Central Asia Institute and its hostels in Rawalpindi

PT Report

The fatal landslide of January 4 displaced thousands of people from Attabad and the surrounding villages in Hunza Valley. Over 140 families of Attabad and Sarat were shifted to relief camps established at the nearby Altit village. Hundreds of families were also displaced from the upstream villages of Ayeenabad, Shishkat and Gulmit due to damming of the Hunza River.

Scores of non-governmental organizations rushed to the valley to provide relief and support the affected people. Central Asia Institute (CAI) – an American initiative led by Dr.Greg Mortenson, was one of the NGOs that decided to provide relief to the affected people. CAI was already functional in the region, with a focus on the border Chipursan Valley, Gojal, where it is running a school for girls.

CAI took responsibility of providing free education to several of the girls displaced by the landslide and lake disaster. Most of the girls, belonging to Attabad, Sarat, Ayeenabad, Shishkat and Gulmit, were shifted to Rawalpindi where they are staying at hostels operated under CAI.

There were some reports about health problems being faced by the IDP girls who had been shifted to the hostels in Rawalpindi – 8 girls had, reportedly, went through surgeries for appendicitis.

At least one blogger blamed the CAI of possibly being part of a kidney-selling Mafia.

Keeping serious nature of the allegations in view, Pamir Times sent an email to to gain information about the incidents of appendicitis surgery. In response to the email a telephonic conversation took place with Col (r) Ilyas, CAI’s  Director for Operations in Pakistan. In accordance with the directions of Dr. Greg he promised to cooperate for providing information and facilitating a visit to the hostel.

Later on, a meeting was also held with Mr. Saeedullah Baig, senior staff member of CAI, to discuss the situation and get the official words. Mr. Saeed denied the allegations and expressed his shock over the ‘baseless accusations’. He termed the allegations as defamatory and ill intentioned. He also said that ‘CAI is an organization of high-repute working globally to facilitate girls in their education’.

On Sunday (November 14) this scribe visited the hostel and held a detailed meeting with around 20 students, mostly belonging to different parts of Gilgit – Baltistan.

Two of the five students who were operated upon for appendicitis were also present during the meeting. “The remaining three have moved back to their homes because their parents did not want them to stay at the hostel  anymore”, said Saeedullah Baig of CAI.

It transpired during the discussions that five  (5), not eight (8), of the boarders had went through appendicitis surgeries. In almost all cases, according to the students and CAI staff, parents or relatives of the students were present during the surgeries, three of  which took place at Ahmed Medical Complex – Rawalpindi and two at Holy Family Hospital.

The two boarders, ‘B’ and ‘S’ (names hidden for ensuring privacy), who had went through the surgery and were present during the meeting, had also been checked at the Aga Khan Family Health Center – Rawalpindi, copies of the reports of which were shared with this scribe. ‘B’ and ‘S’ (12-15 year old) said that they were operated for appendicitis in the months of May and June, 2010. They did not report any health related issue, or weakness, after the surgery.

The students expressed satisfaction over the facilities provided by the hostel administration.

“After the incidents of appendicitis we hired a full-time doctor”, said CAI Program Director, Advocate Fozia Naseer – herself an alumni of the CAI scholarship system, who was also present during the meeting.

She said that CAI is working extensively in different parts of Ghizar and Baltistan also and their organization is committed to development of the region. She termed the accusations to be baseless and ridiculous. She also said that all measures will be taken to ensure healthy and safe living for the boarders.

The reasons for higher appendicitis rate, however, has to be ascertained and the issue needs to be addressed very seriously because during the discussion with students it came out that all five girls who went through surgery were living at one of the three hostels operated by CAI in Rawalpindi. The quality of water and food available at the hostels needs to be scientifically checked to ensure good health of the students.

The boarders have to walk for around 20 minutes every day to reach their colleges and schools. The CAI staff said that they were aware of the situation and steps were being taken to provide transportation to the students. The twin-cities based GB community, as well as relatives and parents of some of the students contacted by Pamir Times, have expressed hope that CAI would provide the promised transportation facility to the boarders and scholars on emergency basis.

