Key to Pakistans future prosperity lies in education, science and tech
I WORK as a scientist in United States and one thing that I can say for sure is that it is approximately impossible for the developed countries including U.S.A. and many others to understand how difficult the situation of education, science and technology in Pakistan.
Some people may laugh on my statement that in a country like Pakistan where people are not able to afford bread for two times a day, Dr. Sami is talking about science and technology. Actually whenever I mention science and technology, I actually talk in terms of the outcomes of the overall education of any nation. Now I am sure my readers will not ask me about the link of education with the overall development of a country.
Now the entire world agrees that the right to an education is a first prerequisite to the development of any sector. Do we see the investment of Pakistan in education in last five years? It seems like the feudal mindset of our rulers is aware of the fact that education gives people the skills they need to help themselves out of poverty and into prosperity. The current devastated situation of Pakistan is due to unmatched corruption in the history of this country. Recently. Transparency International Pakistan reported that during the last five years of democracy in Pakistan over Rs18 trillion having been looted. During the same time slot, Pakistan has dropped from being 45th corrupt country to 35th most corrupt country in the world. There is a very long list of dozens of super scam cases such as rental power projects, massive corruption of Rs 20 Billion in Pakistan steel, corruption in KESC, NICL, PIA, Railways, OGRA, LNG imports and they did not even leave the religious occasions like Hajj. There is a never ending list of the mega corruption scams but this is not the central point of my article.
Just the nation has elected a new democratic setup probably for the next 5 years. But it is not difficult to understand that the process of democracy will serve as a self-cleansing mechanism is a fools dream. You cannot see democracy to work, without providing the prerequisite of proper education. People can have the power of choice only when they are able to read and understand the manifestos of the various political parties. But the feudal mindset of our rulers has also looted this treasure from the people of Pakistan by ensuring that little is spent on education.
I am not a supporter of any non-democratic movement in Pakistan. I totally belive in democratic sustainability of Pakistan but, at the same time if we review the educational reforms in the history of Pakistan it is an eye-catching truth that the historical improvements in this sector were during 2001-2008. Many people take this duration as non-democratic but I must say even if the Judges of Pakistan were not happy a common middle class student like me was happy because there were tremendous reforms in educational sector. The most interesting fact of these reforms was the equal access to educational opportunities despite of your economic status. If you really do not believe what I am saying you are free to read many nationally and internationally published articles on the golden era of Pakistan in educational reforms. Even the worlds best scientific journal Nature appreciated the revolution of science and technology in Pakistan during 2001-2008. So what this so-called dictator did? He did not provide something from his own. He appointed the deserving people on right positions. For example, educated people to handle the educational sector of Pakistan and scientists to handle science and technology and then provided them with the independence of decisions and financial ease.
Lets review the last five years of democratic government in Pakistan and how they handled the education, science and technology sector in Pakistan.
The Higher Education Commission, a milestone in Pakistans educational reforms has been devastated. Attempts to destroy this institution during the last three years by many ways including serious cuts in its budget reflect the diseased mentality of our feudal rulers.
After coming into the power PPP governments first step was to cancel the projects of foreign engineering universities. The worst part is that there were only three months remaining in classes to start in various cities of Pakistan. HEC was also progressing towards the establishment of four law universities in the provincial capitals, which were later abandoned by PPP government. The people of Pakistan can understand this systematic plan to destroy the higher education, science and technology sectors only if they have proper education and I am sorry to say that our rulers of feudal mindset are not allowing us to get this opportunity.
Professor Atta-Ur-Rahman, Pakistans leading Scientist wrote in in his latest article “India has decided to invest 120,000 crore in the current five-year plan in higher education. The number of Indian institutes of technology has been raised from seven to sixteen, and 200 new universities and 40 centers of excellence are being established.”
This is definitely a time to think on serious notes. As a responsible educated Pakistani I am currently reviewing the manifestos from different political Parties of Pakistan. PPP has left a black mark on education, science and technology for last five years. This is the time to consider the true dynamic work horses for Pakistan. Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) is Pakistans 3rd largest political entity with a liberal mindset that believes in providing equality to all Pakistanis without any difference of religion, cast, creed and color. Lets put some light on what their manifesto says about the true implementation of educational reforms in Pakistan. When I started reading their manifesto, it was pleasurable to see that the 1st point there was on educational reforms. So what they will do if they form a government in Pakistan.
MQM claims that it is the only political party in Pakistan which represents and comprises of ninety eight percent working, middle class and poor masses of the country who are presently down trodden, disadvantaged and exploited by the two percent ruling elite. In its menifesto for the election 2013 MQM considers education a fountainhead of all technological progress and social development. It is mentioned that the technology is the key to economic growth by combating unemployment, providing social equality, awareness, tolerance, self-esteem. MQM also pays attention to the importance of education in spreading cultural and plural diversity. MQMs manifesto considers that education like other social sectors is riddled with manifold problems.
MQMs proposal to overcome this situation seems solid and practical. This states that it is their priority to gradually increase education expenditure of the GDP, whereas provinces need to allocate 20% of their revenue budget to education sector. MQM mentioned in its manifesto that the party is determined to undertake all measures to meet the challenge of education emergency. By developing across the board consensus, MQM will work on legislation, provision of additional financial resources, enrolment drives, reforms in syllabus and curriculum and most importantly the national and international organizations and foreign expertise to formulate, implement and ensure optimal utilization of funds for the growth of our nation through a world class education system. Without any special favors I am forced to belive in MQMs competencies because I have seen revolutionized politics in Pakistan by MQM as its elected representatives and office bearers are chosen by ordinary party members/workers and people on merit from constituents level not by virtue of being born in a feudal family or political dynasty.
This is a critical time in the history of Pakistan. Elections are around the corner and we are all set to hold these but many of us do not either like to vote or they do not know to whom they should vote. I must say Pakistan is not short of honest and competent persons in various fields. However, if the people make the mistake of choosing the wrong candidates, they have to bear the consequences as the country will surely not survive it for another five years.
The future of Pakistan lies in our hands. We do not need the continuation of this “education-less democracy”, as the country will surely not survive it for another five years. I demand people to choose education and educated people who are capable enough to bring changes that are needed in our system so that we never see a repetition of what has happened in Pakistan.
The curse of illiteracy in Pakistan is at its peak. We need to act before it is too late.
The writer is a Pakistani Scientist in Virginia, USA. A Ph.D. in Biotechnology from University of Karachi. He is interested in educational and political progress in Pakistan.