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KU rusticated students, postponed papers schedule

KU rusticates three students
Karachi, Jan 17: The University of Karachi has rusticated three students allegedly involved in a bomb blast that occurred on the campus on Dec 28.

A notification to this effect was issued by KU registrar Prof (Dr) Kaleem Raza Khan on Saturday.

According to the notification, Hafeezullah Khan (student at the international relations department), Syed Feyaz Ali (chemistry, evening programme) and Mohammad Umer (food science and technology) have been rusticated and prohibited from entering the KU campus on any pretext. Earlier, it was reported that the suspects were former KU students.

The blast occurred when students belonging to the Imamia Students Organisation were about to offer Zuhar prayers on a lawn near the central cafeteria. Four students were injured in the blast.

The Mubina Town police registered a case (FIR 631/2010) under Sections 334 (intentionally causing hurt to any person) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code. Sections ¾ of the Explosive Act and 7 of the Anti Terrorism Act were also incorporated in the FIR lodged by Muhammad Asif, the Karachi University chief security officer.

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) of the Karachi police arrested the suspects after a brief shoot-out on Hub River Road within the remit of the Mauripur police station on Jan 11.

The police claimed to have seized an AK-47 assault rifle, two shotguns, two .30-bore pistols and two hand grenades from their possession.

The SIU claimed that the suspects got militant training in Waziristan, Ugi and Miramshah and were part of a group called Punjabi Mujahideen.

The suspects were recently handed over to the police on physical remand till Jan 20 by the administrative judge of the anti-terrorism courts in Karachi. Dawn

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Postponed KU papers rescheduled
Karachi: Controller of examinations of the University of Karachi (KU) Prof Javed Ansari has announced that the postponed papers of BSc (physics-II and zoology-I) scheduled for Dec 21, 2010 will now be held on Jan 16 while the time and centres have not been changed.

Enrolment form date: KU registrar Prof Kaleem Raza Khan has announced that the candidates of MBBS and BDS for educational session-2011 can submit their enrolment forms by Jan 31 along with a fee of Rs3,500 for the public sector and Rs10,500 for the private sector college.

The forms can be submitted along with a late fee of Rs1,500 by Feb 10.

FUUAST exam forms: The controller of examinations of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST) has announced that the candidates of BS (semester) repeaters (morning) can obtain and submit their examinations form from Jan 15 to Jan 18 along with a fee of Rs600 at the Allied Bank, Baba-e-Urdu branch. ppi

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KU official asks HEC to withdraw BS programme
Karachi: The University of Karachi (KU) is trying to revert to the Masters' programme citing difficulties for the students in their career planning and many other problems, however, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) is unwilling to discard the recently introduced BS (Bachelor of Studies) programme for the time being.

The BS programme that was launched with much fanfare in 2007 has drawn severe criticism from the students, their parents, teachers and other stakeholders who see this programme as non-practical, wastage of time and lacking in-depth teaching since there is acute shortage of trained teachers for many courses that have been included in the BS programme.

Pro Vice Chancellor Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi said that she had indeed written a letter to HEC Adviser (Quality Assurance & Learning Innovation) Dr Syed Masood Raza for the restoration of two-year MA/MSc degree courses at the university along with the BS programme in the morning session. She stated: "Due to introduction of 10 new compulsory courses for BS students, we are still facing the problem of shortage of teaching staff, classrooms to accommodate 24,000 students, financial constraints, and adjustment in time-table and maintaining the quality of teaching".

In his reply to Dr Kazmi, Dr Raza expressed unwillingness to revive the Masters system, saying, they (HEC) have to make the Pakistani degrees acceptable to the foreign universities. Executive Director HEC Syed Sohail Naqvi also made it clear that the HEC had no intention to abolish the BS programme and restore Masters programme.

The other reason included the difficulty of keeping the college graduates at par with the standard of BS students who study the compulsory subjects in the second year but not by former ones who join the university in the third year. These college students will also get BS degrees without completing the same course work as like the students who are at the university from first year. Another interesting aspect of the scenario is that since the BA students (from colleges) are not legally bound to surrender their degree, they might end up having two bachelor degrees from the same university.