Some parents and relatives of the boarders have also expressed reservation against the security arrangement at the hostels. In view of the the city’s descend into crimes of various sorts, the fears of parents and relatives seem to be justified.

There is also a dearth of professionals at the hostels, with relevant experience. Relatives of some of the students have demanded of CAI to ensure that full-time, professional and experienced, female hostel managers are hired to serve the students in a better way.

A CAI school in Ghizar

There is also some pressure on the students, as observed during the discussions. The rules seems to be ‘perform-better-or-pack-your-bags-and-leave’, an approach that results in higher tension levels among the students and may lead to anxiety or depression. Expecting exceptional performance from girls who have been picked from remote villages, without following any proper IQ-testing process, seems to be unrealistic.

CAI has earned global fame for taking eduction to remotest places around the Pamir Mountains, as well as in parts of Baltistan and Khyber – Pukhtunkhawa Province. However, building upon and retaining the social capital seems to be a challenge which CAI needs to tackle.

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  1. Instead of publishing news based on hunches I would encourage the parents and all concerned persons to take the operated girls to some good doctor, let us say Maj.Gen. Salman Ali for a through medical examination and bring the realities forth with sound proof. I know that the people of Hunza have knowledge, resources and everything to know about what has been happening there. Your investigation must be based solid evidences.

  2. I appreciate your effort and investigative report which is on fact base.I strongly condemn the ….. writer who report without caring its consequences and without any base.It become very common in our society to believe on rumors and misinterpret information. I request to all the writers in particular and educated people of Hunza in general to follow the basic ethics of information dissemination.Because information disseminated without any fact will result into chaos in society and will jeopardize the future of media in our valley.regards n hats off to PT team.

  3. The efforts of CAI to sponsor deserving female students from different parts of Gilgit Baltistan is appreciable and noble cause. I really appreciate their efforts to help out students from GB in continuation of their studies. As far as the accommodation of Hostels are concerned, I personally visited Maha hostel with my wife and Sister to meet one of my relatives there. My observations and suggestions to the CAI representatives to make the arrangements more secure and healthy for the girls are:
    1. There is no female warden of the hostel ( Maha Hostel). Suggestion is, there should be a dedicated female warden for the hostel.
    2. There were three male employees of the hostel roaming around. They were even going inside the hostel where girls are residing without any hesitation. On my inquiry from one of them, he said i am cook here. actually he was everything there ( cook, guard and administrator). Suggestion is: Rule for girls hostel is that old age uncles are kept as cook etc. No young man is allowed to roam around without any rule etc. These employees should be restricted to the guest area.
    3. There was no armed security guard in the hostel. I got different answers from two employees , one said the guard has gone to take something and the other said there is no security guard, we have kept weapons here in case of any mishap. Even the students were telling lie regarding the warden and guard issue.

    I request GECA to held a meeting with CAI representatives and resolve these issues permanently. The most simplest and best solution of the problem is to establish a hostel for these girls, which GECA can do.

  4. Hi,
    we apperciate the NGO for helping IDPs ,I m also guardian of two Girls in hostle at the first day when all parents were came frm GB ,the manegment and hostle owner has promise to full fill all the faculities regarding security and other needs in front of parents when parents go back to homes ,hostle owner has never full the demands of parents .even their is no single water filtration in hostle their is no any guard concept their,i m agree with Mr Manzoor he has mentioned in detail he is right,,and other issue is that the owner of hostle has tried to get admission of all students in one school i know the school admn i have experience in such schools ,their is inter link of hostle owner and school admin,any how if the hostle administration will not take any step for security and other issues then we will start our own investigation from root level.

