Ahmed Sajjad Zaidi

Entrepreneur, trekker, and photographer based in Pakistan

Protest against dissolution of HEC

I have often argued that the root cause of the problems we are facing in Pakistan is the lack of education. Without proper education, we are unable to elect competent leaders or make any rational decisions as a nation. If almost half of our population is unable to read and write a single word, extremism easily flourishes and there is no way we can have a stable and performing economy.

This already desperate situation was dealt another blow this week after the government announced its plans to dissolve the HEC or Higher Education Commission. This federal body was one of the best performing organizations in the country (until its funding was drastically slashed) and oversaw some of Pakistan’s universities rise to worldwide prominence.

It’s hard to imagine what logical reasoning could have driven our glorious leaders to take such a catastrophic step. It makes no sense to hand over such a critical role to the corrupt and incompetent provinces. On this issue, I’d have to agree with the conspiracy theorists and also add a few theories of my own.

The HEC takes a strong stand against fake degrees and has had an exceptionally clean record. Once disbanded, our dirty politicians, many of whom hold fake degrees, would be completely free to run amock. Most likely, this was the main motivation behind the move.

It could also be a conspiracy to ensure that our future will remain in the hands of the corrupt few while most of our populations remains illiterate and powerless. How medieval is that?

Here is a message from Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, one of the most respected men in the country and the man who can be credited with jump-starting the IT and Telecom sector in Pakistan. He had been heading the HEC during its best performing years.

A demonstration in protest of the dissolution of HEC is being held tomorrow (Tuesday, April 5th). You can join in through the Facebook event Defending HEC.

A sad independence day

Today marks Pakistan’s 64th independence day. It’s a sad one, not just because of the ongoing floods, the worst natural disaster in our history, but because of how so many across the country are celebrating it.

(Image from this article)

It is an important day for us, no doubt. But it was sad to see hordes of people burning money on fireworks, running amok in SUVs and firing automatic weapons into the air. Even those without access to these luxuries and banned items were still out on the streets, adding to the traffic jams and the general state of apathy.

At any other time, such displays of joy and celebration are tolerable. It is a common perception that we don’t have many forms of entertainment and occasions such as these are opportunities to let off some steam. However, at a time when 20 million Pakistanis are homeless and in need of urgent help, there is no excuse. This sort of behavior is insensitive and shows that even if we have something better to do, we don’t.

There were also campaigns that called on people to refrain from buying flags, fireworks etc. and instead, spend the money to help flood victims. Sad to see that they didn’t have much effect. Maybe we deserve to be ruled by the incompetent leaders that have mostly stood by and filled their own pockets.

It was heartening to see the armed forces cancel the usual celebration plans for the 14th August and the 6th of September. And their efforts in this front are highly commendable. So are those of countless volunteers who have ventured into the worst affected areas and also those who have donated generously.

But much more is needed. More money, more supplies and more volunteers. Things would look a lot more hopeful if we took part in the operations rather than be indifferent to the disaster.