The power of one Pakistani

Published: June 22, 2013

The writer is a Karachi-based blogger who blogs at faisalkapadia.com and tweets @faisalkapadia. He has previously written for Dawn and The Friday Times

We have never given a toss about education in Pakistan. This is not a blanket statement but a fact pretty easily verified if you look at statistics of literacy in this country or the work done on education in our 65-year history.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) puts our literacy at 56 per cent, but also reports that the largest part of our nation, which is rural Pakistan, has more than 70 per cent illiteracy, when our regional neighbours like India and Sri Lanka boast literacy rates of around 75 per cent and 91 per cent, respectively. In fact, education is such a huge priority in Sri Lanka that if schooling is not provided to children, their families may suffer criminal penalties and even jail time.

We are also very fond, in this country, of not attaching any importance to the power of an individual and constantly blaming the system for all our woes. None of us want to take action on our own because we do not believe we can make a difference.

On October 9, 2012, our worst enemies took part in an action, which should be regarded as a watershed moment in Pakistan’s battle against illiteracy; they attacked Malala Yousafzai.

This one individual has become the rallying cry for Pakistan since that day and until now, she is serving as perhaps, the best soft image this country has provided on the international front. She was not, however, taken up by the mainstream media as much as her whole story was told by social media. She was a BBC blogger before she was attacked and her cause instantly became the cause of Pakistan’s social media as people identified and discussed her in both good and bad terms to the extent that the world had to sit up and take notice.

The result, as some people like to theorise in conspiracy (our other national pastime), was not just accolades for her but the change in our national narrative. Time and time again, people in this nation proclaim that social media does not have the numbers to affect any “real change” but they forget the fact that the 22 million minds present on social media are, in fact, the change everyone keeps talking about. They are enabled, powerful and opinionated. They are also the portion of our population, which has the means and the connections to make things happen because it is, in fact, a chunk which helps Pakistan make its major decisions.

The point is that we always knew education was important but this time before elections, through social media, we held our to-be-leaders accountable for education. Alif Ailaan and other online campaigns on education are living proof that the “elected”, who are now in our assemblies, knew that this time they would have to answer if they did not meet the voters’ expectations.

This is why all the provincial budgets being announced have increased their spending on education. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has declared an education emergency with Rs102.4 billion, Sindh has earmarked Rs133.22 billion and Punjab Rs210 billion for the same purpose. Now, what remains to be seen is how these funds will be utilised and what checks and balances can be kept on the ‘elected’, who are to disburse them.

The fact, therefore, is that we can see the drive now and attribution for it will be claimed by various political forces, but the spark which lit all this was one girl and her blog, which may have changed her nation’s future forever.

That, my friends, is the power of one Pakistani. Imagine the power of all Pakistanis working towards something positive.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Tayyab Balagamwala
    Jun 23, 2013 - 12:34AM

    As always mr kapadia has hit the nail in the coffin and pointed out the obvious which we have been choosing to ignore.. bravo and well written!!

    Recommend

  • ILMANA FASIH
    Jun 23, 2013 - 1:27AM

    Agree with you, Faisal: “We are also very fond, in this country, of not attaching any importance to the power of an individual…”

    Indeed, quality education needs to be our MAIN priority…not just of the state, but also as society, as family and as an individual.

    Recommend

  • Qureshi Manzoor
    Jun 23, 2013 - 2:36AM

    Sir, the hope in education sounds fascinating.
    But what type of education we have not talked about.
    Is it progressive secular education we are expecting or Zia curriculum will continue?
    Could a nation progress without secular education?
    Any existing example in global context?
    Thank you sir.

    Recommend

  • Gp65
    Jun 23, 2013 - 7:38AM

    Malala indeed is a brave girl and her courage is worthy of lauding. I can agree with you upto that point but if you say that the attack on Malala has focused the country’s attention on education then that is not a valid conclusion. Many in the country in fact still call Malala a COA agent. If she was perceived a heroine in the country as widely as you seem to believe, she would not have to live away from her land in far away UK due to death threats. If women’s education had gained as much importance as you think, there would have been much greater condemnation by political leaders when the school bus full of women students were shot dead but instead we did not see even half as much anger on this incident as was generated by the droning of Wali-Ur-Rehman.

    Not just that, a senior PTI minister representing his party said in a talk show recently that if TTP asked for coeducation schools to be shut down, there should be no problem in doing so. Now no one says that there should only be co-education schools or that there is anything wrong with boys only/ girls only schools. But shutting down coed schools takes away choice instead of giving choice as the minister later tried to spin his statement. Further, if in some local areas there is money on,y for one school then if co-Ed schools are shut down, all they will have is a boys school with no school available to girls.

    The education minister of KPK has also said that all boys between 15 and 24 should be given jihad training and that the government may consider paying for such training. Clearly thus the conclusions you have drawn from the Malala episode are not consistent with events that occurred since then.Recommend

  • Randomstranger
    Jun 23, 2013 - 8:49AM

    Taliban apologist comments incoming, brace yourselves!

    Recommend

  • David_Smith
    Jun 23, 2013 - 11:19AM

    @Tayyab Balagamwala: Surely you meant hit the nail on the “head”!

    Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Jun 23, 2013 - 1:05PM

    @David_Smith:
    “@Tayyab Balagamwala: Surely you meant hit the nail on the “head”!

    .
    That goes to prove once again that a lot needs to be done in the field of education and just staring at statistics does not help.

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  • Faisal Kapadia
    Jun 23, 2013 - 2:34PM

    Yes its a long war, however as in any war it is very important to rally the troops, therefore we must celebrate every small victory we achieve in this field. It may have been started by individuals but if our country is to progress it needs everyone of us the enlightened chunk of this nation to step forth and do their bit.

    Education for all and no surrender to terrorists should be the mantra of tomorrows pakistan, if we want a tomorrow that is.

    Recommend

  • Dervesh
    Jun 23, 2013 - 2:46PM

    Expecting change for quality education from the existing pro-Taliban political parties,
    Or expecting the existing education to change Pakistan’s future is a dream.
    And Pakistan is now used to daydreaming over its past history of 65 years.

    Recommend

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