The employers, both in public and private sectors, are still asking for the MA/MSc candidates. This has created a problem for the students though the first batch of BS will pass out this year while no regular MA/M.Sc student has passed out since 2007. They are being left without any tool of trade in the job market. Another disconcerting thing is the lack of awareness about the BS degree that it is equivalent to MA/MSc and that is why even the Sindh Public Service Commission (SPSC) and Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) are asking for Masters degrees. This will considerably lower the chances of BS degree holders who will be treated as "Bachelors".

Surprisingly, most of the public sector varsities including Sindh, Khairpur and Punjab universities have advertised both four-year BS and two-year MA/MSc programmes. The KU administration had included these advertisements in their letter to HEC to prove their point. But HEC is unmoved at least for now.

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KU's Mahmood Husain Library: a monument to neglect
Karachi: The establishment of a new digital computer lab at the Mahmood Husain Library of Karachi University is seen as a luminous light at the end of the tunnel, but the library, established in 1952 and containing thousands of books dating back to 1600, is faced with innumerable problems, from dilapidated catalogues to persistent power outages, decay of precious old documents and lack of professional staff, to name a few.

The library, which has 25 library specialists, 10 assistant librarians and some 90 other employees, is in dire need of efficient and professional staff members, who could upgrade the long decayed catalogues or transfer them to a computerized system, namely Kitabdar, a software launched by the Allama Iqbal Open University. "One of the main problems of the library is that there is a severe lack of professional staff. Most of the staff is hired and promoted on political bases," argues Prof. Malahat Kaleem Sherwani, Chairperson Department of Library and Information Science, University of Karachi.

Prof. Malahat, who is also President Pakistan Library Association and ex-head librarian of Mahmood Husain Library, says most of the old staff members, who are not much aware about the field of Library Science, get promotion while there is no fresh induction of people who at least would have a Masters degree in the discipline of Library Science.

People who have know-how of literature, poetry, current affairs, etc. besides having basic skills of books management must be hired for the library to guide students in a proper way, Prof. Malahat says, adding, "That is why we in our department recommend students general books instead of prating about text work, which in turn will produce people who will make the library environment more conducive to reading and learning".

Almost all sections, numbering around 22, including the UN Section, Microfilm Section, Quaid-e-Azam Section, Archives, Binding Section, Reference Section, to name a few, face one or the other difficulty, but the most among the pressing problems students seek to shake off is the renewal or up-gradation of catalogues, if it cannot be transferred to a computerized system.

Work on transferring catalogues to a comprehensive computerised system has been under way for the last so many years, but positive results are yet to see the light of the day. An employee of the library, who requested anonymity, also blamed the sorry state of catalogues on the indifferent attitude and incompetence of the library staff. Describing the climate of neglect at the library, the employee argues, "Most of the staff members are indifferent towards working on the renewal of catalogues. Instead of helping out students in finding books, they simply refer them to catalogues which is time-consuming as most of them are torn apart due to which students return empty-handed."

Corruption that goes from strength to strength in the university is also seen in various sections of the Mahmood Husain Library, spreading its tentacles and hampering easy access of students to books. Referring to embezzlement in the finances of Book Bank and Acquisition, the employee says: "There is no system of audit in both these sections and officials of the Acquisition Section usually obtain books at their own whims instead of considering students' demand." Besides corruption, the employee at the library also accuses staff members, particularly those of the Circulation Section, of having paradoxical attitude. "They are very harsh with students not complying with rules, but don't dare take any action against teachers, many of whom usually keep dozens of books until their retirement," the employee lamented.

Besides the Reference Section being described as the "heart of the library" and which is also faced with shortage of trained and pleasant staff members to properly steer students towards other sections, the Microfilm Section, containing precious old documents, is in dire need of attention. Old books, newspapers, magazines and other precious documents are long faced with extinction and would be wasted if could not be taken care of properly. "There are two parts of Microfilm Section, and the work to preserve the precious old documents is under way and one part of the Microfilm Section will be completed very soon," assured Rashida Aman, Head Librarian Mahmood Husain Library, saying that the renewal of catalogues also continues and students may see a sea difference in a very short span of time.

When asked about the embezzlement in the Acquisition Section of the library, she denied that any corruption took place, particularly in the Acquisition Section, arguing that only those books this section obtains, which are approved by chairpersons of departments whom the library sends an acquisition letter, clearly mentioning the range of amount within which the chairpersons have to put their demands for books.

