If we can only agree to disagree on what is Pakistan’s biggest problem today, we will never move towards the solution. No, it’s not corruption; which perhaps might arguably be a close second, but definitely not the number one problem for me. It is because the illiterate are incapable of differentiating between electoral choices on the basis of corruption, heck even some literates surprise me on that count, is the reason why the corrupt thrive. The proof of the pudding is in the eating; out of the billions of illicit dollars supposedly held abroad, in one form or the other, we have managed to bring back, in spite of heightened rhetoric on accountability over the last two decades at least, an enviable sum of next to absolutely nothing.
No, it is not the establishment; operating in the shadows, hell bent upon appropriating power for some rather sinister, unfathomable motives. Personally, I subscribe to Owen Jones views on the establishment; nonetheless, a vastly illiterate population would generally be indifferent about who rules them. How can you explain the benefits of, let alone sell, democracy, or concepts of freedom, to someone who cannot even sign his name. In the absence of education, the supposedly ever powerful one vote cannot provide freedom; it has even failed to provide education. The uneducated poor will always welcome a new ruler in the hope that things will change for the better, unfortunately for them, without education, they never do and never will. I for one cannot conclude from history which form of government was better for Pakistan, since in all cases education was nobody’s numero uno priority. If it ever had been, we would not be dependent upon other nations for our development today.
No, it is not the judiciary; except that it might even be a closer second, surpassing corruption even, and not because of the Panama episode. Notwithstanding the horrific tales relating to the judicial process in the country, the Dewani courts are sufficient reason to award the runner up slot to the judiciary. After 70 years the state has remained unable to protect property rights, how can there be economic growth. While it can be argued that it is entirely the State’s responsibility to provide affordable and timely justice, ignorance about fundamental rights, due to lack of education, did play a role in the system further deteriorating over the years.
No, it is not the media; albeit I am tempted to cave in and give the electronic media owned by the private sector, the crown. However, in all fairness, the media will always play to its audience. Lack of education alone is the reason why some who should be in another line of business are keenly followed, as they sit ever evening on talk shows generally spreading drivel. It is easy to befool the illiterate masses, playing on their misguided egos, with the sole objective of improving rankings to make money.
I could go on and on, and everyone has a right to disagree, but for me education is Pakistan’s biggest problem; all else are directly correlated with, or a direct outcome of, lack of education. And who is responsible for largely ignoring education for 7 decades? Well, the Lannisters had nothing to do with it, and neither did the Joker. I feel the blame lies squarely on my generation and perhaps the one before us, albeit lesser. And everyday things are getting worse. Beyond political statements about how many percentage points budgetary spending on education has gone up, substantially the quality of teachers and hence the educations system is in decline.
But I feel it is high time we agreed and did something about it. We can give complete exemption to the Chinese from all sorts of taxes, why can’t we do that for all educational institutions in Pakistan, across the board, and direct the tax department not to pester them. We can exempt the income of agriculturists, why can’t we exempt the salary earned by teachers so more and more top students want to be teachers. We can give incentives to the corporate world for investing in imported plant and machinery, why cannot we give incentives for them to invest in human capital inside and outside their company.
The world has entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution, and we are struggling to put our kids through primary school. We will need to find the will and the resources to fight Pakistan’s biggest problem.