  5. First of all, we should be grateful to the Central Asian Institute (CAI) for providing scholarship to our girls from Gilgit Baltistan. Since the institute has been prompting girls’ education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, though construction of school and providing scholarship opportunities to girls’ students (please, read ‘Three Cups of Tea’ and ‘Stones into Schools’ by Dr. Greg Mortenson) so this new initiative seems one of the goals to that mission, I believe.
    The writer of Pamir Times has rightly mentioned that “CAI took responsibility of providing free education to several of the girls displaced by the landslide and lake disaster. Most of the girls, belonging to Attabad, Sarat, Ayeenabad, Shishkat and Gulmit, were shifted to Rawalpindi where they are staying at hostels operated under CAI”. Yes, I think, this is part of the mission of the CAI in helping our parents from Gilgit Baltistan to educate their girls.
    According to my understanding, it seems this is the initial stage of the experience in running a hostel for girls in the urban context of Pakistan such as Rawalpindi. So it obvious, there must be problems and issues in running the hostel but the people of the area need to think, how they could support the institute in continuing the mission of the institute. How could they support the local people who are already involved in helping the institute to promote girls education for the last many years. I believe, Manzoor’s suggesting some addition to the initiatives
    I have worked for GECA (Gojal Educational & Cultural Association) Islamabad, as well as Pak Tajik Cultural Association, I know the financial and human constraints in these volunteer organizations. Its all on volunteer work as a community. Each individual has its own personal and professional engagement so they cannot give proper time to remain meaningfully engaged to focus on task. Moreover, the micro politics and self contentedness become another hindrance. So it makes me hesitant as a woman from the area and a leading women member of the GECA to suggest to GECA or any other organizations to take the responsibility of the hostels. The reason is not we can not do or our people cannot do it but I think, it requires a lot of home work, strategic planning, financial resource collection and management.
    In fact, in 2008, when all the girls students were returned back to their homes based on rumours and negative stories, without any research, we (Islamabad based women) had carried out a small scale research focusing only one ethnic groups of people to identify what are the achievements of the women from Gojal specifically and Gilgit Baltistan generally, what challenges do they face and how it can be overcome?
    We came across interesting findings from the group discussions and interviews from different women (educated working women and home makers) and girls from the hostels. The next initiative was to arrange hostel facility for girls but it could not happen for various reasons. So keeping in view those constrains I suggest the following;
    1. CAI to hire a full time women professional and mature directress (wardon) for the hostel, who could look after the girls at the hostel. The directress must not be allowed to stay with family at the hostel because girls become the care givers of their children gradually.
    2. Form a Management Committee (MC) or Board who can monitor the progress, support and suggest CAI for further innovation and continuation. These groups should include Sarfraz, Saifullah, Col. Ilyas Mirza, Captain Wasim Akhter Janjua, Brigadier General Bashir Baz, Haji Youssef, Haji Fida Mohad Nashad, Nasreen Baig with few girls graduated from CAI institute. Apart from these names few local well educated men and women who can dedicate time and devotion voluntarily. They can be nominated from all different language speakers (Brushaski, Wahi, Shaina and Khuwar) to minimize biasness and favoritisms. It will also help each representative to bring issues related to girls’ education from their areas / community. It will also enable them to balance the needs from each area to avoid conflicts as the major mission of CAI is Peace Building through education. The MC/ board must also include few people from other parts of the country like Punjab to bring a different perspective and cultural dimension to the board. Otherwise, the local or regional issues might hinder the broader vision.
    3. Hire a retired and aged person (4os /50s) as a security guard to insure the security.
    4. Hire women cook and cleaners for better cleanliness at the hostel
    5. Hire an office boy who can do the purchasing of food stuff. The office boy must be an educated, mature and sensible person who could care for girls and respect girls and women. He should be accountable for better performance and positive behavior so outer sources could not use him for girls cell number provider because they gradually, blackmail the girls emotionally or physically.
    6. Hire a man coordinator between the office boy and directress. The same (office boy) rules and regulations must be applied for this person.
    7. Hostel representatives (girls committee) must be formed to perform as representatives among girls and directress and the other teams to listen to the other girls’ voices. However, the girls committee must be changed after three months so every body could take the opportunity for leadership
    8. Success stories must be collected to disseminate information with bigger audience for feedback and improvement through CAI. Since Pamir Times has been getting a good name so information can be disseminated through this source.
    9. Representatives from GECA and other organization/s (skipped from my mind the name of organization initiated recently by Ghizer youth) can visit on need bases to appreciate, help and support the institute at local level.
    Lastly, the hiring and firing process must be well planned for a better performance utilization of human resources from the beginning of the initiatives.