Answering the same question put earlier to Head Librarian in connection with embezzlement in the Acquisition Section, ex-head librarian and Chairperson Information and Library Science Department, Prof. Malahat, also rejected the accusation, saying there was no such problem in the Acquisition section. However, she pointed out that corruption allegations levelled against the Book Bank section must be taken seriously. "A few years ago when the Book Bank was in control of a certain student political group, students used to form queues in front of the Book Bank Section to get books, but since the group has given up managing the section, corruption has taken root in this section and due to bad governance hardly any one comes here," Prof. Malahat lamented.

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KU experts to reduce effects of salinisation
Karachi: The Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilisation (ISHU) has initiated a Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme that aims to contribute to the process of domestication of halophytes as a non-conventional cash crop to address the diminishing quality of water and land resources.

The project, mutually funded by the Higher Education Commission and the US State Department, will be completed in a year with the total cost of $343,510. It is pertinent to mention that this project, proposed by the University of Karachi (KU), is one of 20 which were selected out of 220 proposed projects from different countries of the world.

Apart from helping improve the capacity of the Pakistani researchers involved and building a laboratory infrastructure, the project is also designed to contribute to the reclamation of arid land in Pakistan for productive use by subsistence farmers. This could also lead to new applications that can be extended to other countries as well.

According to the Director of the institute, Professor Dr Ajmal Khan the researchers involved in this project have identified three plant species with potential for use as such non-traditional crops: Desmostachya bipinnata, Suaeda fruticosa and Salvadora oleoides.

They will analyse shoots and roots from each of these species for total protein, carbohydrate, fatty acid, fiber, ash, ion levels, and biomass when grown under various levels of salinity. Water relations of these plants and compatible osmolytes will be determined. In addition, enzyme activity levels, gene expression for proteins involved in photosynthesis and oxidative stress will be analysed, he said.

This work will provide a basic level of understanding of the capabilities and properties of each of the three species and lead to the identification of useful parameters to characterise the potential use of these and other halophyte species as non-traditional crops, he also said.

Dr Ajmal said that since water logging and salinity are two of the major environmental and economic problems in Pakistan and a number of other arid and semi arid regions of the world, the need of the hour is to take immediate measures.

He added that the ISHU at KU is capable of conducting the proposed research because it has the requisite instrumentation as well as trained and skilled human resources to complete this work. At a later stage, the participation of both institutions will be required.

The mechanism would be developed to train students and faculty in Karachi by inviting students and faculty from the US for brief workshops and online lectures. This would allow investigators from Pakistan to develop the capability to conduct experiments for other halophytes with potential for development, he further said.

It is expected that after successful completion of the funding period, the Pakistani side would be able to conduct this type of research independently. However, further collaboration between the laboratories would be strengthened and is expected to continue, Dr Ajmal expressed.

This project is likely to develop the capacity of the Institute at the KU to carry out molecular biology research independently. The benefits would include the purchase of basic instruments needed to carry out molecular research, training of junior faculty members in U.S. laboratories, exchange visits and short training of senior faculty, smaller workshops for a week or 10 days to train students in Pakistan by U.S. partners, he said.

"On the other hand, we would be able to develop non-conventional halophytic crops which could provide a source of income to the owners of low-productivity or abandoned salt-prone soils.

In addition, we can identify molecular and biochemical markers for salinity tolerance which may be used in the future to introduce salinity tolerance in conventional crops and can strengthen the relationship between the laboratories for continuing collaborations in the future", the director informed.

The overall benefits would include reduced salinisation and protection of water resources; environmental conservation through enhancement of soil organic matter; increased areas of recovered abandoned lands; enhanced use of food-feed crops; increased productivity of livestock and increased income per unit farm, he concluded. The news

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KU's IR Dept to hold condolence meeting for Wali Khan Babar
Karachi: A condolence meeting for slain reporter of a private tv channel, Wali Khan Babar, will be organised by University of Karachi (KU)'s Department of International Relations at its premises on January 17 (today) at 1:00pm. Chairperson of the Department Prof Dr Shaista Tabassum stated this. She said that the orientation day for the new entrants at the International Relations Department on Saturday was dedicated to Wali Khan Babar. Dr Shaista Tabassum further stated that late Wali Khan Babar was a bright and brilliant student of the department who did his Honours and Masters in the discipline of International Relations from the University of Karachi. app

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