By Fazal Amin Beg
This individual case explores and deals with the challenges of a special person (i.e., person with disability), belonging to Hunza, (being visually impaired and a student of M.A. pursuing his study in Special Education from Karachi University. it describes the socioeconomic condition of the person along with his educational endeavors and accomplishment on the one hand; and his multiple skills and experiences as well as the bitter and better experiences in the respective cultural environments. More importantly, the perceptions and mindsets that leads humans towards various kinds of behaviors with other fellow humankinds, particularly with special persons are being explored.
The purpose of this small contribution is to a) explore and uncover the harsh realities pertaining to the special persons, especially the visually impaired, are seen in the in the respective cultural environment; b) find out how a visually impaired is treated by the related organizations of the public and private sectors and/or civil society; and c) advocate for the special persons and sensitize the concerned individuals and organizations towards positively practical facilitation.
There are uncountable special persons encountering innumerable challenges and issues in different realms as I could take more and more individual cases in order to patch them together and consolidate them in a whole. But at present, I however am going to take one of the most critical cases as a strategy to disclose some realities for the sake of getting more deep insights in the matters of special persons in Hunza, Gilgit-Balltistan and Pakistan.
Khush Ahmad belongs to the village of Nasirabad (locally termed as Hini) and the Sumuye family of Duduye clan within S̃hin tribe of S̃hinaki (Lower Hunza) in Gilgit-Baltistan Region, northern Pakistan. He got married with Ambarin of Begal clan of Thui village from Yasin valley in 2011. Ambarin has acquired her primary llevel education only. Both these couple has a daughter, named Suhaima Ahmad. They got their first baby girl and after birth she was died due to some maternal health problem. The second daughter, Suhaima Ahmad, has started her Early Childhood education (ECD) level in a private school in the village they got their next baby girl in the third week of October, 2015 but she passed away unfortunately, due to maternal health issues again.
Engaged with subsistence farming, Khush Ahmad’s father, Gulsher Khan, is over 80 years old now, and his mother has passed away in 2013 (suffered from paralysis for two years from 2011 -2013) when she was almost 70. He has no brother and has six sisters, all married in middle and/or lower middle class families. Although, within their very limited capacity his sisters and brothers-in-law generously extend their helping hands to Khush Ahmad and family, it is not easy and possible for them to take the responsibilities entirely on their shoulders as they have their own separate families (nuclear and joint). Second, as per cultural tradition, taking care and running the states of affairs of a house becomes a man’s responsibility (as it is quite obvious that a male progyny legally heirs the properties as per cultural norms in the regional context)
Khush Ahmad has a piece of land in Nasirabad and her poor wife strives hard to subsist their lives through agricultural activities but certainly it becomes very hard for her alone to sustain the house and deal effectively with the challenges (of her own health issues, her small baby, her visually impaired couple, her age-old father-in-law).
When Khush Ahmad’s mother was alive and his father in his middle age, both of them affectionately extended their parental support to him particularly in facilitating to pursue his school and college level education with the great and impressive support of educational institutions for special children in Vision International (Gilgit Eye Hospital) and Ida-Rieu in Karachi in 2005 -2007 and 2008-2009 respectively. That is the reason that Khush Ahmad could build on their educational support and ventured with the consistent encouragement by his Hunzai friend Ibraar Ahmad of Gilgit and Rahmat Aman of Ghizer to continue his educational travel at bachelor’s and master’s level after his marriage in 2011. Khush Ahmad thus continued his efforts and qualified his bachelor’s degree from Karakoram International University (KIU), Gilgit, in 2013. Keeping in view his interest to specialize in special education, In 2015, Kush Ahmad fortunately got admission in Karachi University in the department of Special Education.
Prioritizing his educational mission by addressing the initial monetary requirements, Khush Ahmad, as ever courageously, left his family and began his classes the department of Special education in Karachi university. Although, he was aware that he would come across financial challenges in the months of semesters to come during his educational pursuance, he was however optimistic to overcome those issues with the help of the philanthropic organizations (having such mandates) and individuals, at least within his community and country
As per mandate, special students are exempted from the semesters’ fee and Khush Ahmad in this respect can be termed fortunate that he is not supposed to pay any semester fee. But for the boarding and lodging , Kush Ahmad stood dependent and there is no accommodation facility for the students of Karachi university (also including special students). That is why a big challenge he had to confront. A kinsperson of him lives far away from the university in Metrovil (a suburb area), changing two buses daily and reaching in the campus in one and a half hour daily travel one way (also including susceptibility of traffic risk to navigate the roads and traffic circles).
