Newspaper Articles

In defence of the uneducated – by Iqbal Jafar

Originally published in Dawn
A FALSE, even perverse, assumption, if allowed to go unchallenged for a period of time can become part of conventional wisdom.

If it is significant enough it can even find place as an accepted premise in the national discourse. Through this imperceptible process the uneducated Pakistanis have now become the most maligned people in the world.

They are routinely held responsible, in Pakistan and elsewhere, for all sorts of evils — religious intolerance, suicide bombing, dysfunctional democracy, lawlessness, poverty and much else — and are a convenient excuse for the colossal failures of the ruling class, caused by its own insatiable greed and endemic indolence.

The educated Pakistanis, most of whom are ill-educated or miseducated due to an insular curriculum prescribed by more ‘educated’ Pakistanis, tend to believe that but for the burden of illiterate Pakistanis, which they think they carry, they could resolve the problems that have remained intractable so far. Now, what could those problems be, whose resolution is being prevented by this wild horde of ‘unwashed, uncouth, uneducated’ Pakistanis?

Are they the ones who prevent the rich from paying their taxes? Are they the ones who keep nagging the rich and the powerful to have their loans written off ever so often? Are they the ones who have contrived the bankruptcy of even the biggest and most viable state enterprises like Pakistan Steel, Pakistan Railways and PIA? Are they the ones who have received millions of dollars in kickback by buying submarines at twice the real cost?

Are they the ones who run drug, land and arms mafias? Do they oppose appointments on merit and, instead, get their clueless sons, daughters, cousins, nephews and friends appointed as state functionaries? Where would Pakistan be if none of these things was to happen?

The truth is that unlike the ruling class, the illiterate Pakistanis are not social parasites. The reality is just the opposite. They grow food, and are starved themselves. They build houses but often remain homeless. They build schools whose classrooms, they know, their children would never see. They build hospitals where, they know, they would not be looked after. They live at below sustenance level so that others may live in opulence. Even so they are not the ones to cause hatred and discord, unlike the regionalist politicians, sectarian clerics, parochial bureaucrats and the self-appointed guardians of faith and frontier in the military.

By a lucky chance I had the opportunity of being in contact for about 15 years with rural Pakistan, where most of the uneducated Pakistanis live. Over the years I developed a distinct impression that those persons were hardly ever motivated by any kind of hate. I was also impressed by their native wisdom and their natural gift of common sense that had not been distorted or debased by miseducation. However, these were personal impressions, not supported by any kind of evidence that a social scientist would accept. That inadequacy has now been partially overcome.

Recently a survey was conducted by a team of Herald “to pick the brains of 15-to-25-five-years-olds from a broad cross-section of society, from uneducated labourers to Masters degree holders…”. The survey, published in this year’s annual issue of Herald, offers some astonishing conclusions for those who take a dim view of the mindset of uneducated Pakistanis. There is empirical evidence, as we shall presently see, that the uneducated Pakistanis are far more liberal and tolerant than those who haven’t gone beyond school level (matriculates being the most conservative), and are often on the same page as those who have done their Masters!

This is incredible but true. The reason, according to the survey, is that “those who go through the country’s schools and then leave the educational system — after being taught a certain version of Pakistani history but perhaps before developing critical and independent thinking skills — have the most conservative values”. But the evidence gathered indicates that the problem is not confined to the schools and seminaries alone but could extend to colleges and universities.

Here are the responses to these key questions that give some idea of the mindset of the educated and uneducated youth. To the question whether they favoured a secular state, 27 per cent of the uneducated and 31 per cent of the postgraduates replied in the affirmative, but only 12 per cent of the matriculates did so. To the question whether they favoured the punishment of flogging, stoning to death and amputation, 45 per cent of the matriculates and even 39 per cent of the postgraduates replied in the affirmative, while only 25 per cent of the uneducated did so.

Most astonishing were the responses to the question whether suicide attacks in Pakistan were justified. Looking at the responses the survey team concluded that: “The prize for most peace-loving goes to the uneducated — not a single respondent who falls in that bucket thinks suicide attacks in Pakistan are justified.” What is astonishing is that while not a single respondent amongst the uneducated supported suicide attacks, 11 per cent of the matriculates and six per cent even among the postgraduates did support suicide attacks.

