PM’s brother joins the club
The Prime Minister’s brother, Ahmed Mujtaba Gilani, recently won the PP-206 seat. The coverage of these by elections is what took me to Jalalpur Pirwala, a tehsil of Multan district 88 km away from the main city. During the election campaign, my team followed Gilani to a village near Jalalpur where a huge gathering of locals was waiting to greet him with garlands and chanting slogans of “people’s party Zindabad”. One by one, his supporters shared their views on the ‘fortune’ that the PM’s brother will bring with him once elected. Lastly, it was Gilani’s turn to offer the gathering around him what can at best be described as a verbal communiqué entrenched with vagueness, the grounds on which to elect him as MPA.
Nearby I saw a group of women and children gathered behind a door watching Gilani and his supporters from a distance. I went up to the girls and asked them a few simple questions. Would they vote for Gilani? They all nodded their heads. Why? They responded with silence. What is it that they wanted the most? To this I was flooded with a barrage of demands, desires; however you interpret it. Amidst the flood of grievances and refreshing giggles, I kept hearing the word school. Electricity too, but mostly school.
There was one girl, Shamshad Rub Nawaz, out of the lot, whose confidence reflected the years of education she had been fortunate enough to obtain. She was very vocal about her views and said “I have done matric and am willing to teach but there are no schools. We have too many children and very few schools. The existing ones are too far off and children cannot walk there. We have a lot of problems and will vote for Ahmed Mujtaba Gilani so he resolves them.”
I listened intently to Gilani as he continued to address his people with an indistinct, generalized agenda of reformation once elected. His fuzzy promises made no mention of how many schools he would build, if any at all. If only he had heard Shamshad and other girls plead blatantly for a necessity they had been deprived of for years.
These girls were not expecting or hoping for schools with big classrooms or brand new textbooks. All they expressed was a desire for a roof on their heads where they could sit and learn together. A place nearby so they wouldn’t have to walk too long in the scorching 50 degree heat.
Many people are of the view that the government should improvise on the quality of education in existing schools and better train the already recruited teachers. However, seeing Shamshad’s siblings and others like them, I feel every child has the right to hold a pen, to learn, to read and to write. Quality and excellence is secondary when it comes to opportunity. Strengthening the existing ones is important, but so is providing prospects to those sitting idle. It should be obligatory on the government to provide the basics first, such as schools within walking reach of children. I cannot fathom growing up never having gone to school. That is like losing your childhood before having lived it.
When Barack Obama ran for president, throughout his campaign, he talked about his plans to take a fresh look at education issues. He said his focus was on providing good schools for all kids. All kids. That is what our government should set as its target.
Now that the PM’s brother has won the elections, I can only wait and see the number of schools that will be opened in this small village in Multan, if any at all, where little children have big dreams. So the children there can live a childhood, a real one.