture and identity as a people.
According to religious Mullah, modern education turns Muslims youth as infidels, what do you think?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I think it’s very important to go bereft of faith at some point in ones life. It tenders you a chance to explore Allah’s real presence. And you will definitely find Allah because Allah is so easy to find, away from mullah. The mullah have a reflection of Allah which is designed for them by others. They insist on conformity to command of the religious authority who in turn derive authority from moral and physical resistance to psychotic westophobia. It’s rather complex to understand, but the best for Pashtun youth is to achieve the standard of manhood projected by Pashtunwali and not by the contorted versions of Islam professed by Taliban and ISIS.
Pakistan spends very less on education almost 2% of its total budget while a sheer amount goes in the mouth of military in the name of defense and there is no check upon the military budget. Their children study abroad while the poor public here in Pakistan can no more afford to educate their children. Do you not think that Pakistan military is destroying the education system in the name of defense?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: The military is not doing it intentionally. It is happening as a consequential fall out of defence centric policies. And because there has never been a review or evaluation of such policies at any transparent forum, there is every possibility that the same will continue indefinitely. State craft is the most challenging enterprise for men driven by temptation. That’s why the world has had only one Mao, One George Washington, One Gandhi and One Jinnah identified as true leaders. Our military rulers followed temptations and so do their fans and followers. There is money and power in their trail and nobody wants to lag behind. So the vicious circle keeps on turning us around and nothing much changes in this country of ours.
What changes would you like to suggest in the education system generally in Pakistan and particularly in Pashtun land?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: I think teachers and professors should wake up and get out of primitive social and religious stupor. They should do their moral duty by doing their job as it’s required per rules. If they don’t, they will be taking haram to their homes and their families. Doing ones duty is more important than prayers and tableegh.
What is your message for the young generation of Pashtun?
Mr. Amjed Ayaz Khan: The first word revealed to Prophet Mohammad ‘IQRA’ meaning ‘READ!’ is my message to all learners whether young or old, men or women, Muslims or non Muslims. They are all my children, all my friends, all my brothers and sisters, and all my daughters and sons. May Allah give them the power to learn and understand the written and revealed word and render them the ability to contemplate upon and comprehend the essential human situation and find solutions to the suffering of the hungry, the ill, the war stricken, the ignorant, the have not and the hopeless around the world.
Thanks and sincere regards
Interviewed by Aurang Zeb Khan Zalmay, Editor and founder of THE PASHTUN TIMES.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WITH THE PASHTUN TIMES