DR A.Q khan column(founder of atomic program of pakistan)

On October 22, I wrote a column entitled “Education and manners,” in which I examined the influence of education and training on manners. Among the many positive reactions there was one from a gentleman who had reservations about my comment that some reform to the curriculum of religious schools could do wonders. By “wonders” I did not mean “miracles” (that is the privilege of Almighty Allah alone), but simply a positive outcome.

My idea was that students coming out of these schools would then not only have religious knowledge (Quran, Seerat-un-Nabi, Ahadees, etc.) but also knowledge of Urdu, mathematics, science, history, geography, etc. This would enable them to become better, more informed, citizens. I had a comprehensive plan worked out to deal with this matter, about which I will elaborate later.

As we all know by now, Gen Musharraf did not come from a highly educated background. In his dealings with me, he always showed an inferiority complex. I never understood why he seemed to feel threatened. After his illegal coup on October 12, 1999, I met him on a number of occasions and every time he tried to intimidate me. He seemed to forget that when he was still a major, clicking his heels and saluting me, I already had generals as colleagues working with me as part of my team.

Naturally I couldn’t accept his attitude and in one of these meetings I told him that, since I had done the job I came to do, I would like to retire and devote my energies to education and social activities. This has been recorded by Gen Khalid A Kidwai and a copy of the minutes sent to me.

After a few days I was offered the post of minister of science and technology by Gen Aziz (CGS) and Gen Kidwai on behalf of Gen Musharraf, which I politely refused on personal grounds. When asked to recommend someone else, I named my good friend, Prof Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, who was subsequently appointed to the post. Upon my retirement on March 31, 2001, I was offered the post of advisor (federal minister) for strategic projects and KRL Affairs. I was not at all keen to accept and did not respond immediately.

I only accepted the offer after some senior army officers and civilian friends pressed me to do so, saying that I could use this position to facilitate my educational and social work. My consent was given with the specific condition that I would not attend cabinet meetings. Later, after that thorough gentleman Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali became prime minister, I did in fact attend a limited number of meetings at his specific request.

I was, at that time, quite worried about the dismal state of education in general, and specifically religious schools, especially in the tribal areas. Being keen to address the problem, my competent colleague, Mr Mohammed Fahim (a Grade 22 officer from the ministry of finance and a former Member Finance at KRL) and myself prepared a comprehensive plan. I prepared a report in which I suggested I be put in charge of a programme for setting up schools where religious and other subjects were to be taught.

Preliminary education would be followed by three years of technical (vocational) training to arm students with the technical skills required to earn a respectable living and to support a family. Hostels were to be attached with these schools. This system would not only have made them useful members of society but also stopped them from being used as cannon fodder for extremist organisations.

I was convinced I could have put it into practice in about three years. There were many retired officers from KRL, good friends and other well-wishers who were willing to help with the task. At that time Pakistan was receiving substantial aid from the US, the UK, Japan, China, Germany, France, Holland and the Scandinavian countries for literacy programmes. The requirements for this programme could have easily been met from those funds, but instead the funds landed in the pockets of the corrupt and then into foreign accounts.

Had that project materialised, I feel sure there would have been fewer terrorists, suicide bombers, target killers, beggars, etc. Many of those who were children then, would have become respectable citizens by now.

Some of you might be aware that I was the project director of the G I K Institute in Swabi. I had done the designing, planning and supervision of the construction of the whole complex, and arranged for the intake of foreign academic staff. Within two years it was listed as one of the top ten best Institutes in Asia.

I have also been closely involved in the building and setting up of a Technical Institute at Mianwali in 2000, where 1,500 students are now enrolled for DAE degrees in various subjects. The setting up of a state-of-the-art Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering was also under my supervision. This Institute was later donated to the University of Karachi and students work there for MPhil and PhD degrees.

There is also a Centre for Mental Health in Karachi which some colleagues and I had built. Thousands of needy patients receive all kinds of medical care there. In Islamabad I have set up an NGO where my dedicated colleagues run several clinics and training centres/programmes for the benefit of the poor. All this is just to indicate that I am not a novice in education and social services and know what I am talking about. I would have loved to have undertaken a task like the one described earlier and given it my best with full dedication. But as the saying goes: “Man proposes, God disposes,” and it was not to be.

In his article in The News (November 5) on religious schools, Osman Khan touched upon all the points I have raised above. The system was meant to be initiated in the tribal areas and later throughout Pakistan and could have helped prevent generations of terrorists, fundamentalists, suicide bombers, illiterate religious preachers and beggars, etc. But Gen Musharraf could not see beyond his nose or comprehend the importance of the reforms needed in the educational systems of the madressahs. The whole country is now paying for his short-sightedness.

Reforms brought in on a war-footing can still bring in a positive change and give useful results. We have many well-educated, broadminded religious scholars/ulema who could be important partners in revising the system to meet contemporary needs. With the addition of three-year DAE/technical courses, reasonably literate and skilled manpower could be produced to play a positive role in society. An incentive of neat and clean hostels with reasonable facilities, together with a monthly stipend of Rs500, could work wonders.

Email: dr.a.quadeer.khan@gmail.com


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