We can ******* our education system ourselves, thank you

Published: May 25, 2012

The same foreign embassy asked the rector not to invite the Iranian ambassador and his wife to the event, but the rector refused to comply. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVED/EXPRESS

Universities are supposed to help open a young person’s mind to the world, exposing them to new ideas and concepts. Historian Richard Hofstadter felt that “a university’s essential character is that of being a centre of free inquiry and criticism — a thing not to be sacrificed for anything else”. Unsurprisingly, this concept is foreign to at least one of the country’s leading universities.

Recently, Islamic International University Islamabad (IIUI) Rector Fateh Muhammad Malik took indefinite ex-Pakistan leave, allegedly after pressure was applied on the government by the ambassador of a ‘friendly nation’ for his removal.

Now, IIUI is hardly a bastion of modernity, having come up as part of General Zia’s foreign-funded radicalisation of Pakistani society, but the university was on the right track. Malik had been moving it in a different direction from his predecessors, hoping to modernise the curricula with special focus on the Islamic school of thought to be adhered to. Unfortunately, the bigotry ingrained in other faculty members proved to be an obstacle too great to overcome.

Tribune reporter Peer Muhammad managed to dig up an interesting factoid. During a recent cultural week held at the university, the same foreign embassy asked the rector not to invite the Iranian ambassador and his wife to the event, but the rector refused to comply. It didn’t help that the rector also criticised the absolute monarchy that governs the friendly nation. Apparently, an educator is not allowed to criticise what is arguably the most corrupt and authoritarian form of governance known to man, one that was rejected by every country in the world that has produced a notable political leader in the last 200 years. The handful that remain have many commonalities — they sit on top of much of the world’s oil, suppress media freedom, especially criticism of the infallible monarchs, and regularly interfere in the affairs of their so-called allies for proxy war purposes.

Whatever the western world’s reasons though, Pakistan should not be anyone’s proxy battleground. Beyond the bloodshed, we have more than enough incompetent leaders to implode without interference from Riyadh or Tehran.

Their effort to kill the Higher Education Commission for the ‘crime’ of proving a large number of elected parliamentarians to be illiterate liars was only the first step. Then they decided to put the investigators on the hot seat instead of the criminals. After re-electing some of these frauds, despite the fact that they had lied on government documents, leading parties unanimously agreed to slash the higher education budget and hold back funding for as long as possible. Apparently, they were being nice when they tried to kill the HEC, because now they’re torturing it and the hundreds of students dependent on HEC scholarships. Not that these illiterate fatcats in Parliament care. They made their millions without an education. Lie, cheat and steal seems easier to do than studying hard, working hard and earning money.

Just look at the Federal Directorate of Education, where a guy with a third-class BA degree has been given the charge of running the city’s education system. Unsurprisingly, the only place it is running is into the ground.

Still, at least tomorrow if not today, the Pakistanis ruining the system can be taken to trial. Foreign leaders and diplomats cant. IIUI needs to be modernised if the students there stand a chance of being functional in the 21st century. Having students take gender-segregated classes is not going to help achieve that. Having religious studies classes that preach an extreme form of Islam is not going to help that. And having teachers who have more loyalty to a foreign ambassador than to their own students, faculty, and country, is not going to change that. We have enough madrassas working as psudo-universities and churning out functional-illiterates, whose limited worldview and lack of practical skills leads them into the hands of explosive extremists. We don’t need a recognised university doing the same thing. At least not again.

