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Syrians fear new Raqqa turmoil once Islamic State is defeated2017/06/24
Michael Georgy

U.S.-backed forces are closing in on Islamic State in Raqqa, but local Syrians who have escaped the battlefield are worried about what comes after the fight.
Dozens of them have volunteered to help rebuild the town once the militants have been defeated ...

Reinventing a gender-fair curriculum2017/06/24
Farhana Shahzad

Teaching a core language course at a university one comes across students from diverse educational backgrounds. It was not a revelation that the Intermediate students mostly stumbled in the subject as compared to their A-level counterparts. Not only are the Intermediate background students less proficient in language, but they are also guilty of holding stereotypical mindsets.
Out of sheer exasperation and determination to unearth the reasons for such a predicament, I searched the Punjab English Intermediate Textbook Board curriculum. As I scrolled down the contents of the four Intermediate English textbooks, I gasped with dismay! Though it had been more than two decades since I sat for my Intermediate English exam, the scenario of these crucial career deciding examinations and its curriculum had not altered.
The Punjab Intermediate Textbook Board has maintained the status quo and the curriculum has been guilty of propagating gender stereotypes. Once these gendered identities are instilled, they leave an indelible impression on the young minds of the students. Eventually, they become guilty of perpetuating and practising sexism or, even graver consequences, indulge in molestation of their female counterparts.
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, each day 12 women suffer rape in Pakistan. Though these heinous crimes receive nationwide condemnation and endeavours have been made to unearth the main causes of these inhumane acts, one of its causes is the instilling of the patriarchal setup through our curriculum.
In order to validate the propagation of gender stereotyping through the English Intermediate curriculum, a research on the constructions of gender stereotypes was conducted by Malaysian researchers Jayakaran Mukundan and Vahid Nimechisalem. The research categorised stereotyping into various forms of sexism: invisibility: fewer females than males; occupational stereotyping: females in fewer and more menial occupational roles; relationship stereotyping: women more in relation with men than men with women; personal characteristics stereotyping: women portrayed as emotional and timid; dispowering discourse roles: more males talking first or voicing their opinions more than females; degrading and blatant sexism to the point of misogyny.
These categories were set as indicators of the corpus analysis in detecting the construction of gender identities and the results established that there is an absolute construction of gender typecasting through the four Intermediate English compulsory textbooks. The language employed in the textbooks has been instrumental in propagating the stereotypes by marginalising the females and uplifting the male counterparts. Females are mostly invisible in the text and the limited number of appearances has been stereotyped in typical roles of housewives, mostly engaged in childrearing or seeking approval of their male family members. Females have been portrayed in sub-ordinated roles and have been deprived of the right to decide for themselves, depicting blatant sexism and hegemonic masculinity.
There is a dire need to break free of the masculinity and femininity predetermined by the male hegemony. This could be established through deconstruction of these gender stereotypical images and roles by redefining them. The corpus analysed painted a picture in which females were underrepresented, marginalised and invisible, whereas male heroes and icons were predominantly selected. This kind of discrimination only depicts that female icons are not worthy enough to be a part of the corpus.
Gender deconstruction will not only be inspirational for young female learners, but it will also be instrumental in shaping the outlook of the male counterparts towards them. Hence, female national icons like Benazir Bhutto, Fatima Jinnah, Rana Liaquat Ali Khan, Nida Tariq or Samina Baig could be included in the syllabus. International female figures such as Mother Teresa, Margaret Thatcher or Sheikh Hasina Wajid could become excellent content for reading. -Courtesy: The Express Tribune

