BJP chief back in school

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT in Karachi
  • Published 4.06.05
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Karachi, June 4: L.K. Advani’s hour-long stopover at St Patrick’s, where he studied from 1936 to 1942, was soaked in nostalgia.

However, St Patrick’s is important for another reason. Its old boys’ list is a register of Pakistan’s who’s who: President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the late Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo and scholar-philosopher Jashan F. Vaswani, also known as Sadhu Vaswani.

A notice board outside the principal’s office displays an article titled St Patrick’s Producing Prime Ministers and Presidents.

St Patrick’s is Pakistan’s Doon School, a passport to success. Founded in 1861, it remains an elitist bastion and, unlike missionary schools in India, faces little or no competition from private entrepreneurs. The trajectory followed is A-levels from St Patrick’s, a degree from Oxford, Cambridge or the Ivy League, a career in the army or the bureaucracy and then politics.

The principal, Father Joe Paul, stressed what it meant to be a “Patrickan” when he introduced the BJP chief ? at a function to felicitate Advani and his family ? as the “second-most powerful person in the world’s second largest democracy”.

Advani told the gathering, which included classmates Danis Lopes, Simeon Periera and James D’ Souza, that when he first met Musharraf before the 2001 Agra summit, St Patrick’s kick-started the conversation. During Musharraf’s recent visit, nearly 25 minutes of the 45 minutes they spent together were devoted to their alma mater.

“He asked me if I have any memories of that time. Those days, I remember it rained very little in Karachi, just four or five inches. Even a drizzle would occasion a holiday. But when it rained I always made it a point to come to school just to make sure the notice board said the school will remain closed,” he said.

Advani paid tribute to St Patrick’s, which he had visited in 1978 as I&B minister in the Janata Party government, and wound up his speech with a reference to Amartya Sen, who was anathema to the BJP because of statements he made on Ayodhya and Gujarat.

“These days, there is a lot of discussion and debate on what kind of economic strategy contributes to a country’s progress. I believe, as a Nobel laureate from our country said, that education and health are the ultimate indices to judge a country’s progress.”

Advani was welcomed by the school band, which played the Pakistan national anthem and school anthem, and was seen off to the tunes of He’s a jolly good fellow and Que, sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.