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-unNabi, 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.