By M. Fawad
This week events at the Langlands School in Chitral are bound to negatively affect the legacy of Geofry Douglus Langlands which he had so meticulously cultivated in Chitral in the twilight of his life. There is little logical explanation for his actions in the previous week which has thrown the school into a downward spin from which it’s not going to be easy to recover.
Langlands after serving for almost two decades retired at the age of 95 two years ago and settled at Aitcheson College Lahore courtesy of his old students who wanted him cared for and comfortable as he spent the final years of his life without worries. He fully deserved this rest.
Langlands was one of the few British who decided to stay on in the new state of Pakistan continuing his illustrious career in education which began during the twilight years of the British Raj. He taught at Aitcheson College for many decades.
From there the adventurist spirit found in him took him to Razmak in Waziristan. His final inning in his eighties brought him to Chitral where he joined the Sayurj School later renamed as the Langland School.
The Sayurj School had been registered by Javed Majid, the Deputy Commissioner Chitral between 1988-90 with a Board of Governors of its own. It was created with the noble attention of tapping the attraction Chitral held in those days for foreign tourists and use it for creating a good English medium school in the town.
The school was able to do this successfully and for almost a decade young girls from well to do families in UK thronged the school to teach and also travel in Chitral.
Langlands was a late comer who joined the school when the first British teachers who had set it up contemplated leaving it. Langlands brought to the school years of experience and a rich network of contacts and associations which would serve the school well as it went from financial crisis to crisis.
All the governments that came had his students from Aitcheson whether it was N. League, PPP or the military. Langlands used these connections well to further the cause of the school bringing it resources. He led a spartan and reclusive life, always immaculately dressed mixing with few people devoted to his work.
He went out of his way to find scholarships for his students and get job placements for them. His students helped set up a trust in Lahore help the school. The school made its mark. An old Englishman teaching in the ugly frontier lands of Pakistan made a good story for the international press. Langland was, however, not all milk and honey.
Long years in the subcontinent had influenced him and democratic values which are deeply ingrained in the British value system became a bit alien to him. The British respect for institutions which downplays the individual and contributes to institutional stability also suffered. One of the first victims of these sub-continental habits was his decision of treating the Board with contempt and not building it up.
As long his health was good and he was in control of things these shortcomings could be ignored and glossed over. However, as years passed it was sad to see Mr Langland using a magnifying glass to read the financial statements of the school. Thing deteriorated, staff started abusing their position, financial bad governance was becoming the norm, teachers absenteeism grew.
The trustees were correct to persuade him to leave and settle in Lahore. A British writer and author Carey Schofield agreed to come to head the school. Her coming brought a dramatic change in its environment. Unlike sub-continental management she was willing to confront the roots of misgovernance and confront those messing up the school.
The result started showing and everyone applauded. The teachers who lost their position in this process thought the best weapon they had was a semi senile Langlands and his emotions which cannot easily disassociate from the school and those who were part of his team. Unfortunately the gullible Pakistani politicians have jumped into the fray to assist Mr Langland at 97 to correct all the wrongs done to the incompetent parasites by her successor. There is no attempt to check the rights and wrongs of what is going on in this remote Pakistani district. The orders are to help Mr Langlands.
In the old days the Deputy Commissioner who is the man on the spot would advise the politicians, delay or reject an illegal order. But the civil service which has been reduced to a cipher through political interference cannot resist illegal orders. Mr Langland lands in Chitral dismissing the Principal and the Board of Governors and the Deputy Commissioner writes to the Bank taking over the accounts. Everyone forgets the law.
A general body elects the Board of an organisation registered under the societies act which then selects the executive. The great Mr Langland contempt for institution, like so many others in Pakistan will now haunt his legacy, as different forces use him in his semi senile state.
By M. Fawad