The situation is especially alarming in rural areas due to social and cultural obstacles. One of the most deplorable aspects is that in some places, particularly northern tribal areas, the education of girls is strictly prohibited on religious grounds. This is a gross misinterpretation of Islam, the dominant religion in Pakistan (96 per cent of the population), which like all religions urges men and women to acquire education.
The situation is the most critical in NWFP and Baluchistan, where the female literacy rate stands between 3 per cent and 8 per cent. Some government organizations and non-governmental organizations have tried to open formal and informal schools in these areas, but the local landlords, even when they have little or nothing to do with religion or religious parties, oppose such measures, apparently out of fear that people who become literate will cease to follow them with blind faith. Unfortunately, the government has not so far taken any steps to promote literacy or girls= education in these areas. It is even reluctant to help NGOs or other small political or religious parties do the job, because in order to maintain control, it needs the support of these landlords and chieftains who, as members of the two major political parties, are regularly elected to the national assembly.