Pakistan, Islam & education.

WHEN a patient's condition turns critical, doctors often say it is time for dua (prayer) more than dawa (medicine or treatment). Current Pakistani conversations across all classes about the state of the country suggest a similar condition.

Such a state in a patient is often the result of multi-organ failure. In Pakistan, the organs of the state, ie its political, social, economic and administrative institutions, are failing.

The military, as de facto principal political, economic and administrative decision-making institution, has brought about this state failure by exceeding its constitutional limits.

Civil institutions and the political process have also failed. But civilian and political culpability - on display every day - has been secondary. Hopefully, the new military leadership is following through on its claim of turning the page.

The country needs to emerge from its present condition to survive. Can it? The question is not legitimate because it allows a negative answer. The country has to do whatever it takes, whatever the odds may be against it being able to do so. So where do we go from here? What is to be done? These are legitimate questions because they implicitly rule out answers such as 'Nowhere!' and 'Nothing!'

Existential questions must generate existential responses. When they emanate from the political condition of the country, the responses can only come from the people. But the people are an inchoate entity. They are more a concept than an immediate instrument of political change. To become that they need to be enabled by well-wishers, not manipulated by those who fear and wish to control them.

The country needs to emerge from its present condition to survive. Can it?

This is why Chomsky has little respect for media, academic, administrative, and moral 'intellectuals' who profess their identification with the people's interests without seeking to catalyse and realise their potential to change their condition.

They make a decent living working for corporate owners and the government, or by entertaining elites and exploiting the sentiments of the people. Sartre accused them of 'living in bad faith'. Gramsci counselled 'pessimism of the intellect' (recognising realities) and 'optimism of the will' (overcoming them).

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