    Safida Begum

  6. I think that PT’s initial report was about the health and hygiene issue not the rest that came forth in the comment section. Instead of wasting time and waiting for Mr. Greg to drink another cup of tea why don’t the local community try to find out the answer for just one question, what caused 8 students to suffer the same health issue within a short span of time? In order to do so a medical examination of all of the operated students should be carried out at some reputable hospital/clinic. It will answer 100s of questions whether their kidneys have been removed or were there any other complications.
    The hostel owners need more money. They are not concerned to the safety and security of the students there; therefore, it is useless to talk to them about security arrangements. The parents and local community representatives or social activists should deal with this problem seriously without being thankful to CAI for their great services. What is the point for CAI to come and work in the border areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and India… millions of children, especially girls, need the same services here in the US, (here in Washington DC) and its neighboring countries, Mexico, Haiti, Central America etc. why didn’t Mr. Greg instead of calling CAI Central Asian Institute named it Central American Institute and helped those poor, orphans and run away girls who end up in the hands of sex corporates and porn studious owners. Why?
    Other comments shows that the CAI hostel is rather a mess and the local community should take it serious because nothing comes free, even free thing come with its own hidden cost. We need to be careful and vigilant otherwise we will end up in paying more for free services like this one.

  7. 200 % agree With . Ejaz Karim.

    Need Complete Justifications.With Correct Infomations.Inquiry must be carried forward.There is no any Reasons.Who can provide a hostel without any further study.Enviroment for every country is diffrent.Full higly level inquiry must be started first with the low level employees of this hostel along with its Managements.Lessons to be learned.
    Cautions.. We have to be Careful…

  8. Here, I have a clarification regarding the ownership/management of the hostels.

    These hostels, to the best of my knowledge, are private hostels owned by a local politician, CAI may have an agreement with them to provide hostel facility, what is the financial part of the contract is certainly none of my business, but what concerns me and everyone residing in the twin cities is the pathetic arrangements made for security, food, healthcare, transport and other.

    In the first place, the selection of these students is a contentious issue, why them, as most of these have been poor performers and majority of these girls are only those who want to escape helping their parents in their routine farming and household tasks. They are fantasied of a hostel life and they are least bothered for their studies. The point for our concern is that majority of these girls have new to the urban lifestyle and may fall prey to the cruelties of the urban society very easily.

    My experience to see the management of one of the hostel was so scary for me as there were a few young boys working in the hostel with no restriction on their movement inside the living area for the inmates. They were seemingly lying about the female warden and security arrangements of the facility. The girls can obviously tell what they are told to but the fact is that the CAI had made tall claims regarding the admissions and facilities. They finally ended up in a mess as they had no arrangements for their admission while the hostel owner being a political worker, was made responsible to get admission for them. They have put them in two colleges which are not better then those back in Morkhon, Gulmit, Karimabad and Gilgit.

    Why did the management of the CAI decided to move them to an urban centre like Rawalpindi with a higher cost instead of sponsoring them in the local institutions with a lower cost and broad based welfare of more students.

    People have great reservation against the local management of the CAI as how a man with such an academic and management background head a country program of an international NGO. What is the criteria for hiring such appointments and where is its registered office and where is it registered and who give them permission to work in such crucial area of strategic importance.

    There are many questions that need to be answered by a really responsible official.

    Waiting for the managements perspective on these questions.

  9. Mr. Ejaz Karim,, It seems that you are not happy at all to see girls of our area getting free education: You want Mr. George go back and work for the poor and needy girls in America or other countries, that is fine, in such a case we expect you to come and finance these students who are in the mid of the education now. May be you have become a billionaire in USA. Please come forward and do your part, Everyone would be happy of course if instead of an American a Gojal guy can help.

