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July 7, 2020

A scholar’s resignation

Editorial

 
July 7, 2020

The detailed resignation letter by Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a distinguished professor at the Forman Christian College University in Lahore for the past eight years and one of the top scientists in the country, gives us an insight into why our system of higher education is in such a terrible state. Dr Hoodbhoy, who resigned from the university after being issued a one year, non-renewable contract this year, has blamed petty rivalries within the university as the reason for his exit. If anyone deserves to be called a public intellectual with a conscience in Pakistan, it has to be Pervez Hoodbhoy. At the age of 70, he is still full of energy and imparts his ideas and knowledge to audiences and students with an academic zeal not normally seen in a country such as Pakistan. He is one of the few distinguished professors of Pakistan who are respected and well-known in other countries too. He has been a proponent of freedom of speech and has delivered lectures, written articles and books to promote a scientific attitude in Pakistani society.

It is utterly unbelievable that his contract at the FCC University was cut short on the flimsy accusation that he lacks the academic credentials and seriousness to teach. His three-year contract was reduced to just one-year and that too with a proviso that it would be nonrenewable. Perhaps the university had the rather naive notion that he would accept this to secure at least one year’s employment. They failed to realize that securing a one-year contract would be the least of his priorities. They also failed to understand Dr Hoodbhoy’s record of standing up for injustices in society, be it against academics, ethnic or religious minority groups, or students.

If professors that hold influence within an institution are capable of acting against a man of the calibre of Dr Hoodbhoy, then we must question where we stand in terms of academics. Clearly personal factors including rivalry is enough for the dismissal of a person whose immense knowledge in both the sciences and humanities would obviously benefit his students. One wonders whether those behind such a misguided and petty attempt to remove Hoodbhoy from the university even realised the backlash this would have and how badly it would tarnish the image of the university both nationally and internationally. Dr Hoodbhoy is one of the most prominent academics in Pakistan and treating him thus will have raised serious questions about the academic integrity of the university and its management. This case is perhaps the biggest indictment of the state of higher education in Pakistan – something Dr Hoodbhoy has been writing about for years.