Aminah Suhail Qureshi
“This is a national programme. However, individuals from FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan, Northern Sindh and Southern Punjab are highly encouraged to apply.”
In other words, though it was a national-level scholarship, its flyer had clearly missed out the most populous regions of Pakistan, namely Northern Punjab and Southern Sindh, in which live millions of people as Lahorites and Karachites, respectively. Although the phrase “encouraged to apply” would not take away the enthusiasm and morale of people living in the aforementioned two cities to apply for the programme, the final list of successful candidates will surely free everyone of all doubts about this and many other national programmes following the very widely debated mechanism based on quota-based system.
This system is often perceived to be a measure to ensure the selection of a specified number or percentage of members belonging to a minority group. It is largely appreciated for giving the minorities at least some representation in every programme where the system is being observed. However, all those in favour of the prevalent scheme must recognise the transition of giving minorities some share to depriving the majority of its fair share. Paying heed to the lack of opportunities available to the geographically neglected areas of the country cannot and should not be equated to snatching away the rights of the hard working and deserving people belonging to metropolitan cities.
I am well aware that you must be thinking of me as a biased and prejudiced arrogant devil who is and wants to remain ignorant and incognisant of my pretermitted countrymen’s sufferings, but believe me when I say that majority of the national and international scholarship programmes and job opportunities are now more available to the areas mentioned in the first sentence of the article than those living in the parts of Pakistan, whose names were not even hinted at.
One dimension of addressing the issue comprises of justifications in favour of the system wherein people are convinced about its dire need. Underdeveloped areas lack basic infrastructure and facilities because of which the youth suffers and is deprived of fundamental needs including education. Proper schools, sophisticated colleges, and research-oriented universities were once a dream of many backward towns and cities and still remain to be a goal to be achieved for many. Despite all difficulties and hurdles, determined students of those areas aim and achieve. Renowned educational institutes across the country also assist them in attaining their targets by providing them scholarships and through other funding programmes. In its original sense, such steps were meant to welcome to the metropolitan cities those individuals from undeveloped, rural and agrarian areas who are focused, unswerving and earnest in writing their own destiny and who really want to win the race. We, in spite of all elements of nationalism, jingoism, faux humanity and advocacy of wanting equal opportunities for all, cannot deny the fact that many graduates just earn their degrees to put a stamp on themselves of being graduates. What else can be expected of a society where government funds are invested on such ladies to become doctors whose parents want to see the desired prefix before their names just to attract more and better suitors for marriage? Also, there exists a faction comprising of people who are least bothered about receiving formal didactics and changing their fate.
Today, the applications and dynamics of this quota-based system have evolved to such an extent that an equal number of seats and scholarships are allocated to each area irrespective of its population. To illustrate, each of the seven administered areas of Pakistan, including the four ‘legit’ provinces, may be given two seats, making a total of fourteen. But would this figure of fourteen be a justice to the highly populous regions of Punjab and Sindh? Would it not be an incident of ignoring the reality that the probability of finding genius minds increases with an increase in population by a simple rule of mathematics? Would it not be unfair to drop a highly competent and worthy individual simply because his domicile was that of Lahore and his seat was given to a relatively less capable yet a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan on the basis of quota system? How many of us can deliberately choose to remain indifferent to the prevalent practice of most programmes giving preference to the denizens of underdeveloped cities and rejecting the applications of those who have domiciles of urban cities?
Is it not a simple logic that when all programmes will start biased picking candidates from suburban or rural areas, this would result in depriving the so-called majority living in developed cities of golden opportunities? In this case, are the gifted and talented virtuosi not being let down plainly because they were born in a metropolitan city?
It is not hidden from anyone that there exists a common belief to appear in competitive examinations with a domicile of a city far, far and far away from Lahore or Karachi. Being unaware of it and becoming deaf and blind to the issue would not bring any change in the misery of the suffering candidates. The notion of providing opportunities to the less privileged on the standing that one’s abode should not be an obstacle in the way of achieving is equally applicable to the current situation where one’s birth place is being used as a vindication of his wealth and the myriad of opportunities that are assumed to be consumed by him during his lifetime. Regrettably, this is not the case. Unfortunately, we do not want to realise this. And undoubtedly, this is increasing the level of frustration in youth the consequences of which are slowly but steadily becoming evident in forms of massive unemployment, rising crime rates and brain drain. If not addressed in time, the worse forms of oppressions might have to be witnessed by us or the generations to come.