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HEC continues to neglect social sciences

Karachi, Aug 30: Last week, The University of Karachi (KU) witnessed the demise of its only Professor Emeritus, Dr Riazul Islam, a renowned historian known for his scholarly endeavours. The University of Karachi, being the largest learning centre of the city, lost a dedicated researcher. At present, KU is left with only a few faculty members who have outstanding and well-accredited distinctions in research and teaching.

For the development of a civilised and educated society, input is required from the various fields related to humanities and social sciences. However, the faculty of Arts in KU has been virtually devoid of any serving professor and research associate of national and/or international standing.

Although numerous universities have gone through transformation in the eight-year-old, Musharraf-led regime, the desired advancement in the fields of arts, humanities and social sciences have yet to take place.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is the controlling authority of public-sector universities and takes care of their funding. This commission has been widely criticised for its policies that are tilted towards the promotion of natural and physical sciences, among other fields of study. Its approach towards social sciences is less than satisfactory. The virtual brain drain in this regard is one consequence of the discriminatory and biased policies of the HEC, for which its Chairman, Professor Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, often comes under heavy criticism.

It is no wonder then that in this context the UK-based newspaper, The Guardian, in its Internet edition of August 24 carried a special report substantiating the theory that the massacre of Indians by their British occupiers during the 1857 War of Independence is similar to the holocaust. The report quoted a Mumbai-based writer and historian's - Amaresh Misra - arguments that ́there was an untold holocaust which caused the deaths of almost 10 million people in the span of 10 years, beginning in 1857. Britain was then the world's superpower but came perilously close to losing its most prized possession; India."

It is interesting to note that a newspaper of the very country, which is blamed for war crimes in the Indian subcontinent during the 19th century, is launching an investigation and giving credence to this theory. An academic research of this nature should have been launched by Pakistani scholars. However, thanks to their standing with respect to research, they aren't academically sound enough to undertake such pursuits. It is these very scholars who are often found complaining about the lack of encouragement and motivation for their work.

I remember Dr Islam's virtual cellar-like research institute of history during my years at KU. It is hard to believe that this research institute, judging by its condition, was the academic seat of the late professor. Those who are associated with KU are well aware that unlike the institute of history, some of the other research institutes of the university are grand and well-equipped.

In a previous column, I also mentioned the uninterrupted alternative power supply arrangements for the HEJ Institute in KU, while the other faculties suffered a prolonged and massive power breakdown during the rains. The News
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