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September 1, 2019

A ray of light from Faisal Mosque

Islamabad

September 1, 2019

If you think of Faisal Masjid as just a worship place, think again. On the back of the mosque lies one of the country’s most vibrant research centers focusing on social sciences, religion, Shariah, and international relations.

Iqbal International Institute of Research and Dialogue (IRD) has long been shaping and reshaping national discourse and policy narratives in such a way that you can locate Pakistan on political globe with precision. Under the careful watch of Prof Dr Husanul Amin, the IRD has no parallel in think tanks creeping all over Islamabad because it sets off debate on the most modern political and international trends.

But Prof Amin is not very optimistic about the future of social sciences in Pakistan and the rot. Sitting in his office, he told me that the volume of research journals in social sciences is very limited and the rate of rejection is very high as compared to basic sciences. The decision-makers should keep these aspects in mind and change their approach of looking at the things in a quantitative manner.

“Our university (IIUI) is neo-liberal, which means its fees are set according to the market and there is no space for non-productive or loss-making departments. Same is the case with other universities too, resulting in marketisation of society, due to which many vital subjects like philosophy and history are dying,” he said.

After 9/11, a lot of funding were released for research on security related themes, regardless of the fact that societies are not reduced to terrorism and security challenges. There are many fine topics related to culture and politics that remain under-researched. Unfortunately, the trend of measuring education from market perspective has been consolidated and a reset is imperative in policies of higher education.

He lamented that inconsistency of policies is yet another challenge to overcome. One person comes and presses on MS and PhD programmes and his successor goes all out for BS programmes, he said. They steer research in the direction where the donors want them too. “I think we should have our indigenous goals, offering solutions to our problems,” he said.

“I think higher education should be earned and youth should get to work after their degrees. Our youths sticking to universities results in hidden unemployment, which is bad for the country,” he rightly pointed out. Middle class is eager to buy higher education and catering to their needs the country is teeming with degree-awarding institutes. Quality is the first causality in this scenario. Recently, Gallop has reported that 75 per cent of university students don’t read even one book fully as they simply rely on notes to get good marks.

He said his institute has published 60 books on indigenous issues and has promoting dialogue but room for critical thinking is diminishing fast. The bookcase in his office is the main source of attraction offering you a diversity of topics from culture to politics to globalisation.

Prof Amin is ambitious and has no room for pessimism in his personality. But he alone is just like a flicker, with the potential to start a bonfire in this long and cold night of ignorance. About time for the relevant authorities to tap his talent and empower IRD for the sake of a bright future.

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