Undeterred by excessive power outages and financial setbacks, a ‘tandoor’ boy namely Mohammad Mohsin Ali — a private candidate from Hafizabad district of the Punjab province — braved all odds to clinch first position in the BA/BSc examinations of the Punjab University with a record 688 marks out of total 800 marks.
Above: Mother of Mohammad Mohsin kisses her son on August 11, 2012 after he clinched first position in the BA examination of the Punjab University Lahore.
by Mubashir Akram
A boy who works at a tandoor since age 14 tops nationwide BA scores. His record again proves Pakistanis is a nation waiting to be unleashed but is held back by an unworkable political system.
Let us be introduced to real Pakistanis who are in a majority. Let us not pay too much attention to what those who are overly-critical of Pakistan, let us stop emphasize the negative side of Pakistan and now and then have glimpses of the positive side of Pakistan, and this country has many positive features.
In the newspaper, we have all read about Muhammad Mohsin and Kanwal Latif who secured first and second positions respectively in the BA exams of the University of Punjab. Both have brought honor and pride to their parents and their families, and to tens of millions of poor, lower-middle class and middle-class Pakistanis by courageously defeating insurmountable odds to get where they are.
Mohsin, the eldest son of his family, helps his father by working at a tandoor, where he makes a meager income despite the exhaustion and fatigue involved in the work, not to mention the heat. And he has been doing this for seven years. He was born and grew up in Hafizabad, a city in Punjab where life is brutal for poor people. So Mohsin went through a hard life since early childhood.
Now nearly 21, he has been working at the tandoor since he was 14. His usual workday stretches to nearly 18 hours, with no day off in the week. It does not need to be mentioned that in the kind of work that he does, there are no bonuses, annual leave and medical coverage.
Despite strong opposition to his studies by his own family and his relatives, he continued to do what he wanted to do: pursue his education so that he could receive the Bachelor of Arts degree. His father even punished him for “wasting time” in studying, rather than earning more to support his family.
Studying, after all, is not a source of earning, and his family needed every penny they could get to make both ends meet. Many times Mohsin’s books and notes were thrown away, but he somehow compensated for these losses.
He studied secretly when he could not do it openly, he told me. And yet he arrived at the tandoor at five in the morning to start work and found time for studies with great difficulty.
His moment of glory came on August 10 when he stood first in the university exams. Soon after this was made public, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced a decision to bear his further educational expenses in the future and allotting him a home in his Aashiana scheme.
Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf announced a reward of one million rupees for him. Mohsin has requested the chief minister of Punjab to give the Aashiana home to someone who is needier than he is. Imagine a young man who has been receiving daily wages saying the home allotted to him be given to someone else.
The second-position holder, Kanwal Latif, is a resident of Shahdara. Her father works at a hardware shop and makes a meager Rs. 13,000 per month. Her elder brother, once a bright student of the ACCA, gave up his education to get a petty accounts job to support her and their two younger brothers.
Her comments in a news show on a TV channel showed what a fine young woman she is. She came across as contented, despite her difficult life, and hardworking.
Above all she did not brag about her achievement despite all the difficulties she faced. She started to cry when she mentioned the sacrifice her eldest brother had made for her and the whole family.
Thank you Mohsin. Thank you Kanwal. So long as Pakistan has sons and daughters like you, we are destined to move forward.
Mohsin and Kanwal are part of a long list of Pakistani achievers who have emerged during the past decade.
This decade was dominated by the US-led war in Afghanistan and the consistent negative media coverage of Pakistan primarily driven by the American media.
As the US media demonized Pakistan for political reasons, it detracted the world from seeing Pakistanis as a hardworking people trying to improve their lives like people do everywhere.
The real story of Pakistan is the one that Shafay, Arfa and other smart and hardworking Pakistanis epitomize, a country where ordinary Pakistanis would excel if not suffocated by failed civ and military politicos whose faces haven’t changed over the past quarter century and their political parties have turned into armed militias and family holdings threatening to turn Pakistan into another Lebanon.
Unlike a failed democratic system, ordinary Pakistanis are the engine that drives progress and creativity in Pakistan.
This year, six universities of Pakistan won positions in the list of top 300 Universities, according to QS World Universities Rankings 2012. Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) UK is the world’s most renowned and prestigious ranking agency.
This year, rap song Islamabad II became a sensation, as pop music in several Pakistani languages, including Pashto, Sindhi, Punjabi, and the national language Urdu attracted wide following outside Pakistan.
Also in 2012, a Pakistani scientist was honored by the International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) as the Scientist of the Year for his pioneering work in the cotton biotechnology sector. This was also an honor in a way for Pakistan’s progress in civil nuclear science, since honored scientist, Dr. Yusuf Zafar, is a director general for agriculture and biotechnology at the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission.
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