LAHORE - The goal to increase the literacy rate from abysmal 43 per cent to 86 per cent in Pakistan by the year 2015 under an international commitment will perhaps never be fulfilled. Pakistan was signatory to the UN World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal in 2000. The declaration included expanding and improving of comprehensive early childhood care and education, access of all children to free and compulsory quality primary education and ensuring 50 per cent increase in the level of adult literacy by the year 2015 especially for women. The state of political turmoil with bad economy and deteriorating law and order situation particularly in NWFP, FATA and Balochistan have shattered the dream of improvement in literacy rate as the initiatives are far behind the goal. The hitherto spent money on literacy and non-formal education has also gone to the drain with the closure of thousands of adult literacy centres in the country. A Literacy Review Roundtable held in 2008 underlined that no new literacy centre was opened in Balochistan and Sindh. Moreover no allocation was made in the budget 2008-09 of Balochistan and Sindh in the literacy sector while the small amount allocated by the Centre for literacy improvement in these provinces also remained unspent. At least 55 million people in our country are illiterate, who cannot read and write. Pakistan is amongst 28 countries, which would fail to achieve the goal set in Dakar conference. The fact is that Prime Ministers Literacy Commission has also been abolished and 40 per cent cut has been imposed on all sectors including education due to financial crunch. In Punjab, Literacy department was separated from the Punjab Education department and formed into a separate Ministry headed by a minister in 2001 for the promotion of literacy in Punjab. A full-fledged Secretariat was set up which was headed by a Secretary in grade 22. An estimated Rs1.5 billion was allocated to literacy and non-formal education for the said ministry in the budget 2008-09 but the year witnessed zero spending in the literacy sector. There is no proper indicator, which showed that the spending produced desired results while per year percentage of achievement of literacy is missing. During the first four years, the department did a good job and set up thousands of literacy centres in the province but after 2004, the working deteriorated and in 2008, it reached to a saturation point and the situation now is disappointing. Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif took initiatives in the budget allocation 2008-09 for giving top priority to literacy and education but the suspension of his government and subsequent political uproar broke the momentum in all fields including the literacy and education. After restoration of his government, new challenges of price hikes, law and order and terrorism have erupted to be taken care of. It is estimated that at least 20 million children are still out of school in Punjab. There were 250 million illiterate populations in 1947 which number has excelled to 900 million in Pakistan.