Our moth-eaten Pakistan will hobble along, led as it always has been since 1948 by men endowed with mediocrity or men endowed with moral depravation, until, through God`s infinite grace, it rights itself and follows the path envisaged by its Founder-Maker, Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

We know, as Jinnah knew, that the first thing our governments must ensure is law and order all over the land, and to have that we must have an independent judiciary which no government up to now has been able to live with. Secondly, we must have equality — all citizens of Pakistan have to be equal in all ways — and for that to happen religion must not, repeat must not, be the business of the state. The country was founded on the premise that it would not be ruled over or influenced by a maulvi-mullah fraternity that has assumed unto itself a divine right.

Herbert Feldman, an Englishman who lived and worked in Pakistan for many years after Partition has written three volumes on the history of Pakistan from 1947 up to 1971. His second book covering the years 1962-1969 was aptly titled From Crisis to Crisis (OUP, 1972). As a friend of Pakistan, he rightly predicted that the country would continue to exist, until some solution cropped up, with a mere six inches of water below the keel, surviving crisis after crisis.

Or, as my old friend Perico, Duke of Amalfi, a former Spanish ambassador to Pakistan, always had it, this country will drift from crisis to calamity, from calamity to catastrophe, and from catastrophe to disaster. This was also in the 1960s — and so it has been. He wrote little, spoke even less, but had a sound perception of the lands in which he served.

Moving on to where we now are, verging on the disastrous, last week I was rung up by Rashiduddin Ahmad, a gentleman unknown to me but who had seen me on television the night before, who politely asked if he could meet me. Of course, I said, and round he came. His immediate lament was the behaviour of our gun-toting public, particularly the student element, and how they were adversely affecting an already fraught situation threatened by terrorism.

His particular reference was to an incident that took place on October 12 at the Pakistani Swedish Institute of Technology (PSIT) in Quaidabad. An admission test was held that day in which 1,250 candidates were enlisted. Since the re-introduction of political activity into the educational field, at this particular institution the Islami Jamiat-i-Tulaba (IJT) students` organisation has established itself as the leading group. When activists of the Pakhtun Students Federation came to take the test the IJT lot objected and after an acrimonious verbal exchange between the two groups, the inevitable arms were produced and they opened fire upon each other. Two policemen were injured, one reporter and two cameramen who happened to be there, and four students.

The Rangers were called in, tear gas was pumped, and the two groups dispersed. As a result of this fight hundreds of students and teachers were besieged in the institute. It took a heavy contingent of police, which was called in, over an hour to free the trapped people.

Such is just one result of the deadly mixture in this country of politics and religion when student elements are allowed to form political groups. The Sindh information minister (a post that should not exist) later paid the usual visit to the injured, mouthed the usual platitudes, amongst which was that the gun culture at educational institutions will be ended. The gun culture has invaded the entire country, from the presidential palace down to the katchi abadis.

Rashiduddin was most upset by the incident, as since the PSIT was founded in the late 1950s it had not witnessed such violence. His knowledge of the institute sprung from his friendship with Martti Ahtisaari who worked at the institute from 1960 to 1963, training teachers and managing the students` hostel. He and Rashiduddin were both learning German at the Goethe Institut and became firm friends. After Ahtisaari`s departure Rashiduddin maintained his interest in the PSIT.

If I had not seen it, Rashiduddin suggested that I take a ride with him and visit this once fine establishment. So off we went. At the gate was a posse of armed policemen stationed to maintain the peace. The institute stands on 22 acres, with trees still living that were planted by Ahtisaari. One could tell that in its day it had been a fine place, but now, as is the norm in this Republic of ours, there was a stench of decay emanating from it, the result of decades of continuous neglect. There is a shortage of funds, teachers cannot be paid adequately and the equipment is all outdated. The government budgeted funds cannot meet the expenses needed to run the institute as it should be run.

The Sindh education department is helpless — it always has been for want of funds as education comes last on the list (vying with population control) when it comes to dishing out government funds. It is now more helpless as it is in the hands of a man well known as a Zardari crony, Mazharul Haq.

One must hope that Martti Ahtisaari does not know to what depths of degradation this once fine institute has sunk. To remind my readers, on October 10 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for this year. Ahtisaari was born in Finland where his father was a non-commissioned officer in the service corps. He grew up in a town called Oulu where he studied through a distance learning course at the teachers` college and qualified as a primary school teacher in 1959.

After he left Pakistan, he joined the Finnish foreign ministry and spent several years as a Finnish diplomatic representative. He later served as a United Nations commissioner and special representative in various posts in the troubled regions of the world. In 1993, he took up politics and as a candidate of the Social Democratic Party stood in the Finnish presidential election and won, which position he held until 2000 (he did not seek re-election).

His post-presidential activities won him his Nobel Prize. Shortly after leaving office, he founded the Crisis Management Initiative, an independent non-governmental organisation with a goal in developing and sustaining peace in troubled areas. He was involved in the Northern Ireland peace process, in troubled Kosovo, and in 2005 he successfully led peace negotiations between the Free Aceh Movement and the Indonesian government through his CMI.

arfc@cyber.net.pk

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