Milk to Defence, We Need New Priorities
July 30: Beset by problems, harried by our own confusion, we can’t
go on like this forever, lurching from one uncertainty to another,
internationally criticized for every sin under the sun. The time
has come to cut through the nonsense and reach for the substance
things first. Why after 57 years of uncertain statehood are we
still obsessed with sect, caste and creed? Enough of Maliks, Choudhries,
Rais, Raos, Sardars, etc: enough of castehood or tribal denominationalism.
No country sports more useless honorific titles than we do. Being
a Pakistani should be good enough for all of us.
Hence time to send notions of
caste/creed swimming down the waters of the five rivers. From
all official documents the requirement of having to fix your faith,
sect, sub-sect or caste should at once be erased. On pain of punishment
and disqualification, no government servant, military person or
public representative should draw attention to these primitive
While we are at small things,
an immediate and total ban on that most hideous symbol of the
modern age: the plastic shopping bag. No ifs and buts, this should
be done at once considering how all things plastic are blighting
the national landscape and clogging the republic’s water
channels, big and small.
Mineral water in plastic bottles
is fast becoming a national affliction too. Hydrogenated cooking
oil (manufactured ghee) is a bad enough thing in itself. If its
use is allowed to go on unchecked we’ll soon have the highest
rate of heart disease in the world. But to think that some ghee
manufacturers market this pestilence in plastic buckets. Henceforth
this should be a non-bailable offence.
Even milk and fruit juices should
come in glass bottles. Mountaineering expeditions should face
the strictest penalties if they spread litter on the mountains.
On flights to Pakistan it should be mandatory to announce that
drugs and plastic bottles are forbidden items in Pakistan. If
we can’t make Pakistan a land of milk and honey, we can
at least do our bit to keep it clean.
On to other things. Reform of
education, an end to the cocktail of education systems we have
in Pakistan, must be the first priority of the republic.
If we are seeking to forge a single
nationhood — although given the stupidity of some of our
actions serious doubts must be entertained on this score —
then it follows that from the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, from
the hills of Balochistan and Pakhtoonkhwa to the plains of Punjab
and Sindh, there must be one education system for all Pakistani
students, one syllabus, a common examination system, and, in the
fullness of time, when the Lord of the Worlds smiles on this country
and its people, a glass of pure milk at state expense, at eleven
in the morning, for every student.
O and A levels. India did away with O and A levels back in 1965.
What blowback effect of retarded colonialism makes us stick to
them? For Pakistani nationals no going to American schools in
Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. No madrassas for they militate
not so much against reason — although they do that too —
as against the requirements of a single nationhood. It is futile
to think of reforming the madrassa system. Some things are unreformable,
this being one of them.
The great Abdus Salam, the only
Pakistani winner of the Nobel Prize (in physics or any other subject)
was a product of the matriculation system. We need more Salams,
a whole army of them, in our schools and universities, and not
a generation of confused western clones who think that cool is
talking with an American twang and sporting a funky hairstyle.
By all means wear what you want
and have your hair cut the way you want but remember that to be
educated in the real sense is to be cool. To be a top gun mathematician
or physicist is to be cool. To hear a Beethoven or Mozart tune
and be able to name it is cool.
Classical music, subcontinental
and western, should be a part of the national curriculum. There
should be a national orchestra for symphonic and operatic music
in Islamabad, preferably in the pseudo-Mughal structure on Constitution
Avenue which houses the Prime Minister’s secretariat. If
there is any accountability at the gates of paradise, Nawaz Sharif
should have a hard time getting in if only because he was the
prime mover behind the erection of this astonishing structure:
neither much Mughal nor anything else, just an enthusiastic celebration
of official Pakistani taste gone wild (and vulgar).
who do you think did the interior decor of this center of Pakistani
governance? A Benazir cousin. Some people have all the luck. Judging
by the state of the furniture inside you get an idea of the killing
this enterprising person must have made. Anyway, handing over
this structure to the national orchestra will be some atonement
for the architecture. And never mind if the orchestra is out of
tune in the beginning. Such things take time to improve.
The supremacy of science and reason,
an end to the mumbo-jumbo of superstition, a proper reverence
for the arts, excellence in music, achievement in sport, the liberation
of Pakistani womanhood (a priority task given the sorry state
of Pakistani manhood), an all-round refinement of culture (culture,
not F-16s, being destiny): we could make room for these things
by taking out all the useless lumber with which our national faculties
Pakistani education should be
on the lines of Cuban education: free, totally free, for everyone,
based on solid foundations and aspiring for the stars. The Cubans
are ahead of America in some branches of medical research. That
should be our aim, having the best education system throughout
the lands of Islam, the best colleges and universities in Asia,
and once near this goal, the need to shore up national pride with
such symbols of military prowess as expensive tanks, submarines
and aircraft will disappear.
No one could have been beaten
more thoroughly than the Germans and Japanese in the Second World
War. But even when their cities lay in ruins they retained the
gift of knowledge and scientific expertise and not so much with
money as with their mastery of science and technology did they
rebuild their countries.
After education, health care,
no shame leaving deeper scars on Pakistani pride than the state
of our hospitals. Not fancy state-of-the-art facilities, just
enough to provide basic, essential health care to every Pakistani
Where do we get the funds for
these massive enterprises, for restructuring education and health
are major undertakings? Well, we seem to lack no funds when it
comes to defence and stupid luxuries for the ruling classes. We
can’t do without defence, not in this world and not in our
region, there being too much turbulence and uncertainty around.
But we can reorder our priorities, rethink defence strategy in
order to rely more on trained manpower and a committed national
militia than expensive weaponry, all of which, in any case, we
cannot afford. We should not match India item for item for down
that road lies fiscal exhaustion.
It is not even certain that with
this extravagance we get the kind of defence we need. The ability
to fight 17-day wars and then look for international mediation
to broker ceasefires doesn’t amount to much value for money.
Iraqi people are giving the American occupation army a tough time
not through the use of armour or air power but grit and valor,
and the skill to use low-cost weapons. In weaponry the Viet Cong
were no match for the Americans but they gave them the most resounding
defeat in American history. We need to think on these lines instead
of reinforcing the failures of the past.
the republic’s mental equilibrium will remain incomplete
if General Ziaul Haq’s religious laws — all products
of expediency — the changes he brought about in the penal
code and the Constitution, are not repealed altogether and in
one go. The great dictator brought darkness to this land. If we
are to switch on the lights, we must undo his legacy. Or our brave
talk will be just that — words floating in a void.- Courtesy