Prime Minister Gilani, is reported by the print and electronic media, to have announced, in a meeting held in the PM's Secretariat on Thursday last that 2010 is declared as the year of literacy by the government. It means a lot. For the last 62 years, the subject of education has received little attention from both the government and private sector. In spite of tall claims from the concerned quarters, the truth of the matter is quite otherwise. The allocation of the GDP in the annual budget over the years tells a painfully sad story. It has now become almost boring to repeat that, even at best, this figure has never gone beyond 2.8 percent of the GDP, this includes the health sector also. The figures in the current budget, have further dipped which have caused deep concern all round. The Pakistan National Forum and the Avicenna Education Movement have drawn the attention of all concerned through seminars and other mediums to urgently take notice of the worsening state of education in general and literacy in particular resulting in the present state of the nation, which cannot be described as a happy one or anywhere near the satisfactory mark. The PM's apparent focus on literacy by declaring the year 2010 towards special national endeavour in this sector is, therefore, a most welcome cool breeze in an otherwise scorching desert. Permit me to submit, Mr Prime Minister, that the common man has by and large lost faith in mere declarations. For example, Article 37(B) of the constitution declares that "the state shall be responsible for the eradication of illiteracy and provision of free and compulsory education up to secondary level within minimum possible time." About 62 years have passed since that solemn constitutional directive, but no government - dictatorial or democratic - has ever honoured this constitutional commitment. The government again signed a declaration at Dakar in Senegal in 2003 that Pakistan shall leave no stone unturned to achieve 85 percent literacy rate by 2015. Now we are heading towards the end of 2009 but are we anywhere near achieving the committed target? No way sir I have no desire to open the Pandora box to list the causes of many national failures. Let's take the PM's declaration of 2010 as year of literacy more seriously than the government's treatment of similar declarations in the past. I happened to be visiting Islamabad to attend scheduled meetings in the PM's Secretariat, the Ministry of Education, and the Planning Commission. And was very happy to find all senior policy makers in the domain of education and literacy enthralled by the PM's personal interest of according high priority to literacy. However I found little evidence of any serious homework to achieve the final goal by 2020 or 2030. The year 2010 may well be a good and well planned starting point selecting the numerous sectors to reach the final goal, which is quite a long way to go. This needs a grand strategy to cover the vast area of bringing nearly 6 crores of illiterate Pakistanis in the fold of literacy, for which the present structure and resources of the education department are far from adequate. According to a well-calculated research the estimated population of Pakistan at the present rate of growth, is likely to hit the figure of 250 million by 2030. I'm not sure whether the planners at the central or provincial level has given a serious thought to meet the challenge of the population explosion towards the close of the first quarter of the 21st century. My focus in this column is limited to literacy alone with reference to 2010 as the year of literacy. It must not be restricted to the mere fanfare of literacy walks, seminars and workshops participated by and splashed on print as well as electronic media. The year of literacy has to be more positive, purposeful and result-oriented then the past. A new vibrating edifice of literacy based on the hopes and aspirations of the new generation to establish a modern democratic Islamic welfare state as per the vision of Iqbal and Quaid is the only medium which can blaze the trail towards our ultimate goals. The writer is the president of the Pakistan National Forum