On the other, staying in private hostels having enabling environment for special students involve more than ten thousand rupees per month (PKR 10,000 excluding transportation cost, expenses involved for the books, stationaries, incidentals, health emergencies and other related heads.
Keeping in accounts the set objectives of the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for Pakistan and expecting for appropriate financial support for such educational cause, Khush Ahmad requested the officials of this esteemed organization and he was ultimately granted support for three months from February to April 2015 having PKR 4,000/- only (lesser than US$50) per month that even did not meet his boarding and lodging expenses of the hostel and get aside other relatedly critical requirements on daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Overcoming wwith his day-to-day visually physical challenges were not that much critical in a sense to Kush Ahmad as he had to fight the emanating grave financial issue to sustain fueling of his educational candle. Despite all such issues on the one hand and genuine concerns for his family in Hunza (who worried for him ), Kush Ahmad successfully and bravely fought these battles in the first semester.
After his First Semester in June 2015, Khush Ahmad could not prolong his efforts due to monstrously financial challenges and he had to return to Hunza to live with his father and nuclear family. Although, he is back home, Khush Ahmad has not loosened his heart but rather is determined to reach his academic crest and destinationsooner he could positively overcome his financial foe (by arranging at least lesser than half a million rupees for two years fully focused study of Master’s degree plus to run modestly his house affairs ). His dreams are not only limited to get his Master’s degree only but rather also to continue, with the course of time, for his advance studies by doing his M.Phil and Phd. He then plans to serve the special persons of Gillgit-Baltistan and Pakistan in an effective manner.
Bestowed with a highly creative thoughts and talents, Khush Ahmad is a young man. He has participated (from 2004-2009) in national and international level sports competition like cricket and marathon race in Islamaad, Lahore, Karachi, Multan and Bahawalpur, and has been rewarded with certificates and awards.he is also an expert swimmer and can swim in Hunza River as well as in the seashore in Karachi. He has also taught swimming to some of his other visually impaird fellows.
he is also a musician and can play various musical instruments (traditional and modern) like flutes, drums and keyboard. As a volunteer, Khush Ahmad has been an active scout served the Ismaili Scouts Association for five years. At present, in voluntary capacity, he is Vice President of the Visually Impaired Students Association (VISA) of Hunza district in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Khush Ahmad’s mother used to remain anxious about her only son but impaired. One day she was suddenly strongly hit by paralysis in 2011 that sustained for two years .In such critical circumstances, Khush Ahmad, having his intermediate level education (F.A ) tested his fate so that to get a job an take her mother to better facilitated hospitals in the down country. Like other special persons, on the 2% quoata seats for them in the public sector organizations in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khush Ahmad also trialed his fortune fate in various organizations even in the police department for the position of telephone operator as he could easily serve on this position. But unfortunately in various public and NGO sectors, his application, like many other visually impaired, was not considered even for the interview.
After a meeting of the visually impaired with the the then Chief Minister (CM) of Gilgit-Baltistan in 2011, he favored in offering him job only for six months. Khush Ahmad gladly and dedicatedly served the office but not a single penny was paid to him in remuneration. “I thought I would get my salry together for few months but deprived of my rights and my service being exploited”, Ahmad adds. The CM had reportedly assured him to take him on permanent basis after formal advertisement and interview against a position. “But one day, with a pretention of handing over a letter to me to serve the Deputry Commissioner’s office in Gilgit , I was fired from my job and in place of me , a normal female from Ghizer district was recruited on the strong recommendation of a highly influential political leader of Pakistan Peoples Party, Ahmad states discouragingly . He attempted to go to his office but the security guards did not allow him to go inside.
Khush Ahmad was not only fired from his position but that office seems to have been like adream for him where his actual dream of taking his mother for medication could not turn into reality. His own and his mother’s fate further endangered. In 2013, she finally passed away by leaving a big wound of sorrow to her son.
Khush Ahmad seems very bold, highly motivated and determined towards his educational accomplishment. It was during the time of her mother’s death that his papers of B.A. had began. Despite all these miseries and shocks, he attempted and appeared in his papers .
