Monday, November 15, 2010


The country will shut itself down, the moneyed classes and the keeping-up-with-the-Khans clans will consume more than they can digest and our cities and towns will illuminate themselves to capacity whilst the generator-deprived classes sit and ponder over life’s inequalities as their various electric companies switch off their lights and fans.
Saturday’s first front-page lead story in this newspaper is entitled ‘Over $15bn needed — ‘Friends’ unveil initiative to avert collapse’. To use Ziaul Haq’s immortal phrase, taking stock of our present economic situation, we can only mutter “peanuts”. (Friday’s front-page told us that ‘Pakistan assured of $1.3bn World Bank assistance’ which will not get us very far.)
Those writing from New York told us yesterday that “A permanent forum was launched in New York on Friday to help raise billions of dollars to avert a possible economic collapse in Pakistan.” Our ‘Friends’, those who help us, feed us and succour us will be holding their first meeting some time next month (do we survive till then?) in the ‘capital’ of the world, Abu Dhabi.
Our brand new president of the Republic, who has made his mark in the land of the sole superpower, when commenting on the forthcoming initiative of the ‘Friends’ remarked, “I don’t want them to give us the fish. I want to learn how to fish and do it myself.” Well, bully for him. If he can fish for Pakistan as he has fished for himself we can look forward to better days ahead.
What has he left back home after flying off, very correctly in a commercial flight and with a reasonable entourage? Let us see how long all this lasts — if he can keep it up and persuade his party people to act likewise he will be deserving of praise. But in our country, such gestures have never been long-lived. Let us see.
Friday’s headlines, which the president and his ever-alert information minister may have missed, told us that all our ‘Airports on red alert after bomb threat’, ‘Extremists threaten Pakistan’s existence: US general’, ‘US suspends visa and consular services for security reasons’, ‘Asif’s plea to help defeat terrorism’; an editorial commented on our ‘Intelligence deficit’, a columnist wrote on the ‘Threat to the state’, the business section let us know that our ‘Forex reserves fall to $8.82bn’ and that ‘Rupee weaker’. Sufficient unto the day!
Moving on to yesterday, we learnt that three terror suspects and a kidnap victim were killed in Karachi, 14 militants were killed in Bajaur (civilian deaths were not mentioned), that four were killed in a bomb blast that derailed a train, that our blooming tourist industry “falls victim to militancy”, that the diplomats posted to our country are asking for effective security, that ‘Pakistan needs over $10bn to avert meltdown’.
An editorial commenting on the previous day’s reported remark made by the US Gen David Petraeus reminded us starkly that “There is no doubt that the war on terror is Pakistan’s own war”, and hopefully but somewhat erroneously has it that “The more civilians the Taliban kill, the more girls’ schools they bomb, and the more they intensify their war on the state of Pakistan the more they unite the people of Pakistan in their common resolve to crush terrorism”.
Sadly, signs emanating from our irresponsible independent television channels who give time and space to militants and their organisations, and from the plethora of ‘expert’ commentators who urge us to support the militants in their battles against the evil empire of the US of A have it otherwise. We can only hope they are in some sort of a minority.
The last editorial commented on ‘An insensitive gesture’, which has caused much sniggering over in the States and much cringing in embarrassment at home. The presidential remarks extended to US vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin were strictly uncalled for, as was the introductory remark made by his aide and minister of information who is supposed to guide his steps in his new role as head of state.
Dushka Saiyid’s column on ‘The threat from within’ was a timely warning not only for our government to come to terms with reality, but for the nation to awaken and realise what it is facing. Yes, the government must do something to radically alter the prevailing public opinion and drum it into our heads that there is no quick fix to the present situation, and unless the national mindset is given a boot in its backside and told to overturn its thinking we may well one day find ourselves bombed back into the Stone Age (from which we still have to fully emerge).
Lastly, friend Irfan Husain, again writing eminent sense, reminded us of the damage that a free and independent media can do if it is allowed to do so by those who operate channels and by a government that sits idly by and observes without comment or action. An unstable participant, a doctor of sorts, in one of the endless talk shows incited the public to murder those of the Ahmadi faith, all in the name of the religion which guides this country. And subsequent murders there were. Such is the national mindset.
Now, if the much needed turnaround in the national mindset is to be brought about this can only happen through education, education and more education.
Reportedly, the Senate Standing Committee on Education on Friday asked the government to appoint an education minister, a portfolio which is considered by all our governments to be the least important (is it perhaps the least lucrative?). We must have a functioning education ministry with a substantial budget with which to operate. As we all know, the state of education in this country is lamentable, to say the least.
We have a provincial education minister in Sindh. His help is needed by Shehzad Roy’s Zindagi Trust which has recently adopted the government Khatoon-i-Pakistan School and College, a non-functional institution, and its adjacent Home Economics College, the principal and a few ‘kaam-chor’ teachers of which are ‘protesting,’ stopping the functioning of the college, inciting the students to join their protest.
Adoption permission has been obtained from the Sindh education minister, but support stops there. Though the ministry is keen that this school function as do the other Trust-adopted government schools, it is doing nothing to calm the situation and to allow it to educate our future citizens.

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