Open sky school gets recognition after Arab News story

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Provisions have also been made for furniture, books, and stationery for children attending a school in Shereen Khel --- a small village on the outskirts of Makeen --- in the volatile region where a majority of the families were displaced during a crackdown by the military to rid the areas of militants. (AN photos)
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Provisions have also been made for furniture, books, and stationery for children attending a school in Shereen Khel --- a small village on the outskirts of Makeen --- in the volatile region where a majority of the families were displaced during a crackdown by the military to rid the areas of militants. (AN photos)
Updated 21 November 2018

Open sky school gets recognition after Arab News story

  • Article had highlighted issues faced by Pakistan’s tribal areas in setting up educational facilities
  • Nearly 400,000 children out of school in the region, official says

PESHAWAR: The keyboard is indeed mightier than the sword. 
Following a story published by Arab News last week – which highlighted how children in Pakistan’s tribal areas were unable to acquire an education due to a lack of facilities and were thus forced to study under the open skies — the military in the South Waziristan region has swung into action.
According to information received by Arab News, which was circulated on behalf of the military from the area: “A tent school has been established by the army in far-flung areas of Tehsil Makin as a temporary facility. Moreover, work on the construction of a permanent structure has also started which will be completed within a short span of time.”
Provisions have also been made for furniture, books, and stationery for children attending a school in Shereen Khel --- a small village on the outskirts of Makeen --- in the volatile region where a majority of the families were displaced during a crackdown by the military to rid the areas of militants.
At the moment, more than 52 students are benefitting from the facility in Shireen Khel.
Arab News had spoken to several top officials and tribal leaders who had said at the time that Prime Minister Imran Khan – staying true to his campaign and electoral promises — had ensured that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were eventually merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 
When the bill finally became a law in May this year, it gave residents ample reasons to celebrate. However, today, nearly six months after the merger, several complained that children were being denied their basic right to education, which continues to remain a distant dream.
Tribesmen from the volatile region urged the government to prioritize the education sector, adding that hundreds of children had dropped out of school as they were forced to study under the open skies due to a lack of properly-constructed facilities in the South Waziristan, Bajaur and other tribal districts.
One such example was that of Shereen Khel where nearly 204 children were studying under a tree in Makeen --- a scenic valley once regarded as the epicenter of insurgency and the hometown of former Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader, Baitullah Mehsud.
Surrounded by jagged mountains, the Shereen Khel village boasts a population of roughly 2,000 but has no buildings for its school.
Mir Kalam, a tribesman from the area who teaches children voluntarily, said that because of this reason he has been teaching children for the past one year without getting any incentives for his services.
“I teach children voluntarily to create awareness among them and to make them responsible citizens of the country,” Kalam had said.
According to Shoaib Khan, a senior official at the FATA Education Directorate, roughly around 400,000 children are out of school in the tribal areas but plans are being implemented to enroll them.
When contacted Sikandar Hayat Mehsud, a local from the South Waziristan region said that the military in the area acted swiftly after getting wind of the report and ensured the provision of basic facilities for the school, a move which was widely lauded by the local residents.
“This is really extraordinary development when the media points out a problem and the authorities respond. The military move to shift basic facilities to the school which was functioning in open is a sigh of relief for the people who are busy building their lives from scratches because they have just been repatriated after spending years in displacement,” he said.
Mehsud added that he had shared the Arab News article in certain WhatsApp groups, prompting the authorities to get into action. “I’m sure the Arab News that article has great contributions to turn it into a formal educational institution,” Mehsud said.

THE COMPARISON




The condition of the school one week ago, left, and today. (AN photo)




The condition of the school one week ago, left, and today. (AN photo)


Legislators, stakeholders decide to revive defunct Pakistan Steel Mills

Updated 21 October 2019

Legislators, stakeholders decide to revive defunct Pakistan Steel Mills

  • Senate body decides to clear Rs14-15 billion of workers’ dues in 18 months, Senator Aurangzeb Khan tells Arab News
  • The mill’s closure has cost the country Rs50 billion during the last 14 months: Stakeholders

KARACHI: Pakistan’s legislators and stakeholders on Monday decided to revive the country’s largest lossmaking public sector megacorporation, the Pakistan Steel Mills, and clear about Rs15 billion belonging to its workers, a senator and stakeholders confirmed to Arab News on Monday.

A meeting of Senate’s Standing Committee on Industries and Production was held to review the revival plan of the Pakistan Steel Mills which has remained non-functional since June 2015 after witnessing a decline in its production since 2008.

“The steel mill will be revived and for that, we have scheduled an advisory meeting in the next 15 days that will determine our future course of action. Today’s meeting was attended by professionals and they have informed us that the mill is 100 percent in working condition. They also maintained that some vested interest groups do not want to run the steel mills,” said Senator Aurangzeb Khan, member of the standing committee.

“When and how to restart the steel mills will be decided in the next meeting,” he assured.

The Pakistan Steel Mills was constructed in 1973 under an agreement signed between the country’s administration and the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1971. The Soviets also agreed to provide technical and financial assistance for the construction work.

The senator said that the accumulated dues of workers and stakeholders had increased to around Rs15 billion since the closure of the mill.

“The steel mill is closed and the workers’ dues have accumulated to Rs14-15 billion. Today we have decided that the dues will be paid in 18-month installments of Rs5 billion which will be released in six months each,” Khan said.

Pakistan is also seeking Chinese and Russian help to revive the steel mills, though the stakeholders informed the senate body they could revive it on their own with local expertise.

“We don’t need any Chinese or Russian experts; we can run the mill with local expertise. Machinery and specialists, if needed, will be allowed to hire,” Mumrez Khan, the convener of the PSM Stakeholders’ Group, comprising employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers, and contractors, told Arab News.

The incumbent government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is looking at various options to revive the steel mills that include induction of professional management, but no final decision has so far been made in this connection.

“The daily losses are estimated to be around Rs120 million due to the closure of plants,” Mumrez Khan claimed, adding that during the last 14 months of the current administration the closure of the mill has cost the country Rs50 billion.

The stakeholders made the revival of the mill contingent on the reconstitution of the board of directors by inducting relevant experts and professional management.

They also insisted on initiating the accountability process against people responsible for its closure, asking the government to refer their cases to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and instruct the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to recover the mill’s dues.

“The steel import tariff must be rationalized to provide level playing field to all the competitors in the country,” Khan added, claiming that “the revival of the steel mills will add Rs100 billion revenue.”

“I have informed the legislators that the accumulated losses of the steel mills have jumped to about $11 billion due to the closure of plants and imports of steel products,” he said.

Pakistan is also mulling to privatize this lossmaking public entity but no decision has so far been taken. However, it was decided that the defunct entity would be revived before taking any final decision regarding its privatization.

Spread over an area of 18,600 acres with 10,390 acres for the main plant, the Pakistan Steel Mills is located 40 kilometers from Karachi in the Port Qasim vicinity. The PSM had a production capacity of 1.1 million tons of steel which was expandable to 3 million tons per annum. The main PSM products included coke, pig iron, billets, cold-rolled sheets, hot-rolled sheets, and galvanized sheets.