These figures, while they do vindicate the uneducated Pakistanis, are a telling indictment of the kind of education imparted in our educational institutions, at all levels, not just the schools and seminaries. Given these facts, it doesn’t require much imagination to conclude that education in Pakistan has been distorted and medievalised to such an extent and so extensively that it can abort the birth of modern Pakistan. If that ever happens, it won’t be because of the uneducated Pakistanis.

About the author

Laila Ebadi


Click here to post a comment
  • Somebody wrote what I wrote two days ago, only more eloquently and far clearly.

    The elitist urban upper middle class is the real problem.

  • Excellent piece which tallies with my own views. The wonder is that it was published in Dawn, which I have previously described as “an insult to Quaid-e-Azam’s memory and the haunt of westernised fascists”.

    We need to tap the full potential of our nation, which is an impossibility so long as we persevere with the current bastardised educational system. If Iqbal Jafar Sahib is reading these lines, I would refer him to a discussion which he might find of considerable interest:

    [please read the article and ALL comments that follow]

  • it is a little surprising that it was published in Dawn. By the way sakib sb how come you’ve stopped writing for critical ppp?

  • Rabia Sahiba,

    I am not a writer – just a pen pusher who scribbles some lines now and then in his blog. By the way, you might be interested in reading my most recent blog post which has caused quite a stir among ladies of my acquaintance.

    Alhamdulillah, your website is flourishing and I appreciate the efforts that some of you make to clean up the PPP. However, I happen to think that such efforts will not bear fruit so long as people like Messrs Zardari, Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Zulfiqar Mirza, etc have their hands on the reins of power. Your unreasonable criticism of our honourable Chief Justice does tend to alienate people.

  • @Sakib Ahmad:

    Dear Sakib Ahmad Sb.

    What i have come to understand after following the LUBP blog is they actively criticize PPP(P) as well as the rest of the players, what to do if you want them to do what others are doing, ‘give dog a bad name and hang em’. Will doing this make them attract more readers? Sad isn’t it?

    Am unable to understand why most of the people are falling prey to the right-wing controlled media, and are victims of the mindsets created by years of state-fed dogma and so are being judgmental on “people like Messrs Zardari, Babar Awan, Rehman Malik, Zulfiqar Mirza, etc”

    May I dare to remind that they never came to power riding on tanks or on the shoulders of 111 Brigade..they came in the power through a popular vote and everyone critical of their action or policies will have their fair chance in the coming elections to vote them out. Its mind boggling when people claiming to be objective and rational turn a jaundiced eye.

    Leaving aside the political players, the Judiciary in Pakistan is an interesting and intriguing phenomenon which duly merits a study! These sacred cows in the whole 62 years took one right step (though there were certain extraneous variables attached as well) and were more than fairly rewarded for the ‘one right step’ they took in their whole careers (i.e. reinstatement).

    And what the political govt. gets in return? An obstinate pack of wolves out to tear them apart? Can you just do a little research and find out how many pending cases are lying with honourable SC awaiting their worthy attention, have you ever tried to explore the careers of those elevated to Lahore high court due to the worthy support of honourable IMC and Munsaf-e-Ala (running marriage halls or acting as juniors at the chambers of some senior judges and blue eyed lawyers).

    Due to this gift its now impossible for you to discuss a question of law in front of the honourbale justices adorning the bench at LHC, as they lack any understanding of Law. When the Law Minister provides fund to the bars it becomes a sin, but when the sitting CJ goes to the bars and doles out funds or the CM does the same nobody is bothered? The people blowing the trumpet of independence of judiciary have ever cared to unpack the whole idea of independence and evaluate fairly when in the course of last 62 years the Judges of High and Supreme Court weren’t independent in their decision making?

    And what in fact plagues the system the political polemics at the higher courts or the independence and fast paced dispensation of justice at the lower tier courts (trial as well as appellate). What has this sanctified and over orchestrated movement has done at the district courts? Are people really getting justice, are the judges really free to decide the cases? Will you dare to answer what were the impacts of suo moto actions taken by the SC on issues such as Sugar Prices?

    Please be objective in real sense of objectivity, If Messrs Zardari, Rehman Malik, Babar Awan et al are no saints they will be accountable to the people in due course but what my dear sir will you do of this self-righteous bunch being guarded by the right-wing media and certain elements of state who are trying to create a parallel system of governance where everything in the country has to move as per their whims?

  • Dear Sakib Sb;
    Thanks for taking out time and responding, yet would have been much better if you could have replied yourself. I am so sorry if you think the columns of Mr. Javed Chaudary can be used as a medium in a serious dialogue.