July 26, 2010

The Cause of Our Plight

Our Anglo-Saxon roots predate partition. This archaic link to the British has influenced us greatly; and even today, there exists a clear linkage to us and our pre-programmed mindset which has been moulded to treat us and everything about us as second class. This representation of ourselves and our lives, cultures, food, religion as oriental automatically defines us as being inferior to the residents of the West, or occidentals.

It is critical to note that the oriental philosophy was taught to us by our Anglo-Saxon masters whereby we are second grade to them. This philosophy was then imposed upon the local populations of the subcontinent, who started feeling poor and ashamed of their culture and heritage as opposed to the occidental culture, which appeared progressive, modern and liberal. The steam age did not help matters either as that became the point when the global economy really took off. With the advent of globalization, the previously unknown concept of inflation ensured that the element of “poverty” and “poor” emerged. While the British reaped the profits and became exuberantly “rich”, the opposite effect was seen on the local population which became “poor”. It is also important to note that the concept of rich and poor as is understood in terms of today’s globalized economy was non-existent. There were pockets of indigenously surviving communities spread across the entire Mughal Kingdom (before the British took over) which survived and fed themselves based on subsistence farming.

The point of presenting this personal discourse on the history of the subcontinent is to try to better define our predicament as seen today. When the British ruled over us, our religious leaders under the garb of Islamic survival decreed that the Muslims are forbidden from studying the “indifel” knowledge. What they failed to realize was that Islam-based study no longer comprised of research and modernity, and it was not evolving to keep up with the ever changing time. Therefore the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent were left to study, teach and pass on the concepts that they had learned from the medieval times. The Hindus on the other hand, for whatever reasons, were more than willing to learn from the British and the difference between Pakistan and India cannot be clearer. It was at ht beginning of the 20th century that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s lifelong work of trying to make the Muslims see sense finally paid off with the creation of Aligarh University.

In 1947 when Pakistan and India emerged as two separate entities, they both agreed to follow the British law until the legislative assemblies had defined their own rules and regulations. The fact is 63 years down the line, half of Pakistan’s laws are still based on the periphery of Britain’s old laws. In our zealous belief that the West and all that is Western is modern and illuminating, we have failed to take into account the ground realities present on hand, namely the environment, culture and people of Pakistan. What we must realize is that Pakistan is not Britain and as such it is absurd to follow their laws and rules. While we proudly meander along the borders of the British legacy, we have failed to take into perspective the humanistic qualities that define the average Westerner today, namely hard work, realization of the fact that he/she is responsible for his/her own well-being and not the father, or mother, or rich uncle etc, and the genuine love for their country of origin.

We Pakistanis on the other hand, stunted with the throes of the British education system have ended up teaching the oriental philosophy to our evolving generations. This is precisely the reason we consider the people of the West superior and ourselves inferior. And that is also why our love of our country has been left to mere words and gestures. This approach to how Pakistan is viewed through the prism of the Pakistani education system, wrought for us by the British, needs to be overhauled and changed. Until we are proud of who we are, and where we come from, progress can hardly be made.

The other problem of course is that no serious thought has ever been given to improve and reform our British era education system in all the 63 years. In fact, since the 90s the budget allocation for education has shown a steady declining trend. It is absolutely imperative and critical to understand that the only way out of this impasse is by educating ourselves. I say this because no one in the world is going to come and educate us. Nations think of their own well being and support themselves indigenously. They do not wait around and expect others to become selfless and come and help them. But despite that, people have come forward and helped us. The aid from the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia is a prime example. It is another fact that we have never properly utilized it properly. Of course we ask for more and when the donors tell us they would like to monitor where their money is spent, we become furious and cry “sovereignty!”

The path is clear then.  Become self dependent and self sufficient if our sovereignty is an issue. God has bestowed Pakistan with gold and coal; natural gas and fertile land. The elements are all there. The equation shouldn’t be difficult to figure out. The only problem is breaking out of our boxed mindset. The potential for growth is immense in this part of the world. The only need is to empower the people by providing them with a reformed education system that teaches them the values of self-achievement, self-dependency, humility and hard work. The principles of idealism need to be replaced with the ideals of realism because that is the only way forward. Being at the top will no longer be an ideally accepted position. It will be an ideal that will have been realized.