On not going overboard!


Friendly Fire
Khalid Saleem
Has the perspicacious reader ever considered putting a finger on such ‘entities’ as stick out like so many sore thumbs in this blessed land? If one could be bold enough to attempt a straight answer to that, one would not be far off the mark were one to single out three (not necessarily connected): Ambassadors, Doctors and Laptops. Before being branded as facetious, muddle-headed or worse, one may be permitted to elucidate.
There appears to be no limit to the number of ‘ambassadors’ this blessed country is minting out. Should the Guinness Book of Records opt to spread its reach and add a ‘record’ for the number of ‘ambassadors’ per square kilometer of territory, Pakistan would win hands down! A few examples would be in order. Some years ago, through a colorful advertisement put out by a public sector organization, an unsuspecting public was introduced to some ‘Road Safety Ambassadors’. Then, there are several individuals who are oft designated as ‘Goodwill Ambassadors’ for obscure and obtuse causes. Over the years, several comely ladies have been introduced in the media as ‘Brand Ambassadors’ to introduce and promote items of clothing and certain cosmetic products. A known newspaper boasted of a ‘Youth ambassador’ writing in its pages. Some summers ago, one learnt of the designation of ‘Ambassadors for Women’s Empowerment’. The mind verily boggles!
Not to miss the gravy train, successive governments never tire of springing the induction of favorites as ‘Ambassadors at Large’. These entities should logically be designated strictly on the basis of immediate need and for a limited time period only, but not in this blessed land! Several instances can be recalled where such ‘open-ended’ ambassadors at large proved to be serious liabilities for the country and even the government of the time, but that is another story.
The good old dictionary defines “Ambassador” as ‘a minister of high rank representing his or her country at a foreign court or government’. Further, if the said ambassador is designated as a ‘plenipotentiary’, it connotes that he or she is armed with ‘full powers’ to sign treaties or other documents on behalf of the government. The designation of an individual as ‘ambassador’, as a consequence, carries with it connotation that not only dignifies the person but also assigns such responsibilities as should under no circumstances be taken lightly.
The matter of the elusive and ever expanding horde of ‘Ambassadors’ needs to be put under the microscope so that the misuse of this appellation can be checked. This blessed land happens to be the one country where a personage in dire need of a high-sounding address can be easily designated as an ‘Ambassador’. The least that the competent authority can do is to define and put on record the extent of ‘powers’ bestowed on, and the ‘competence’ expected of, such individuals. That and the qualifications that the personage in question possesses in order to make him or her competent to do justice to the awe-inspiring designation, if for nothing else at least to satisfy the curiosity of the multitude he or she aspires to represent.
Let us move on to the subject of ‘Doctors’, who present an enigma all on their own! One grew up to believe that a ‘Doctor’ (not the practicing medical one!) was a scholar who had specialised in a certain designated field through a recognised procedure to obtain the elusive degree of PhD in that particular field. Having gone through the grueling procedure, the individual in question was declared fit to impart education in his or her exclusive field to aspiring students. For as long as one remembers, one has no hesitation in admitting being over-awed by any person with Dr. appended to his or her name. So far so good!
The situation has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts lately. Any Tom, Dick and Harry who manages to pass what is known as an MBBS course (be it from even an institute of dubious credentials) is considered duly qualified to be designated as ‘doctor’. He does not even have to practise in the field of medicine. The result is evident before us. Several individuals (writers, broadcasters and television personalities among them) brazenly flaunt, with impunity, their ‘doctorates’ before an awe-struck multitude! Should there not be a regulation about these matters? Should this not fall in the domain of the Higher Education Commission or another such body?
About ‘lap-tops’, the less said the better. Every now and then, a political leader is reported by the vigilant media to be doling out lap-top computers by the hundreds to ‘deserving’ candidates. Where the funds come from and to what use these contraptions are subsequently put is never specified. One recalls an instance, during one’s sojourn abroad on official assignment, when a visiting head honcho connected with the ‘Higher Education Commission’ made the loaded and authoritative remark that all this blessed country lacked in its efforts to join the ‘Developed World’ was a few hundred ‘doctors’ and several thousand computers. He went on to add that the Higher Education Commission was going about bending its efforts to overcome this lacuna in a dedicated and sustained fashion.
Universities, meanwhile, have sprouted around the country like mushrooms after the rains. Given a situation where every university around the corner is authorised to dole out ‘doctorates’ of all ilks and shades, coupled with the surfeit of ‘Lap-tops’ (who is paying for these, anyway?) around this blessed land, our impending march into the ‘Developed World’ should logically be just round the corner! Or is one missing something there?
— The writer is a former ambassador and former assistant secretary general of OIC.
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