The future lies with those who understand the present and use the past as a guide to determine a course of action. This course of action should be accommodative to modification because of increasingly quick developments taking place internationally and nationally. If we accept Alama Iqbal’s assessment of the source of the power of the West, it needs detailed comprehension of the various factors that have been accepted as norms by their standards. Without doubt “the power of the West does come through science and technology, not by wearing European clothes,” wrote Iqbal (Javid Nama).

Let us familiarise ourselves with the requirements of advancement. Are we not envious of those who were way behind us not so long ago are far ahead of us today? Of course leadership is helpful, but it is not all about leadership. Leadership shows the way but needs a critical mass to move effectively. Look at Malaysia. With about 10 percent of our population it exports over six times what we do. How come? It certainly was not done by Mahathir alone. The same could be said of Singapore, of South Korea… The greater the familiarity with a given technique the more you can manipulate it to advantage.

When we talk of a national objective it presupposes the nation is behind it. A very powerful weapon is a common language. Unfortunately, with the delegation of various powers to the federating units, who were totally unprepared for the power, education faltered to create this unifying element. Look at our trifurcation into English Urdu and Madrassa approaches, without emphasising a link language, which should be Urdu.

Could we have learned from the experience of Osmania University in Hyderabad, India? About 100 years ago it taught all subjects in Urdu at the highest levels. Surprisingly this resource was rejected. The luminaries from there could not influence the decision makers here! We should have set up translation bureaus for standardising technical terms in Urdu for all subjects. Osmania was not a fiction. Osmania’s teachers were of a high standard including Dr Khalifa A Hakim (Philosophy), Dr Raziuddin Siddiqui (Physics), Dr Anwar Iqbal Qureshi (Economics), Dr Muzaffaaruddin Qureshi (Chemistry) etc. Medical and engineering subjects, and more, were taught in Urdu. Today, it is impossible to imagine four institutions doing all this in Sindhi, Pashto, Balochi and Punjabi.

Technology (know-how to solve problems via man made systems) needs to be demonstrated and needs continuously supervised growth. Earlier articles have dealt technological inputs to help in advancement including:

n Attention to the nitty-gitty of any discipline

n Multidisciplinary attack

n Effective coordination

n Transparency

n Incremental advancements

n The need to accept details, like a detailed engineering drawing that cannot be broken down further.

Since accountability (not judicial but administrative) is all pervading it would be dealt with separately.

All of the above are important. The polymath of old would be a multidisciplinary team. Coordination is usually expected grow by itself. It does not. It is fully dependent on each sub-system having well defined SOPs (standard operating procedures) be in use and up to date. In the military establishments an individual on any job can be transferred to any other unit and assume responsibility to see through his work-load with no loss of time. Consider the conflicting cultures in the civil departments and their resultant lack of coordination.

Can any one think of a unified nation doing all this without a common link. Of course, yes! But with what results? Good practice always produces excellent theory, but good theory may or may not produce good practice. Based on the author’s experience both successful and unsuccessful, in the private and public sectors, the lessons learnt from practice helps to shape the applicative processes.

A well-defined methodology and SOPs are necessary to achieve objectives. It is commonly said that anything that does not look familiar is “out-of-the-box”. Usually no one has bothered to examine the contents of the box. Our very clever managers have tried several ways and means to achieve their objectives. It requires some research to find out what exactly lies in the box, it can be surprising how useful that might be.

Integrating, or putting it together, is a big problem which must involve the stakeholders. We are aware that any project creates disturbances (change) in an existing systems (man-made). Hence in accordance with Ibn Khaldun’s ideas, that take plenty of time on planning, but once the plan has been defined go ahead full steam, intellectual inputs that one can assemble are included in the action plan. It is here that time is to be considered a resource. Alama Iqbal’s approach can make it possible for us, having thrown off the bondage of colonialism, to counter the West’s economic enslavement, principally conditioned on their new approaches to divide and rule!

It follows, if we understand or know what we are looking for “ask is have, seek is find and knock is open wide”.

“To strive, to seek to find

and never to yield”

–Lord Tennyson