    It is easy sitting out of the country, writing comments, criticizing everything. we would really appreciate if you take some practical steps besides …….. comments and …… poetry !

  10. Mr. Ali thank you for your farsightedness and having a clear vision for the development of our area(Gojal). Advantages and disadvantges are always there on the track of development.We should not only focus or criticise the disadavantages in terms of getting horary services from a country or a foreign volunteer donor. we should always be optimistic towards the development for our area and especially in education sector because our education ratio is still under 50%.Please do not post any comment in a negative sense and I would also like to request Zulfiqar and other responsible person for not posting such comments written in an emotional situation.PT has to keep up its standard qualitative and high.Thank you very much for your kind considerations.

  11. Thanks for pamir times for its contribution for sharing information about the beautiful valley gojal, I would also thanks for the CAI whose contribution is alot in the northern area of pakistan, due to the land slide we have lost our agriculture tourism and many more, today what we the people of gojal need is financial assistance because the litracy rate in gojal valley is very high as compared to other part of our country. Our youngers are out of there houses in search of batter education and we all know it very well it coast alot, it was my first time to share my views with you people the word which disappoint me that ”let mr mortenson to take another cup of tea” which was writen by mr aejaz is very dissappointing word for the youth of gojal valley, he must say thanks to mr mortenson for his contribution in the area, we must appertiate these people who work for us.

  12. Ejaz Karim is 100% right in his demand to probe into the situation. These NGOs are not sacred cows that that they should be spared of accountability. They are earning millions of dollars in the name of the programs and projects and I am sure they have well advertised this small step of helping a few girls of flood affected area and collected handsome amount of money from donors. Once they collected the money in the name of these girls, they would no longer take care of them and even push the girls to the wall which they have done in this case. We should not look at every NGO as an angel, they have their own motives and their support is not all about suffering humanity, if it is about suffering humanity then there are people far worse suffering (as Ejaz has mentioned) than us, why don’t they go there?

    1. I am really sorry my sweet brother, we people are not concern with the motives or goal of any NGO, what we need by these NGO is financial assistance, which we need, this is not the mater of shishket or gulmit, this disaster has affected all gojal, we lost every source of income, now we have nothing, you must know this very well that we are totally dependent on agriculture and you must have seen it very well that their is no route to excess for transporter to go through the disaster area. we must have positive attitude toward the helping hand. thanks

      1. Very true Mr. Karim, it’s true that sitting in front of a computer switching on the internet and passing critical comments on issues is quiet easier than that of practically going through the issue. Parents those who have no proper means of earning are getting depressed and mentally distorted, I myself have come through certain number of them. The reason is not hunger or shelter, but it is the education of their children. No matter how many dollars would have been earned in the names of these girls but its far greater contribution to the affectless than the warm comments received from abroad. I request the so called haves to kindly atleast reserve their conservative comments if at all they can do this bit to the needy people. Geca almighty is supposed to show interest in the administrative issues, and the rest please rest in peace, live and let live, posting comments like “men roaming around in the hostels” may seem easy for a man to utter but a girl’s character is far delicate than any declaration, especially in our society and culture where a girl’s whole life spoils just because of tiny gestures. IT WOULD BE APPREACIABLE IF YOU CAN SUPORT THE 21 KIU STUDENTS THOSE ARE GOING TO BE EXPELLED FROM THEIR HOSTLES, and mind that the issue there is with the private hostel dues not the university dues. and be happy that CSI does not support them.

  13. Dear Shamim Ali

    Thanks for the sarcastic remark. It still fails to answer my question.

    Just got back to the internet-world after a lapse of one week. Sorry for responding too late!



  14. Respected Sir,
    How are you Sir? I am ASIF from Rawalpindi I belong from Rawalpindi I am Computer Operator and doing the job in Islamabad. If the any work with computer related kindly give the chance me please reply me.


    With best regard
    ASIF from Rawalpindi
    Contact No. 0303-5850072
    e-mail address

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