A highly shocking incidence could be evidenced also with regard to Khush Ahmad’s marriage. Such incidences are not specific with Khush Ahmad only but we can witness enormous examples in the case of visually impaired peoples in different parts of Gilgit-Baltistan Region and Pakistan. Prior to his marriage with his wife, Ambar, his parents attempted to engage a life partner for him in lower Hunza. When difficulties were faced, his parents finally succeeded to engage a life-mate (fiancee) for Khush Ahmad from a village of Hunza. Wedding time and day was fixed and all arrangements made. The next day the wedding had to take place and the bridegroom along with the wedding party were supposed to go and bring the gbride; but in the meanwhile the bride’s maternal uncle, quarelling with her paternal uncles, took away the bride from the house and married her with his son because khush ahmad was visually impaired
Taking into accounts such inhuman behaviors against the weaker fellow humans , Khush ahmad and his family took a sharp decision when Khush Ahmad’s friends from Gilgit and Ghizer helped facilitated him in getting a conjugal partner from Thui village of Yasin valley. The prompt marriage took place within a week with Ambar (who is medically fit). Both of the couple spend their lives with joy and helping each other. What we could see that friends circle of Khush Ahmad is strong and they do facilitate each other sincerely on various genuine issues, even in such personal matters, which sounds inspiring.
Observing the talents and creativities of such special students, more particularly the performances of such visually impaired persons, a seemingly physically normal or fit person may just imagine or may not think but it is a reality that those who seem impaired physically or otherwise before them have made their life so adaptable to their respective environment in many cases as they are adept with the usual daily activities, rather in some cases precede the normal persons.
The case of Khush Ahmad (like other genuine cases of special persons and particularly the visually impaired) leads us and those sensible members of their respective societies towards stimulation of some important and relevant questions that follow as under:
a) Where does the notion of Islamic Welfare State lye in the context of Pakistan?
b) Where do the Islamic ethics, jurisprudence and laws apply that protects the rights of the special, vullnerable and marginalized people?
c) Why doesn’t the public sector organizations like Bait-al Mal, Zakat and ushr, layers of social welfare organizations claiming for and/or mandating themselves for the services of the poor and deserving peoples but in reality these organizations of social welfare themselves infringe and usurp the rights of the poor and special peoples?
d) Where does lye the convention of human rights of the UN pertaining special peoples in the context of Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan?
e) When to materialize UN’s convention of protecting the rights of the special persons including the visually impaired in the country and region?
f) When the 2% quoata guaranteed as per law in Paakistan for the special persons has to be honestly delivered so that all those who are special persons should avail this, why are then the normal persons being recruited against the special peoples seats based on corrupt approaches?
g) Why do the non-governmental organizations, international non-governmental organizations and the civil society organizations forgedly claim for being equal opportunity providers without any discrimination based on race, region, religion, language, ethnicity, family, gender, hanicappness and the like while in practice these organizations themselves bring into exercise (covertly and overtly) all these biased approaches of socio-political affinities?
h) What are or could be the roles and responsibilities of the media (particularly electronic) in raising awareness and sensitizing the respective organizations of the public and private sectors as well as the civil society?
In conclusion, I should mention that until and unless all those related and relevant concepts are brought in practice by the respective leaderships in different organizations in a positively willful manner derived out of their honesty, professional capacity and determination, the fate of special persons like Khush Ahmad will further negatively intensify in suffering.
second, true and sincere friendships of the special persons (whether within or out of their families, clans, villages, valleys, regions, religions, cultures or nations) can robustly help facilitate getting relieved from the sorrows, pains and miseries. In such manner, these special persons can share their challenges and problems as well as their joys and rejoices. Such approaches needs to be encouraged among all special persons.
Third, until and unless the special persons themselves get united through their respective organizations from the grassroots level to the national level and lobby for their just rights in a positive way, as guaranteed by the laws of the country and the concerned Charters of the United Nations, less could be hoped for improvement in the crudely set structures of the human minds and organizations in Pakistan.
It is early to envision in the given circumstances and environment for the positive results like fruits dripping down from the various trees to the special persons in the country would be like making castles in the air. However, we can hope for the best that honest and dedicated professionals would take over the various layers of organizations within the public and NGO sectors as well as other organizations of the civil society who would effectively serve, either as an employee or a volunteer, for the betterment of the general mass in general and special persons in particular.