A poignant voice that may light up a million paths
After having read my previous article “The growing fear syndrome” published last Monday, Anam Kalair wrote the following:
“I am an undergraduate student at the UET, Lahore. Today, while travelling back to my village, I happened to read your article in Pakistan Today. I am writing this mail while in the bus and pondering on the article. The statement ‘they don’t speak up, and when they do, it is either too late, or irrelevant’ is haunting me and has disturbed me to the core of my soul. Being a student, I have come to realize that, along with other systems, the education system has also been extremely corrupted in our country. The ‘parasites’ neither work themselves, nor do they let others work under their supervision. As students, we occasionally have discussions on the system in our country, especially the dual, triple even quadruple systems of education running in parallel. Research is almost non-existent. Brilliant professors are forced to leave the country because they are either provided minimal research grants, or are forced to work with negligible resources (financial/academic) that makes research virtually impossible.
“In such dismal state of affairs, what are the prospects for the youth in this country? I truly believe that every individual carves his own destiny, but a place where you are accused to be wrong just because you are right and the entire filthy system is wrong, what chances are there of progress? I do not support abandoning my country, but what can we do as students when the rotten system does not allow us to do anything good? Creating an NGO or a society are all small steps that deserve appreciation, but what has become of this country needs much more than that for repair. The political and other criminal mafias have damaged it beyond repair. I am sending this mail, just to know from your experience, what is it that we should do apart from devoting ourselves fully to our studies that might help in improving our beloved homeland’s state?”
Anam Kalair’s story is the story of every young Pakistani boy and girl. Looking into the future, they discover that they are gazing into a blank. They cannot see themselves getting anywhere in this distressed country that is effectively in the grip of thugs and marauders who are taking turns at robbing it of its wealth, resources and, above all, its hope and dreams.
Anam belongs to village Dhaunkal in Tehsil Wazirabad. She was educated at her village school and went to college in Islamabad where her family had moved to. She is currently studying at the University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore doing a course in electrical engineering. She is one of the millions of young Pakistanis who begin by pursuing studies in earnest only to lose hope and enthusiasm along the way because they discover that the future that they had set out to build is just a mirage and the way to get there is neither through books nor through classrooms. Tragically, but truly, that way weaves through associating with one of the criminal mafias that are operating with gay abandon all around us. Will Anum also do what a host of her friends and contemporaries are destined to doing: chisel out a place for herself in the corrupt corridors that dictate the destiny of the people? Or will she stand up to resist the draconian avalanche that seems to be devouring this country? What will be her prospects if she chooses the latter option? Or, will she choose a path that is different from either of the above-stated options and find her place away from this country where she believes she would be rewarded in consonance with the quality of her work and effort?
That brings us to a subject that has contributed phenomenally to the intellectual and professional degradation in Pakistan: brain drain. There is such sickly mediocrity rampant around as we continue to plunge inexorably to the bottom of the pit. Young people are moving out of this country at an alarming pace. The process had started a long time ago which has only picked up in speed and numbers with time. Most of these people have the capability and capacity to provide quality leadership to the country in varied disciplines including positions at the very top, but they find their path pockmarked with artificial impediments if they were to exercise the option of coming back. Consequently, they have stayed away playing a key role in the development of countries they have adopted to be their homes. Pakistan’s loss has been their gain.
This loss has also been the gain of the corrupt and criminal political mafias that have ruled this country through decades because the ones who have moved away are the people who could have presented a potent challenge to their family fiefdoms. Instead, with the exit of the educated and the talented, these mafias have been left to deal with hordes of unenlightened, bigoted, regressive, degenerate and economically-captive subservient serfs who are easily given to excessive religiosity and who can be tamed and marshalled. Let alone coming up with ways and means of bringing this national asset back to the country and providing them avenues and means to contribute to the cause of national development, no one even talks about this monumental loss. Though she does not support abandoning her country, will Anam, at some stage in her life, also end up being one of them?
The ‘filthy system’ that is stalking Anam and others like her is rooted in controlling the teeming millions by keeping them economically and socially dependent on the largesse so pitiably showered by the ruling mafias, be it through the office of the local SHO or the patwari who are all beholden to the rulers for their appointment to best serve the succeeding generations of their masters. While these corrupt instruments of the government remain subservient to the criminal ruling mafias, they, in turn, expect the underprivileged to bow in obeisance to them. This obsequious equation has ruled this country through decades which is digging its tentacles deeper with the poor becoming poorer and the rich getting away with murder with the system acting only as a facilitator.
Apparently, there are only two options for Anams of this country: either become part of the corrupt system as willing instruments to further perpetuate it, or leave this country for a place where they would be adequately rewarded for their learning, talent, work and commitment. But, there is another path that Anam can choose for herself and lead others to choose as well – a path that is strewn with enormous challenges, even the prospect of not succeeding at the first few hurdles. But this is the path that will brighten the future of millions of young people who are laden with the desire to serve this country and the afflicted millions who have for ever suffered at the hands of an unjust and inequitable system that only serves the cause of the corrupt masters. This is a path that is the most difficult of the options, but a path that is most desirable offering Anam and thousands of other young people the one avenue that they should tread with faith that, someday, the darkness shall lift giving way to light. At a loss for words, allow me to quote from the inimitable Faiz:
Is it the scent of blood or the caress of the beloved’s lips?
Behold, whence cometh the morning breeze
Is spring in the air, or the prison overflows again?
Listen, whither cometh the sound of music
This and so much more that has been written provides inspiration and hope to the young of the country that they should not choose a path of compromise with the draconian dictatorship artificially garbed as democracy. Instead, they should opt for a principled course of resistance to the inequality and inequity of the system that only serves the objectives of the ruling mafias. Their resistance should be guided by the everlasting objectives of bringing salvation to the underprivileged and showing a way to the deserving in providing leadership to the country. Anam, you are right in stating that ‘every individual carves his own destiny’. The path to that destiny is moulded around offering resistance to oppression and exploitation unleashed by the corrupt mafias who maintain a vice-like stranglehold on the system.
There is only one way for Anam and those millions who may be staring in the blank of a nondescript future: stand up for the right cause and be prepared to withstand the challenges that may impede your path. Because, in the end, you shall overcome, you shall triumph, and the ones who rule today shall run away finding transient shelter in the empires they have built with their illicitly earned billions: the Sharifs, the Zardaris, the Altaf Hussains, the Chaudhrys, and the repertoire of petty attendants and grovelling sycophants. They live on the booty that their underlings collect as extortion by exploiting the weaknesses of the poor, and by creating an environment of fear. Don’t be vulnerable to their macabre machinations. They shudder at the power of your resolve – the resolve of the young and the dedicated. Use this resolve to drive away the murderers, the marauders, and the usurpers. Their time is well-nigh over!
Raoof Hasan is a political analyst and the Executive Director of the Regional Peace Institute. He can be reached at: [email protected]