Read more by Vaqas here, or follow him on Twitter @vasghar

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

A sub-editor on the Islamabad city pages of The Express Tribune, Vaqas holds a Master's degree in IR from Iqra University. Before joining ET, he taught history and was also a member of the editorial staff at Blue Chip Magazine. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Nobody

    Love the way this is written… perfectly spot on! Recommend

  • Err…

    The problem is not the rector criticising Saudi, the problem is the fact that the rector for a while has been doing the bidding against Saudi on behalf of Iran. It is ironic that while doing so, he invited the Iranian ambassador as a guest of honor, while criticising Saudi, because there is hardly any difference between Saudi and Iran, except for the fact that they belong to different sects. It was highly unprofessional of him to allow his university to become a proxy battleground for a clash between Saudi and Iran. Both countries are known to meddle in Pakistan, but we need to realise Pakistanis have loyalties to both these countries, so NOBODY, including this irresponsible rector should be allowed to stir sectarian sentiments by pandering to one country while lampooning the country. We have enough problems of our own without involving the outsiders.Recommend

  • Baba Ji

    We can * our education system ourselves, thank you – Title
    Maybe you wanted to say, ** our education system ….. ?Recommend

  • betterwords

    @Err what do you mean by “stir sectarian sentiments” ? Our all issues are there in those few words.Recommend

  • Sohail Khurshid

    Right on!Recommend

  • Abbas

    @Err…: I don’t know but hope soon we will stop taking hedge of usin sectarian sentiments to hide truth. Recommend

  • Waheed

    Prof Fateh Muhammed Malik is a great man. He tried to modernize IIUI by depoliticizing it. I am associated with IIUI for the last ten years and I have never seen such a visionary leader. His opponents, particularly Jamat e Islami elements want to take the university and the whole nation to the stone ages. He was an hindrance to such myopic thinking. We request the Chancellor of the university, president of Pakistan Honorable Asif Ali Zardari to understand the situation and reinstate Prof Fateh Muhammed Malik. This will be a step in the right direction. It is good for IIUI and for Pakistan.Recommend

  • Err

    @betterwords
    He is a rector of a university not the head of a political party or mosque, doing his bidding on behalf of one country to lambast another. With all the existing issues including sectarian ones, why take sides between the two??Recommend

  • krrrrr

    Err has failed to grasp the wisdom of the rector. He is a Pakistani and had called Bangladeshi ambassador with his wife too in a vain attempt to confess to what he saw our army and politicians had don to Bangalis. The Saudi ambassador was also invited and his wife actually attend the final ceremony. The Saudi ambassador insisted on not being there with him of the Iranian and Bangali ambassador since he believe the university belongs to Saudi orthodox dynasty coupled with the most bitter of religious goons. The Saudi ambassador was also fed wrong info by a select group of vested interests in the university who wanted actions against their corruption not taken. A former operative of ANF, is wearing a cap as assistant professor on campus but he teaches spying and conspiracies. He always roam around to collect info and pass it on to god knows who. His third cap is being holder of a key office in the teachers association, a slot for which no teacher actually voted or contested. It was he who used the name of religion to pursue his nefarious pursuits, putting the red rag of Iran in front of the Saudi ambassador. Mr Errr may now balance his critique. Recommend

  • HUM

    The razor sharp tone of the article is amazing. I have been reading your blog enteries for a while and I think you are doing a good job. Keep up the good work.
    Let our collective voice be heard.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Excellent article. I wonder why this has not been high-lighted in the media and pressure built to force this inept government to do what is right.Recommend

  • http://www.differentbitesoflife.blogspot.com jia

    i read on other paper embassy was complain against the political views of rector; embassy in other words ; objection on the using of Allama Iqbal’s poetry..which were portraying political views…..
    secondly, if rector want to separate uni from Jamat Islami so what’s bad in it ? Recommend

  • Shahzad Peerwani

    Pakistan should emulate the Indians. I am surprised at the success of Indian American kids. Yesterday in National Geographic Bee, out of top ten, seven were Indian Americans. Indian kids have dominated every competition whether it is Spelling Bee, Geography Bee, Math Counts, AMC Math Fair, Google Science Fair. The impression of Americans is that Indian kids are more hardworking, dedicated and passionate about education. The impression of Pakistani kids they are more religious and fanatic.Recommend

  • Ali

    Great article Vaqas, keep up the good workRecommend

  • Adeel Syed

    If anyone of you has ever had the absolute torture of going to Saudi, you would realize that they treat us like s**t.. We are nothing but cheap slaves in their eyes. We should stop this obsession with the Saudis, we have nothing in common with them apart from religion ofcourse. I suggest we look east towards India, Malaysia, China, Korea etc to build strong relations on that front. We are not Arabs and should have nothing to do with the Middle East.Recommend

