Pervez Hoodbhoy: if Pakistan wants a moon mission, it needs Sir Sayed Khan as national icon not Iqbal

According to leading Pakistani nuclear physicist and commentator and columnist, Pervez Hoodbhoy, when Pakistanis wonder why India has been able to have a moon mission but Pakistan doesn’t the answer is simple: the need for a strong scientific base at every step, that India has and Pakistan lacks. Hoodbhoy argues that “Creating this base calls for developing scientific attitudes and dumping non-scientific ones. Symbolically this amounts to putting Sir Syed ahead of Allama Iqbal as a national icon. Impossible? Maybe. But, as they say, you can’t make an omelet without breaking an egg.”

Hoodbhoy gives the credit for India’s achievement to its first Prime Minister Jawharlal Nehru “brought to India an acceptance of European modernity. For this Hindutva hates him even more than it hates India’s Muslims and Christians. Still, his insistence on ‘scientific temper’ — a singularly odd phrase invented while he was still in prison — made India nurture science. Earlier, vigorous reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833) had shown the path. As long as Nehru stood tall no rishi, yogi, or army general could head a science institution.”

Asking the question “Will Pakistan also get a slice of the moon?” Hoodbhoy notes, “That depends upon the quality of our scientists and if a culture of science develops. Of course, Pakistan never had a Nehru. A further setback happened in the Ziaul Haq days when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan’s modernism had its remaining flesh eaten off by Allama Iqbal’s shaheen. As if to compensate the loss of appetite for science, buildings for half-a-dozen science institutions were erected along Islamabad’s Constitution Avenue. They could be closed down today and no one would notice. Today’s situation for science — every kind except agriculture and biotechnology — is dire.”

Finally, as Hoodbhoy states, Pakistan’s National Space Agency of Pakistan (Suparco) is silent on space exploration plans but “As a space-filler this pathetic website speaks in hushed terms about the Hatf and Shaheen-III missile programmes but falls short of saying what Suparco’s role was, if any. The last four chairmen of Suparco, together with their educational qualifications, are listed as Maj Gen. Raza Husain (2001-2010, BSc), Maj Gen. Ahmed Bilal Husain (2010-2016, MSc), Maj Gen. Qaiser Anees Khurram (2016-2018, BSc), and Maj Gen. Amer Nadeem (2018-present, BSc).”

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