Dr. Zulfiqar Ali’s legacy as a teacher and a knowledge-sharer must not be allowed to slip into oblivion. A man who was sentenced to death and then made to wait for its commutation for almost a decade in his dark cell, did not let anything shake his strong resolve to educate his fellow inmates. His long journey of 17 years as a dedicated educator in the jail only came to an end when he was sent to the gallows on 5th May, 2015 for a crime which kept denying he committed. Legal experts are convinced he was a victim of miscarriage of justice. Some suggest that even if he had committed the alleged crime, his life was still worthy of preserving for the important role he had played in educating other prisoners. There is indeed very little being done to ensure a system of education and learning for self-improvement of prison inmates across Pakistan.
Imagine what a a person goes through when he suffers from immense emotional trauma and depression as a death-row inmate for almost two-decades, while anxiously awaiting the hanging sword of death every single day. Yet, despite his adversities, he had ONE thing he could cling on to -—a spirit to overcome all internal conflicts and dilemmas by choosing knowledge, education and a wish to bring change.
While in jail, he managed to complete 33 diploma courses, and became the only prisoner in Pakistan to hold a Double Master’s degree and a PhD. in Herbal Medicine. He further carried on to teach over 300 fellow prisoners to read and write, out of whom 100 completed their matriculation, 80 passed their intermediate school exams, 60 graduated with BA and eight went on to do their MA. The revolution and renewed hope that he brought in the lives of so many inmates makes him worthy to be honored, not forgotten. Some of his students who got released from prison returned to the society with a love for books and more knowledge, instead of delving back into the world of deviancy. There is also so much to learn from Dr. Zulfiqar’s own values of humanism which he held on to so tightly until the last he breathed.
Even though the justice system failed a teacher when his sentence was finally commuted, his memory will prevail for the unlimited hunger for knowledge and sharing it with others. His selfless-being showed light to others by teaching that life is worth much more than one could imagine.
Pakistan is always in need of a true teacher like him. Pakistan needs to know what it loses when we snatch the life away from a person like Dr. Zulfiqar. The justice system cannot be reformed unless we realized that human value of education and means and modes of transferring it to others. We need to realize the importance of preserving life and its continued processes of learning, because we never know the potential every life carries in spreading light of knowledge and hope for all humanity.
Happy Teachers Day, Dr. Zulfiqar Ali, may your legacy of knowledge-sharing carry on.