The budget passes
There was never any doubt about the budget passing, despite all the uproar from the opposition. The press was already full of reports that opposition leaders had instructed party members well in advance not to fight the finance bill in the House. So while the government was well within its right to celebrate the passage, this wasn’t really one of those contests that could have gone either way. And it’s not as if the government is out of the woods just yet. In fact, one reason the opposition really didn’t need to make much of a fuss about the budget, beyond breathing fire for the gallery as usual, was the already compromised position of the ruling coalition as well as cracks within the ruling party. That means the next few weeks and months will be very interesting, to say the least, as the opposition will try to exploit as many of the government’s weaknesses as possible.
For the briefest moment it seemed that such concerns were weighing somewhat heavily on the prime minister, and even led him to soften his tone somewhat in the National Assembly. Yet the PM himself rubbished all such speculation and went back to his attacking ways even before analysts had gone through his apparent change of tone properly. Imran Khan’s confidence was reflected at the dinner he hosted for his allies recently — which some crucial allies chose not to attend by the way – where he seemed to really believe, and went on to say, that his government would complete its term simply because there was no other choice for the country. This mindset raises two very important questions.
One, that there is no other option seems to imply that there is some power that chooses between options, etc, which the opposition is naturally interpreting in only one very obvious way; that the party was installed by some other power and the PM is indeed, as they have implied all along, ‘selected’. And two, even if the prime minister meant there is no other option for the people to bring to power, not any other force or institution, then it implies loss of confidence in his own party. For, if the only reason one believes people will keep him in power is because there is no other option, then there is an inherent admission of failure in matters like good governance. Either way, it gives opposition parties something to play with. The budget may have passed, but the troubles are only beginning.
Sexual harassment at the learning place
News that some teachers in certain schools in Lahore have been sexually harassing minor girls for years, which went viral on social media recently, is cause for very serious concern and must be handled with extreme caution. That schools in question have chosen to act quickly ought to be welcomed, but it should be ensured that they do not just let go of the teachers in question and hope to bury the whole issue under the carpet with that. These charges should be properly probed by relevant authorities and the perpetrators, some of whom have pretty compelling evidence against them already circulating on the internet, should be made to pay legally.
The matter of harassment, especially when minors are concerned, is very sensitive and unfortunately it is not treated with the seriousness it deserves in our society. There are problems at every level. First students, who are still minors, feel pressured and a large majority instinctively choses to stay silent. Then some that do come forward are often accused of ‘leading them on’, as some girls have claimed in the present case as well, which does their confidence no good. And in some extreme cases scared girls have been treated violently by their own families when they have decided to seek help. At the very least, a very large number of women are taken off schools and colleges in rural areas simply because of the excessive harassment they face there.
Considering all this it is an encouraging development that Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has taken note of these accusations at “two premier private institutions in Lahore.” Now there is an urgent need to move forward on this issue. Most people going through their school and college years never realise the trauma of somebody who is harassed all the time by people in authority. That makes it all the more important to support brave voices that do come out now and then, so proper examples can be made out of people who think they can get away with such depravity. Schools are considered sacred places because of the nature of the service they provide. And teachers are rightly referred to as spiritual parents. But once teachers try to sexually exploit students in schools, they break that sacred bond and deserve the most serious punishment.
Published in the Daily Times, July 1, 2020