Zahid Malik

Monday, May 31, 2010 – A glorious day in the history of the country, May 28 passed off without any major event to celebrate the singular achievement of a nuclear power status by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. For reasons unknown, there has been a gradual and slow phasing out of the observance of the Day, when the tests were conducted on this memorable day in 1998 which thrilled the nation and it burst into joy with the slogans of Allah-o-Akbar and Pakistan Zindabad.

The nuclear tests that changed the colour of now famous Chaghai Mountains were indeed in response to Indian blasts in May 1998 and earlier in 1974. I vividly remember the day when Dr A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, last time visited the Chaghai test site, inspected the tunnel and arrangements after performing ablution with Aab-e-Zam Zam and gave a go ahead signal. Then followed the cherished nuclear tests on 28th May, 1998 prompting countrywide jubilations, distribution of sweets and offering of thanksgiving prayers. While the morale of the nation went sky-high and people in Islamic countries rejoiced it as their own achievement, others were in a state of shock as they did not expect Pakistan, a developing country, to master the world’s most advanced and complicated technology in such a short period of time. For them, it was an unforgivable act of gatecrashing into the otherwise elite nuclear club by an impoverished Islamic State and that is why they continue to malign the country on this account on different pretexts on various occasions.

In fact, the legendary scientist, along with a team of committed and dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians, achieved the feat, which even those to be born in the future will be proud of.

Let me say that now the nuclear scenario has totally changed and a stage has come when there is a definite need for fine-tuning and miniaturizing the nuclear weapons. No doubt, Pakistan has repeatedly undertaken to pursue the policy of minimum nuclear deterrence but this capability has to be maintained at a level that is directly relevant to the fast changing regional scenario and threat perception. Also equally important is the security and safety of our nuclear assets in the backdrop of consistent pressure on the country to abandon and even rollback the programme and a guarantee that this government or for that matter future governments will not succumb to the Western pressure to bring an end to the programme which is a guarantee of our sovereignty. For this, I think an article may be provided in the Constitution of Pakistan under which every sitting government is made duty-bound to inform the nation at the end of every year that the nuclear programme has not been closed and is proceeding ahead as planned to meet the strategic requirements of the country. PML(Q) is bringing 19th Amendment in the Constitution and I would request the party leadership and all others in Parliament to add this much-needed article in the Constitution along with others relating to national security.

That was about the observance of the historic day, Youmi-i-Takbeer, but my today’s topic is rather different. I will dare to say that we cannot cherish the nuclear achievements for a long time when the country of 170 million souls is getting weaker in all respects indicating, if I may say, a bleak and dismaying future. Knowledgeable people are openly talking of weakening of federation while anti-State elements are getting active. Our economy is not picking up despite rosy statements but without any tangible efforts towards that end. Some analysts are extra pessimistic on account of the retrogressive economic scenario. What worries me more is the poor state of education, which unfortunately, does not appear to be the priority of the incumbent Government. There is no doubt that our education system is obsolescent and becoming outdated and despite repeated education policies by successive governments, I am constrained to say, no serious attention has been given to change the curriculum from primary to university level in line with the modern day market requirements. Each education policy is just replication of the earlier ones containing commitments to raise education budget and increase in literacy level, but without being fulfilled. Very briefly our education in no way, or in any respect, can be considered productive or conducive to meet Pakistan’s requirements in the 21st century.

I have purposefully linked the heading of this piece with Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan who started the work on nuclear programme from the scratch and took it to the zenith in less than a decade. Dr A.Q. Khan so far as I know him, and I claim having known and respected him a lot, has the potential to become a Dr Khan of Education also if he transforms himself into a reformer.

He is a revolutionary and achiever having vast knowledge of the areas where Pakistani youth need to be educated to meet the present as well as the future needs of our economy and the country. The type of change in the education that I espouse for can be brought about by a person who singularly holds the interests of the State above his own personal considerations. This was done by Dr Khan when he left a well paid and reputed job in Holland for the sake of his country’s honour, sovereignty and security. Only he or others of the like among 170 million of his type can do this. He was instrumental in the establishment of Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology at Topi and in devising its curriculum. He also established a host of other high class educational institutions.

If we want to keep pace with the world, we may discard the present education system and totally transform it through a new vision and I have no doubt that it can be done either by Dr Khan or another personality possessing similar degree of excellence, such as dedication, commitment, vision and unique leadership qualities.

It may not be fair to compare nuclear programme with education but in view of the present situation in Pakistan and the international environment, it is, I would say, a bigger task than the nuclear achievements. Nuclear umbrella gave us sense of security but education has to secure the future of the country and that is only possible when there is a revolutionary shift in education policy and adequate resources are provided for. I would go to the extent that the Literacy Commission be converted into an Authority to develop modern curriculum in line with the market demands and international trends and its resources utilized for advancement in education. Efforts to achieve MDGs are OK but we must bear in mind that mere literacy in today’s world is of no use to a country and instead we should give skills to the illiterates that would be good for them and the country.

Today the education world over is seen as the foundation of society which brings economic wealth, social prosperity and political stability. Higher education helps in maintaining a healthy and productive atmosphere and environment. Education is a major aspect of development of any modern society since if there is a deficit of educated people then the society will stop its further progress. The Government should pay serious attention to education and support it financially and morally.

I have no doubt and every one would agree with me that education is the best investment for the people because well educated people have more opportunities to be useful and productive members of society. Young people with qualityinstruction and higher education can contribute immensely towards the research and development that are the real engine of growth and self-reliance. Investment in human capital, lifelong learning and quality education help in the development of society. Teachers are the most important factors for an innovative society because teachers’ knowledge and skills not only enhance the quality and efficiency of education, but also improve the prerequisites of research and innovation.

The Government never gets tired of making tall claims to enhance spending on education in relation to GDP but this has not happened in practical terms. Let the coming budget be a beginning towards that direction with focus on establishing more schools, colleges, universities of science and technologies, institutions of research and development, training of teachers, provision of better facilities especially labs and workshops in educational institutions and enhanced salaries for well qualified and experienced teachers so that they could devote whole-heartedly to the cause of education. Is there any Dr A.Q. Khan to do all that?

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