Topic outline

  • Dilemma Stories from Pakistan

    Amir ZAMAN, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia, AUSTRALIA

  • Topic 1

    These stories have been developed for use in Pakistani schools and as such are culturally specific to the region. However many of the real-life socio-cultural and ecological issues reflected in these stories are relatable on an international scale and may be altered and adapted to apply to other eco-cultural settings.

  • Topic 2

    A Father's Dilemma

    A Father's Dilemma

    In a society where parents play a prominent role in determining their daughter’s marriage choices and a son’s career is given priority, this dilemma addresses issues of traditional values and moral ethics in combination with mathematical ratio and proportion.

    A wealthy man has two children: a healthy son and a daughter with a light physical disability. The man has six hectares of land which, according to custom, he must divide between his children at a ratio of 2:1; his son receiving the greater share.

    The son wishes to study engineering. To pay for his studies, he must sell his portion of land. However, his portion alone will not sufficiently cover the costs.

    Meanwhile, the daughter is offered marriage by a wealthy man. This marriage will guarantee her a prosperous life however her prospective husband stipulates he will marry her only under the condition that she receives an equal share of land as her brother.

    What should the father do?

    1. Give his son a larger portion of land so he can complete his studies?

    2. Go against custom and divide the land equally; ensuring his daughter leads a comfortable life?

    Photo Credit: Manalkhan (Flickr) 

  • Topic 3

    Margalla Hills

    Stone Quarrying Dilemma

    Margalla Hills, situated at the foot of the Himalayas, is a beautiful landscape, rich in ecological biodiversity and natural resources. In this dilemma story, students must weigh up the conflicting ecological and economic dilemmas faced by most low-income societies.

    Home to endangered species and rich in natural resources, the Margalla Hills is a focus of economic development. Pakistan is not a rich country and quarrying for stone is a particular exploit of the hills, providing employment for thousands and economic benefits for the country. On the other hand, stone quarrying causes immense ecological devastation including deforestation, loss of natural habitats for many endangered species, and increasing temperatures.

    As chairperson for the Capital Development Authority, students are placed in a position of power in which they must decide to either:

    1. Support the stone quarry industry, which will ensure economic benefits of thousands; or

    2. Shut down the industry in favour of ecological conservation.

    Photo Credit: Sameer Toor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Topic 4

    Pakistan Ethnic Map (1973)

    Language Teaching Dilemma

    Pakistan is an ethnically diverse country, home to several ethnic minorities including Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtun, Baloch, Muhajir, Saraiki, and Hazara. While the national and official language is Urdu, a number of languages are recognized and spoken throughout the country. These languages are taught in schools but, unlike the dominant language, are considered optional national languages and include: English, Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashto, Baloch, Hindko, Brahui, and Saraiki. This dilemma focuses on cultural sustainability and the dilemmas associated with multiculturalism, as well as mathematical ratios.

    A recent study indicates that throughout Islamabad's primary schools, a total of 108 students were enrolled in the Pashto language class, while a total 45 students enrolled in other languages. As the principal of a local school you plan to increase the number of students in other minority languages at a rate of three students per year. Your goal is to ensure that there are equal student numbers in each minor language classes. However, new population data indicates decreasing enrolments in the Pashto language class by four students per year. If the number of students studying Pashto continues to decrease, the continuation of the class is in jeopardy. However, Pashto is the indigenous language of the area of your school and parents have taken offense to the decreasing numbers in Pashto language classes, stating if Pashto is no longer taught at the school, they will protest.

    As the school principal, you must consider the following:

    1. At the given rates given in the story, how long will it take for the number of students studying Pashto (108) and other languages (45) to become equal?

    2. Will you continue with your plan to encourage other languages, thereby conserving Pakistan's rich ethnic diversity?

    3. Or respect local norms and discourage teaching other minor languages, quelling potential disquiet amongst the parents of the students enrolled in your school?

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

  • Topic 5

    Kalasha Women

    Tourism Dilemma

    Tourism is a burgeoning industry bringing employment opportunities and much needed capital. However for many isolated societies, exposure to large groups of people and cultures can have an adverse effect on traditional ways of life. By focusing on one of Pakistan's ethnic minority groups, this dilemma positions the student to consider the positive and negative social implications connected with the tourist industry.

    The Kalash are a non-Muslim tribe who live in Chitral; a region located in the northern region of Pakistan and a popular tourist destination for Westerners. The tourist industry is a considerable source of income for the Kalash as well as other people living in the region.

    You are approached by a representative of an organization, which is concerned with the cultural preservation of ethnic minorities. You are informed that increasing exposure to Western culture, via tourism, threatens the cultural particularities unique to the Kalash tribe.

    As the district officer, how will you respond to this dilemma?

    1. Ignore the organisation's advice and allow unmitigated tourist numbers to enter the region, threatening the cultural sustainability of the Kalash; or

    2. Restrict the number of tourists and thereby limiting income and employment opportunities for both the Kalash and other inhabitants of the region.

    Photo Credit: ( [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

  • Topic 6

    Town Mayor Dilemma

    Water hygiene and sanitation, and agriculture is an important and often undervalued relationship, which seeks to preserve lives as well as livelihoods. This dilemma asks the student to weigh the ecological and health costs often associated with regional infrastructure.

    You are the town mayor of a remote region where people's livelihoods depend on sheep and forest cultivation. Complaints from the local communities regarding water and air pollution are raised. You are advised by the community that the sheep, which drink, urinate and tread through the town's water supply, are the primary source of the water pollution.

    You establish a committee and together produce a water sanitation proposal. The proposal involves the use of a generator that will supply fresh water to the town from a series of tube wells. However, fuel from the nearby forest is needed to run the generator, which in turn would contribute to the existing air pollution.

    Do you decide to:

    1. Allow the proposal to go ahead and in doing so exacerbate the current air pollution problem; or

    2. Refuse the proposal and in doing so exposing the community to polluted water.

    Photo Credit: Woodley Wonder Works (Flickr)