The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, has hit several nails regarding the education debate squarely on the head. He was speaking at a conference on judicial education in Karachi and he did not mince his words. The judiciary lacked able and competent judges as a direct result of having come through an education system that was “obsolete and outdated”. It is today difficult to find competent judges because of the inherent flaws in the basic education system. As a consequence, the judiciary is divided into two segments, one having a strong educational background and the other populated by people who had joined the legal profession having failed in other career options. It used to be said that teaching was the last resort of those that failed or were mediocre educationally, and the CJ has just added the legal profession to the national pool of second-and-third best.
This is a sobering admission, but as has been pointed out in these columns many times, given the failure to invest in education at every level, and such investment as there is being insufficient to raise standards, it is inevitable that a poorly-educated workforce is going to be the end result. This is reflected not only in the legal profession, but across every strata of society, and grand talk of Pakistan joining the ‘Knowledge Economy’ in the near future is mere smoke and mirrors. The CJ lamented the fact that perhaps a majority of judges had poor English, the lingua franca of international legal systems. He pointed out the high failure rate of those seeking appointment as judge because of their poorEnglish proficiency — yet that is but a part of the problem. Applicants are handicapped by their poor baseline, secondary and higher education, and not just poor English — they have poor everything and for that they cannot be blamed. The state failed them over their entire span in the public education system. The failure of the education system is systemic and goes to the heart of the question as to why Pakistan is not more developed than it is.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2016.