Beneath the Soil
by Aanya F Niaz
Published in the Huffington Post, May 29 2013.
Northwest Pakistan marked the beginning of the New Year by opening gunfire on seven charity workers. Their crime was participating in a vaccination program. Several men on four motorbikes fired at the van the social workers were seated in, close to “Ujala” or Light, the center where their work was to take place. Well before 2001, foreign aid swept into Pakistan, aiding only a few but proliferating the number of sanctions. Many projects amounted to nothing because the people did not want what was being offered. This is particularly true in the vastly tribal regions of Pakistan, where uneducated masses reside amidst terrorists who maintain their angst towards the West, and any cooperation between Pakistan and the West. When ‘outsiders’ have gone in with ideas of changing lives, they have been met with great shock: sensitive cultures, traditions, conventions, religion, language and perspectives are dangerously different than they seem to anyone outside of the country. For example: building schools. If foreigners are seen participating in this much-needed charitable work, terrorists don’t just act out on them. They bomb the school and carry off more explosions inside the country to send their message: We don’t want you. The rest of Pakistan, well, they are seen as helpless.
Jan. 1, 2013 saw a tragedy unlike before — the horrific shootings of innocent women and men, only trying to help. But they were stopped by militants. This made me think — rather re-think — developmental strategies and ideas of progressive change.
The trouble is not that there aren’t enough people willing to help, neither is it that the general Pakistani masses are helpless. The truth is, we need to water the roots beneath the soil with education so that the development we want to bring will be accepted, acknowledged and appreciated. If you keep adding water to a plant that’s already dead, it won’t make it come back to life. We need to plant new seeds under the soil, and these seeds can be found in the palms of education. See, if you want to implement vaccination programs in rural villages of the Northwest, the reality is the people will want it, of course (who wouldn’t want their medical needs met?) — but the terrorists won’t let you. This connects to the number of children that are being trained and brainwashed to participate in history’s worst practice, that of killing in the name of religion. Poverty and lack of options is a huge factor in why so many children are sent to terrorists to be schooled, trained and used. If we can begin to educate minds, we can begin to inform. Information will lead to thought, which will enable minds to think for themselves and make better choices. We can begin to decrease the number of children joining forces with militants by offering them opportunities at schools, providing them with waivers, uniforms, incentives and a natural belief in their potential.
If we focus on education, we can have more educated officials in our government representing our country. Unlike the current president whose own education is under controversy, we will find it easier to breathe and believe that our chosen representative has an informed mind and the ability to make better choices for our country. Those who advise him should be educated, those who surround him should be educated, those who want to participate in politics should be educated so that money doesn’t have to be the only incentive — rather education will enable them to believe that there are other factors that contribute to a high quality of life. If our government gets better over the next few decades, their decisions will be well armed in combating terrorism.
As you can see, all roots go back to education — to the schooling of a young boy and girl and letting them know they can make better choices. Only then will efforts that only touch the foreground meet fruition.