  • kanwal

    @Err
    I dont get your argument at all? The Iranians are theocratic thats true. But that can in no way be compared to what Saudis are doing to their public. Iran’s oil is for their people and Iran did nt put in billions of jihadi dollars in destroying the Pakistan we can now just dream of. Saudi, alongwith another master of ours, did what they could best do: destory all liberal and secular mindedness in Pakistan and grow intolerance and hatred. Besides, you dont metion whther the Saudi ambassador was also invited as the guest og honor and on how many ocassion? The Jamat e Islami elements have destoryed Karachi University, my alma mater. I can imagine what they would do if given reign in a so-called Islamic University. Recommend

  • kaalchakra

    The rector needs to focus on education, not on doing politicking to his liking, running around playing nation states against one another, inviting this or that country’s heads or agents. That job, howsoever wonderful, must be left to people who are paid for that and are responsible for that sort of work.

    Shahzad Peerwani

    If you love India so much, kindly become an Indian. FYI, Pakistani kids are behind in any area that matters to Pakistan or in matters of Islam. Besides, you shouldn’t even be comparing children.Recommend

  • vigilant

    why we are every-ones proxy war groundRecommend

  • http://syedowais.blogspot.com/ Syed Owais Mukhtar

    If you say that education system can not be more extremist islmized, then please dont try to make it extreme on the secular side, another thing is being an educated person the words you said about the madrasa students show that being an educated person your inside is still uneducated. Please mind the language, the madrasa person is more leadership attitude and become a more good manager than a university graduate! This is a proven fact and I consider it much while doing appointments in my company and I’m successful!Recommend

  • http://Karachi ashar

    What is the need of inviting ambassadors in the University? It seems fishy. was he trying to maintain an equilibrium by inviting all sides. Universities should invite scholars. Recommend

  • Peerzada Ahmed Ali

    What Rector of Islamic was doing is shameful for the educationist. It is amazing why noone from Islamic university comes out to show his face. He had lost himself in love of a female, doing every possible favour for her. There was a sharp decline of moral standards and academic levels of this uni during his period. Let the people from Islamic university speak out.Recommend

  • anonymous

    i love my country but if we continue to keep going at the current rate then this country will eventualloy break.it is the foreign aid from us that keeps this country from bankruptcy and when that eventually stops we will break up and i think that cry as i might but it will break up within 50 years because countries dont run ideologies but markets and business but we dont have what it takes to sustain a nation and we will eventually break.sniffsRecommend

  • Umer

    @kaalchakra:

    The rector needs to focus on
    education, not on doing politicking to
    his liking

    Try explaining this to your own Jamaat Islami in Punjab University first.Recommend

  • Cynical

    The way forward is to follow Qaid and Iqbal’s ideals in education (as in everything else).Recommend

  • http://tribune.com.pk p r sharma

    removal of Rector is obviously due to the saudi pressure which the ruling Establishment is unable to ignore. This pressure can be countered by favorable media only. which appears to be inadequate. Hard luck to the Rector.Recommend

  • http://birmingham elementary

    @Shahzad Peerwani: I hope these indian kids will grow up to be more open mided(properly educated) than you have demonstrated yourself to be.Recommend

  • raw is war
  • ayesha_khan

    @vigilant: “why we are every-ones proxy war ground”

    Because your military runs foreign policy not elected politicians. Your military is only concerned about who gives it money and unconcerned about the impacts of its decisions on ordinary PAkistanis.Recommend

  • ayesha_khan

    @ashar: “What is the need of inviting ambassadors in the University? It seems fishy. was he trying to maintain an equilibrium by inviting all sides”

    It was cultural week. Since there are no other foreigners representing different cultures than people in the embassy, this was probablythe way to go. And when I rewad the comments it appears that he HAD also invited the Saudi ambassador and his wife.
    Recommend