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Waning hope

Editorial Board
Sunday, Apr 09, 2023

A man goes abroad, studies hard, gets a PhD and then returns home after leaving behind a far more lucrative teaching offer. That is not the usual Pakistani story. But it was the story of Dr Ajmal Sawand who was one of the few Pakistanis who chose to return to educate people in his own country, after obtaining a PhD in Paris in 2015 in Artificial Intelligence. Dr Sawand hailed from Sindh and chose to return to the Kashmore area to teach at IBA-Sukkur. On Friday, he was killed by members of a rival tribe over a tribal dispute which he was not even a part of and about which he perhaps knew nothing at all. The rift between the tribes had been continuing for some time. In a country so badly deprived of good teachers, the loss of such a dedicated academic is even more of a terrible tragedy. The killing has already been protested by the Sindh Legal Aid Committee outside the Karachi Press Club and by scholars and academics across the province who have raised questions over the tribalism that still exists to a degree where it can claim lives as it did of Dr Ajmal Sawand.

We currently have a massive brain drain in our country with people lining up to leave it in scores. More people left the country in 2022 compared to any previous year. In this situation, people who choose to come back even though they do not need to and can easily find good jobs in places like Paris or other Western capitals deserve to be cherished. For Dr Sawand, his decision to teach people in his own homeland turned into a tragedy and is a terrifying reminder of the fact that we have not really moved beyond a time when feudal enmities trumped the law of the land.

Dr Sawand was a young educationist who dared to dream of a land he could improve by the power of knowledge and scholarship. His idealism may sound unreal to many who are – with justification, some would say – trying to make their way out of Pakistan. His brutal death is just another bitter reminder of the waning hope one can hold for logic, peace, and tolerance in a land that not only holds on to old monsters but also seems to seek out new ones every day.