The News Post
The News International, Thursday, December 5, 1996. Page 6.
From Tehmina Masud
Abdus Salam is dead. A titan has fallen. As part of His grand design, the Creator sometimes produces a giant like Abdus Salam in a nation which has otherwise produced and patronised pygmies.
Salam’s high intellect and vision to transform Pakistan into a nation at the forefront of science and technology had little relevance to a country which has always been eager to plunge backwards. In the late thirties and early forties, some of the greatest scientists in Europe faced Nazi persecution and were forced to emigrate to the US where they revolutionised American science.
In the early stages of his career, finding the Pakistani soil hostile, Salam left Pakistan to enrich European science. For about three decades he worked in the UK and Italy. All these years he was adored by Italians whose language he did not speak or understand, revered by Britishers whose culture he hardly liked and despised by his own countrymen whose affection he always sought.
In a country where there were hardly any scientists or technologists who had the intellect, imagination or will to think or act in a big way, Salam had little say in the affairs of science and technology in Pakistan. He made passionate appeal to his countrymen when at Faiz Memorial Lecture at Lahore he said:
“If you consider me a non-Muslim….that is your problem. Treat me as a non-Muslim mason if you like, but do let me lay a few bricks for the mosque you want to build.”
Nobody really cared for him or his words. About the loss of great people, Shakespeare said “the Heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes.” The skies may by in mourning over Salam’s death but there is hardly any gloom or grief seen in the land in which he was born and now lies buried. Those who mattered most were too busy in the mundane duties of the State to find time to receive his body at the Lahore Airport or place any floral wreaths on his grave.
Our nation stands diminished by its treatment of Salam. Who knows how many centuries we may have to wait before we produce another Salam. Societies and civilisations which do not respect their scholars and thinkers are destined to vanish.