The country spread2017/06/24
Asha'ar Rehman

There is this gentleman who loves to be 'different' from others in pointing out the 'real' facts. In the wake of Pakistan's latest cricketing glory, he has typically drawn his followers' attention to a glaring ground reality. He says that while it is heartening to find all kinds of leaders in the country hailing the Champions Trophy victory, there are issues related to sports that need some urgent intervention.
In what would leave the more concerned - and not only the most nostalgic - wondering, one message doing the rounds connects the grand Oval crowning of the national side with the vanishing cricket grounds in Lahore. In particular, the focus is on the prime minister's constituency in the city that has been under so much pressure from the bulldozer in recent decades.
Some new facilities must have cropped up in place of the playing fields once buzzing with activity. But while the new inventions may be of use to many, the obliteration of the old leaves a gaping hole inside those whose aspirations and demands governments find too outdated and expansive to accommodate. They are not even considered worthy of a consolation prize. 
The story of the big city's growing disrespect for providing the revellers and general enthusiasts with open spaces has many angles. One particular dimension that the composition of this victorious national cricket side shows is how the smaller towns are coming up to fill the vacuum and to champion pursuits that were once the pride of towns which have - maybe - expanded a bit too much for their own leisure and comfort. It is all about space.
It is the exclusion of players from Lahore that is, sarcastically, credited for the national side's successful campaign at the Champions Trophy.
It is remarkable how people are comparing the rousing reception given to skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in Karachi with the welcome (or not) afforded to Hassan Ali, a bowler from a Gujranwala neighbourhood who won a couple of personal honours at the Champions Trophy. 
This is no fluke. There is a pattern to it. There are so many other small-town players in the cricket team whose performance confirm how they are competing with and regularly overtaking the more privileged boys from the big towns. Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Naeem Ashraf and before them players such as Mohammad Amir. 
It's been a gradual spread-unmasking talent in untapped lands. For many years, connoisseurs celebrated, with great pleasure, laidback Multan's late discovery: the ability to casually throw up a giant such as Inzamam-ul-Haq. Then sometime later - in fact many years later - Faisalabad came to the fore with names such as Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez and of course Misbah-ul-Haq who had earlier played for Sargodha. 
If Multan and Faisalabad were growing modern towns on their own, often eclipsed by the pomp that big brother Lahore is so fond of generating around itself, there was the case of Sialkot. Sialkot, the city that is, is perhaps much more privileged than any other part of Pakistan in many ways. In the strict context of domestic cricket in the country, the name represents a kind of platform for players from areas living close to and under the long shadow of Lahore. 
Muridke, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and its vicinity, these are the parts from where talent has been channelled into the Sialkot team over recent years. Some from the assorted bunch have then shone bright at the national and international level. 
Once it used to be more of a spurt, a flash, such as the one symbolised by Imran Nazir who has the spark but was too impatient for his modest background and perhaps too overawed by the big stage. He eventually tried to wrap up his sentiment in too extravagant an expression which was in essence as much aimed at the opposition in the field as it was directed at the big-city boys who had, for long monopolised space in the national team. 
The emotion may still be there, but over a long period of time, the 'outsiders' from the countryside have come to have a deeper belief in their own abilities. 
For long, this talent from the 'districts' continued to be falsely attributed to the big town. For instance, for many outside Punjab, players from areas around Lahore - from as far away as Faisalabad actually - still carried the Lahori tag. 
Of late, there has been a change thankfully, and other cities and districts are increasingly claiming their share in the fame brought to them by the cricketing talent produced in their midst. So much so - and one says this with a heavy heart- that today it is the exclusion of players from Lahore which is, sarcastically, credited for the national side's successful campaign at the Champions Trophy. 
These players from the mofussils or small towns are not here as a result of some magic search employed by the Pakistan Cricket Board, even though they have been greatly helped by the PCB's initiatives. They have grown in the space available to them in the places of their origin.
Perhaps it wouldn't be outrageous to remark that they have benefited from the lack of distraction that is part and parcel of life in big urban centres. Perhaps the race is still just a little more relaxed in the relatively smaller towns even when the ambition for modernisation may be the same all over. 
There is yet time, and in celebrating the cricket win, we must celebrate the expansion of the country across areas which generally existed away from the national radar, save for the earthshaking local occurrence. 
They are the vital links in the chain to keep things moving. They may be found everywhere - in government and private-sector jobs, as labour, filling space as volunteer contributors in newspapers' special supplements, including the children's section and women pages, as the big city dwellers are swayed by the more exciting prospects on offer. -Courtesy: Dawn

Beggars in Karachi during Ramazan2017/06/24
Every year Ramadan witnesses a huge influx of beggars mostly seen at traffic signals, eateries, markets, hospitals, railway stations and bus stands. Repeated campaigns against the menace launched by government institutions have almost always met with failure. The crowds of street beggars in major cities reflect an increasing rate of poverty in the country, the astounding rise in their number in the holy month suggests some agencies must be operating behind the scene ...

Karachi prison raid2017/06/23
After the jailbreak by two well known sectarian terrorists from Karachi's largest prison, doubt arose on the personnel deployed to guard the premises. Twelve of them were remanded to prison for their role in the escape of the men who between them are allegedly responsible for around 65 targeted killings. A raid by the Rangers, police, and army personnel got evidence that there is far more than lethargy on the part of the jail personnel ...

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