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At Book Launch of 'Scholarly Voices on Education, Values and Culture: A Kaleidoscope on Pakistan', Islamic Philosophical Association of Pakistan, Lahore Gymkhana, 22 October 2012.

Retired Justice Khalil Ramday Air Marshal Zafar Chowdhry, President IPA Dr Ghazal Irfan, Vice President of the IPA.

I would like to begin by thanking Dr Ghazala for inviting me to be here tonight. It is an unexpected pleasure for a number of reasons. The first is obviously to share with you the pleasure of seeing our book being launched. I say our book deliberately because so many of us have contributed to this volume that it can be described truthfully as ‘our’ book. This volume includes the thirteen of the fourteen lectures given by different scholars and intellectuals (including myself) over the past 22 years.

The first lecture was by Mr A.H. Kardar in December 1990, and the last by his equally illustrious son Dr Shahid Kardar in 2005. Interestingly both father and son dealt with the cause of Education. Those were the equivalent of the Biblical years of plenty. Since the last lecture inn 2005, we have had seven lean years of the equivalent of an intellectual famine. Which brings me to the second reason for my pleasure at being here tonight. By publishing this book Dr Ghazala has reminded us that there is a higher plane in life, where philosophical discourse is not a stranger to be excluded from polite company. Every day we find ourselves trapped in the sediment of daily events when we should, like water-lilies, be floating on the surface of life. We survive in a muddy quagmire where slimy politics slither in the dark, seeking fresh victims. Surely that is not what God created the human mind for?

 I am reminded of a story of an old lady whose nephew announced proudly that he was a Doctor of Philosophy. Intrigued, she replied: “Beta, I know you are Doctor. But what illness is Philosophy?” The old lady was not far wrong. Philosophy is an illness. It is like Alzheimer’s, an illness of the mind. It causes one to forget – to forget the present and to live in a world detached from mundane reality. It is no accident that we have not been able to produce any profound thinkers or scholars in the past twenty years. We have buried our Dr Abdus Salams. We have yet to give birth to our future Dr Qadirs.

Justice Ramday, today we are assailed by pronouncements by the Supreme Court which adjudicate on subjects as diverse as constitutional inconsistencies, disqualification of legislators, dual nationality, lafafa subsidies to politicians who do not need the money, the price of petrol, and the inefficiency of PIA. As a citizen of my country, I am bound by its actions and decisions. As a person who has by being here tonight admitted to being part of the Philosophical Quest, I cannot help questioning the force behind such pronouncements.

I am going to take the liberty of quoting from my own piece in the book. I quoted Dr Radhakrishnan. ‘Words were the daughters of earth; but deeds the sons of heaven. Words are born of intellect; deeds of spirit.’ Malala Yousufzai is a daughter of the earth. She is waiting for deeds of support from the sons of heaven. My last reason for rejoicing at being invited to speak here tonight, that out of the thirteen contributors to the book, seven are dead and only six of us are alive. Philosophers are a dying breed. Thinking persons are a threatened species.

Thank you, Dr Ghazala, for publishing this in my lifetime.


26 October 2012
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