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Old Tuesday, November 22, 2011
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Default Dr Abdus Salam remembered?

Farzana Nazli , THE NEWS 22-11-2011

PESHAWAR: “Who is afraid of Dr Salam?” was a wonderful reminder published in ‘The News’, by Mr Masood Hassan, on November 14, 2010. After reading his article, I suddenly remembered meeting him back in 1990, after he delivered a thought-provoking lecture in the School of African and Oriental Studies in London. The fact that a very unassuming Pakistani social scientist could receive so much respect and honour by his fellow professors present was both very touching and inspiring.
Something is ailing Pakistan. When a figure in the entertainment world passes on, the cultural rock star is usually remembered and mourned for years. Tributes are paid and colourful programmes are organised in their memory. By contrast, when a scientific scholar passes away, his death simply passes unnoticed!
During my years as a teacher, I have often mentioned the names of our beloved countrymen before my students — names such as Quaid-i-Azam, Allama Iqbal and Dr Abdus Salam. In attempting to motivate a class of begrudging elementary school children in Yemen, I found myself coming up with a creative way to bring forth the importance of scientific methodology and reasoning, and its contribution to human civilisation.
Dr Salam left us on November 21, 1996. He left behind a rich legacy of experimentation and international recognition for Pakistan and for the world. Dr Salam made extraordinary contributions to Pakistan’s nuclear, space and missile programmes. Dr Salam had a lifelong interest in promoting the careers and status of physicists in developing nations.
He used his share of the Nobel Prize money on setting up a fund for young and needy Pakistani students to visit the International Centre of Theoretical Physics in Italy. Dr Salam did his graduation from the Cambridge University. He stayed on to do a PhD from the same university in 1949. At heart a staunch patriot, he returned to Pakistan in 1951 to serve his country, and was assigned the duty of teaching mathematics at the Government College Lahore, where he also coached the college soccer team. Salam’s intention of returning was to promote research culture in Pakistan.
He realised soon that a culture steeped in obscurantism would never allow him to educate the people for fear of losing their power. We, as a nation, have lost this genius of a man due to our puny interests.
After staying in Pakistan for three years, Dr Salam had to return to Cambridge as a lecturer in mathematics. In 1956, he was invited to take professorship at the Imperial College, London, which he retained until his retirement.
In 1979, Dr Salam was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shared with two other scientists. While his achievement as a Pakistani scientific scholar was celebrated with a bang abroad, it went unnoticed in his own country. Intriguingly, the governments of India and the Great Britain claimed him as their own. Meanwhile, however, Pakistan did not even bat an eye to the clamour. Salam remained Pakistani, and was buried as per his wishes in Pakistan.
Eventually, Pakistan did acknowledge Dr Salam’s contributions by awarding him a Sitara-e-Imtiaz, issuing Rs2 stamp that carries his image, and honouring him with an honorary doctorate degree with the establishment of an institution or two in his name.
Dr Salam is no longer with Pakistan. Therefore, the ministers and the bureaucrats should not fear as he has safely returned a home, where he rests in peace. The government be courageous in acknowledging his work and, possibly, to teach his philosophy of science and to implement his brilliant ideas for the promotion of science and technology with the hope to hunt talent and produce scientists of high calibre in future.
In the present state of affairs, I wonder whether Pakistan will be able to produce another Salam. Imran Khan and his team may seriously think about whether they are determined to bringing a change to the country, and move the nation in the right direction.
A messiah is badly needed to redeem the nation of its prejudice and narrow ways of thinking. The beacon of light is at the end of the tunnel but we need strong national will to follow it. The world is beautiful and prospective out there. Only the minds should be kept open with a zest for a momentous change. Numerous Salams are waiting to be heard and acknowledged and enfolded in the bosom of a national cosmopolitanism. The path is thorny but we hope for the BEST!
The writer is a Peshawar-based educationist. Email: farzana562@gmail.com
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