A classic remedy that immediately comes to mind is translation- something that has historically been central to the assimilation of science in various cultures (Translation of works from Greek to Arabic, Arabic to Latin, and Latin to English is what preceded the birth of modern science itself). Perhaps it deserves an attempt in modern Pakistan too. Remember, I am not proposing a radical transformation in the country’s entire education system. I am talking about making science familiar to those who consider science to be an intellectual luxury that has nothing to do with their everyday lives: the ordinary farmer, the economist, the lawyer, the police constable, the army officer, the religious teacher, the politician, the house-wife and countless other people who, after finishing school, rely on an Urdu newspaper and a few Urdu channels as their only sources of knowledge about how the world works. Imagine the number of minds stimulated, if only there were copies of New Scientist or Physicsworld translated in Urdu and sold for Rs.20 everywhere. Imagine the number of kids interested, if their storybooks, instead of glorifying wars against India told them about Galileo and Kepler in Urdu. Imagine the intelligent questions discussed, if people could watch a Discovery like channel in Urdu instead of the farce that our popular media is.
The idea is not promising an over-night revolution but can serve as a significant drift from the status quo. Dr. Abdus Salam in his excellent book Science and Education in Pakistan also talks about allowing Urdu to evolve in a way that can accommodate scientific terminology conveniently. Salam, in fact has written extensively about promoting the cause of popular science in Pakistan but his advice remained unheeded. And even if there have been efforts in this direction in the past by the government, their outreach is yet to be seen in bookshops. The only noteworthy attempt that I am aware of is one back in the 1980’s when Carl Sagan’s brilliant documentary Cosmos was translated and broadcasted on PTV. If only that practice was continued and expanded sincerely, the division bells in our society may have been less disquieting.