Will Pakistan follow Egypt?

THE question above is agitating many minds today. If we believe in the domino effect, other states should follow suit. Egypt came after Tunisia and now there are rumblings in other parts of the Arab world.

I tried to look for the answer to this explosive question in the poem Fahmida Riaz recited at the Critical Discourse session of the Sindh Education Foundation recently. The Critical Discourse is designed as a staff capacity enhancement programme.

Fahmida Riaz spoke on the Urdu dictionary published last year by the Urdu Dictionary Board of which she is director. This 22-volume publication is no ordinary work of lexicography. In Fahmida’s words, “it actually traces the history of our civilisation, being a discourse on 1,000 years of our culture, tradition and customs”. Hers was an insightful talk on her team’s experience of compiling the Urdu dictionary. The animated discussion that followed made it a wide-ranging dialogue on the Urdu language.

It was her poem that she recited at the meeting that was thought-provoking in the context of Egypt. It shed ample light on our national psyche as it has evolved over the centuries. The fact is that the people who stage revolutions — it is still too early to say how much will change in the land of the pharaohs — should have the capacity for collective action of the kind that was witnessed in Cairo. Do Pakistanis have it?

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Our leaders of tomorrow

Why can’t we have a training school for politicians to teach them the basic art of politics? Even if one was there, the emphasis would have to be on practical politics that can’t be taught in the classroom. There is no substitute for real life experience. In this context, the concept of exposing children to the democratic processes by setting up representative institutions in the schoolroom has always appealed to many.In an interesting move three years ago, the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (Sparc) launched the Children’s Parliament of Pakistan (CPP). This has the potential of playing a significant role in providing training and education in political processes to young citizens at the grassroots. That is how I felt after meeting Babar Ali, a teenager and student of Class X at the Korangi Academy, resident of Ali Goth and member of the Regional Assembly of Karachi and Hyderabad. I discovered Babar at the Academy’s annual day function where he presented to a large audience his documentary on the hazards of eating gutka.

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