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The Grace Marks

Tarbela Dam, the World Cup...lots to celebrate

The Grace Marks

PAKISTAN is not short on achievements. The first is that it has survived. Soothsayers will point to much else: for instance, the industrial development that has taken place in Punjab and the NWFP. Islamabad, leafy avenues and all, is a handsome symbol of the Ayub Khan legacy: the sixties, what historians call the "decade of development". It saw Tarbela Dam, one of the world’s largest earth-filled dams, in the NWFP; and the string of industrial complexes that dot Punjab. And yet, the real strength of Pakistan has been its people—from Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, to Dr Salim Uz Zaman Siddiqui, the scientist whose research on the neem tree has earned him worldwide acclaim. Pakistan’s forgotten Nobel laureate, Dr Abdus Salam, did his bit for scientific education. Pakistan’s cultural space, which it shares with India, was enriched by Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Habib Jalib, two of the subcontinent’s most revolutionary and inspiring poets. Iqbal Bano and Farida Khanum still thrill audiences while Mehdi Hassan has quietly faded away, leaving behind the classically erudite but popular ghazal. Then there’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Pakistan’s multi-tonic contribution to world music.

Other feelgood factors abound. Take cricket, a national passion. Imran Khan and Javed Miandad alone suffice to prove world class. No single name can dominate in field hockey, however: from Islauddin Siddiqi to Samiullah, the flying horse, to the stickwork of Shehnaz Shaikh and the wizardry of Hasan Sardar. World squash has been dominated by the Khans: from Roshan to Jahangir to Jansher Khan. And then there are Pakistan’s silent saviours. Abdul Sattar Edhi, originally from Bantva, Gujarat, today runs the massive Edhi Foundation, which has become Pakistan’s parallel health system. As the government fails, the people take over. In the Orangi town, Pakistan’s largest squatter settlement, Akhtar Abdul Hameed Khan runs the Orangi Pilot Project, a self-help scheme based on the realisation that the government can’t and won’t help the poor and therefore matters should be taken in their own hands. It is an example in building an efficient water and sewerage system and running schools and clinics. OPP has now extended out of Orangi to other parts of Pakistan.

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