On December 1930, it was a dream of a visionary Dr Muhammad Iqbal – a dream to  ‘see the Punjab, North West Frontier Province, Sindh and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single State. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated North-West Indian Muslim State appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of North-West India’.

And, in response to him on 23 March 1940, a historic pledge was made by the nation to realize that goal! The dream of the founding fathers was to see an egalitarian society for the Muslims of India, a society that was to be free from bondage of not only the colonial rulers but also from misery, poverty, and ignorance. The historic pledge was followed by a great endeavour including loss of millions of lives,  to achieve freedom and to build a free, fair, and prosperous society that allows its citizens equal rights to use their personal abilities and give full expression to ambitions in pursuit of happiness.

After 74 years of that historic day in Lahore, do we see that solemn pledge of the nation been fully redeemed in Pakistan? Not really.

Unfortunately, what we see today in Pakistan, among other things, is that investment in public health, education and human capital development is seriously neglected. State has almost abandoned public health and education.

Total outlay of health sector is budgeted at Rs.79.4 billion, less than $1 billion only (Australia with 1/8th of the size of Pakistan’s population spends over $64 billion on health and medical services. No wonder, to a large extent, health and education expenditure is being paid for by the donor agencies. In terms of UNDP’s Human Development Index, Pakistan has slipped down, even lower than Congo and Myanmar.

There are only 1,207 hospitals (1,786 persons per bed) and 160,289 doctors (1,127 persons per doctor) in the country. Callous neglect and unpardonable mismanagement of health and nutrition needs of the country has made us to witness the horrifying tragedy of children and women dying today in Tharparkar of hunger, malnutrition and lack of basic health care.

Only half of Pakistan’s children go to primary school, a quarter to secondary school, and just five percent receive any higher education.

Pakistan must revamp and re-structure a cost-effective and affordable health care and education & skills development delivery system on modern lines, learning from the experience of some successfully developed and practiced systems in many countries of the world.

Pakistan must reverse the state’s policy of practically abandoning the health and education sectors by re-investing a substantial part of its revenue into a massive national human capital development effort. It must increase the budgetary allocation on reviving and developing a preventive & curative national health delivery system from a miser 0.9% of GDP to minimum 5% of GDP and on education& skills development from current 2.5% of GDP to a minimum 10% of GDP.

More than any other time, Pakistan today needs each one of its son and daughter whether inside or out of Pakistan to renew  pledge that our forefathers made on this day in Lahore.

Let’s today renew our pledge and resolve to light one candle for each of us to fight the darkness and illuminate a shining the path to fulfill the dream of Allama Muhammad Iqbal.

Jigar sey wohi teer phir paar kar!

Tamana ko seenon mein bedar kar!

Dr.Sayeed Khan
President Australia Pakistan Medical Association NSW

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