PM’s thoughtful directions

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TWO developments that occurred on Thursday confirmed once again that Prime Minister Imran Khan was sincerely working to resolve problems facing people of Pakistan and challenges confronting the country. He gave directions for stern action including arrests of all those responsible for creating artificial shortage of petroleum products and also called for eliminating apartheid in the country’s education system declaring it top priority of his Government.
The Prime Minister deserves credit for ordering inquiries and investigations into almost all issues and crises that affected the masses and based on outcome and recommendations of such probes, he initiated concrete action against those pinpointed as responsible for creating ugly situation for the Government. According to media reports, the report on shortage of petrol has also been presented to him, which held nine Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) responsible for creating the crisis deliberately and also pointed out that officials of the Petroleum Division failed in discharging their duties. The decision of the PM to initiate action against marketing companies that acted as a cartel and supplying of the hoarded petrol to the market forcibly would hopefully ease the crisis and also serve as a strong message for all those who engage in dirty tactics in similar situations. It is regrettable that the phenomenon of artificial shortage of petrol emerged under the watchful eyes of Energy Minister Omer Ayub Khan, who has otherwise been very active and sensitive to matters that affect consumers. But, as pointed out by the report, officials of his Division also bore responsibility either for not acting as per their mandate or they colluded with the cartel. In either case, a stern action is warranted against those who did not safeguard the interest of the people and allowed the companies to resort to dishonest practices. It is also strange that despite warnings by the Prime Minister and initiation of the probe, the cartel did not revise its behaviour and the shortage persisted, which showed how powerful the mafia in the petroleum sector is. The Prime Minister has rightly been observing that different mafias are ruling the country and obviously it would take sometime for him to get to the bottom of wrongdoings of these mafias and protect interests of the masses. As for apartheid in the education sector, this is also going on for decades and it is satisfying that for the first time a thoughtful strategy is being implemented to eliminate it. Steps being taken for a uniform curriculum and bringing the madrassas into the mainstream, especially to equip the children studying in the madrassas with modern sciences and to make them skilled are part of the reforms being carried out in the sector.
This is not the all as the PM has also directed that out-of-the-box solutions be proposed to address the challenges facing the education sector so that the mission of promoting quality education and easy access can be taken forward while tackling the challenges and with a visionary Minister like Shafqat Mehmood incharge of the reform process, it is hoped that the sector would be brought improved as per aspirations of the people. Introduction of a uniform syllabus is taking too long for reasons best known to the officials concerned and the process should be expedited in view of its relevance and importance for elimination of apartheid and heart-burning among disadvantaged segments of the society. Similarly, impediments in the way of reforms in madrassa education also need to be addressed on a priority basis as this is question of future of millions of students. Education is worst affected by the crisis arising out of Coronavirus as educational institutions are closed for months with no clear indications as to when these would resume their normal activities. This is one of the greatest losses to the country and parents/students and a comprehensive strategy is required to compensate for these losses based on best practices being adopted elsewhere in the world in a similar situation. In the backdrop of the overall policies and approach of the Government to reform and improve the education sector, it is lamentable that budget for the higher education has been slashed in the new budget and this development is being agitated by all concerned. In view of the importance of research and development for progress and prosperity of the country, there is need for increasing allocations for higher education and sparing of more resources for research projects of the universities.