“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”, said renowned statesman and visionary, Malcolm X. These words echo with poignant relevance as we confront the distressing reality of Pakistan’s education system. Once, the fountain of knowledge flowed with a majestic force, nourishing the parched minds of Pakistan’s youth and lighting the path to a brighter future. But today, that once-mighty stream has dwindled to a mere trickle, reduced to a lamentable state of neglect and decline. Like a shattered mosaic, the fragments of our education system lie scattered, their brilliance fading into oblivion. The fall of education in Pakistan is not merely a tale of missed opportunities; it is a tragic narrative of broken promises, abandoned dreams, and a nation robbed of its intellectual potential. In this disheartening landscape, where potential is stifled and dreams wither away, the fall of our education system stands as a testament to the tragic consequences of apathy, political interference, corruption, and a collective failure to cherish the transformative power of knowledge. Historical parallels to Pakistan’s predicament are abundant. The Western world’s prestigious universities stand as a testament to the grandeur of higher education. They trace their origins back to the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras, where they became catalysts for scientific discoveries and intellectual revolutions. These institutions fostered great minds, challenging conventions and propelling society forward. Academic freedom became the bedrock of progress during the Industrial Revolution, fueling innovation, economic prosperity, and societal transformation. Central to this triumph lies the concept of academic freedom, a sacred principle that underpins Western universities. These revered institutions cherish independent thought, fostering an environment where scholars fearlessly explore uncharted intellectual territories. By encouraging critical thinking and the pursuit of truth, Western higher education facilitates the expansion of human knowledge and the flourishing of ideas. Moreover, the Western system upholds the sanctity of meritocracy in appointments, a cornerstone of academic excellence. The recruitment of professors and administrators based on qualifications and competence ensures that only the brightest minds ascend the academic ladder. This dedication to meritocracy sets a high standard for intellectual rigor, ensuring that students are guided by erudite mentors who embody excellence in their fields. In stark contrast, the picture in Pakistan’s higher education landscape is a far cry from this splendor. Here, merit is discarded as political interference runs rampant. Unqualified individuals ascend to positions of power, not through their intellectual mettle but through cronyism and nepotism. Consequently, the very essence of academia is diluted, compromising the quality of education and research. It is a tale of two worlds, where academic freedom and meritocracy are treasured on one side, while Pakistan’s universities are ensnared in a web of political interference, nepotism, and a paucity of resources. Political meddling extends its insidious grasp beyond mere appointments, pervading every aspect of university life. The autonomy and academic freedom cherished in the West are choked by external influences, suffocating the intellectual spirit that should thrive within educational institutions. The repercussions are dire, tarnishing the reputation of Pakistani universities and thwarting the growth of knowledge. The education sector in Pakistan is currently mired in a distressing predicament, resembling a haunting nightmare. The grave reality becomes evident when examining the government’s budget allocation for the entire education sector in the fiscal year 2021-22, which amounted to a mere Rs. 91.970 billion. In stark contrast, the budget of Oxford University alone stands at a staggering £2.775 billion (equivalent to Rs. 999.29 billion), laying bare the government’s priorities and the level of seriousness it accords to education. While Pakistan’s education sector faces financial constraints and limited resources, India has emerged as an attractive destination for prestigious Western universities. The surge of interest from esteemed foreign institutions has enriched India’s higher education landscape, offering Indian students exposure to cutting-edge research, innovative teaching, and diverse perspectives. One noteworthy example is Ashoka University, a private liberal arts institution founded in collaboration with renowned international universities like the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University. Furthermore, leading business schools such as the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Harvard Business School have set up their executive education programs in India, catering to the increasing demand for management education in the country. This move not only reflects India’s growing importance in the global business landscape but also allows Indian executives and professionals to access world-class education without traveling abroad. India’s proactive approach to higher education, welcoming foreign universities and fostering global collaborations, has positioned it as a hub for academic excellence and cultural diversity, attracting students, faculty, and researchers from around the world. As we bring our gaze to the dreadful state of Pakistan’s education system, a myriad of questions overwhelm our minds, demanding introspection and decisive action. Will we allow the erosion of meritocracy and the intrusion of political interference to persist, suffocating the intellectual spirit that once thrived within our institutions? Will we turn a blind eye to the dilapidated infrastructure, the inadequate resources, and the dismal state of research, forsaking the intellectual development of our youth? Will we resign ourselves to the exodus of our brightest minds, relinquishing the hope of a prosperous future? Or will we rise, united in purpose, to defy the status quo and champion a revolution of educational excellence? The answers lie within each one of us, in the choices we make, and the commitment we display towards rebuilding a robust education system. The time for complacency has passed; now is the moment to forge a new path, to restore the glory of education, and to empower the generations that follow with the transformative power of knowledge. The question that remains is, will we seize this opportunity or allow our educational legacy to crumble further into the annals of despair? The future of our nation hangs in the balance, awaiting our resolute response. Writer is Ex Vice Chancellor of Allama Iqbal Open University and University of Gujrat.