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Discouraging regional languages?: HEC doesn't recognise journals

Lahore, June 17, 2008: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been accused of deliberately discouraging regional and international languages by not accepting research journals presented in Punjabi or even Persian.

Experts believe that the trend of not allowing research in such languages would not only kill them (languages), but also kill the culture associated with them.

According to the information available on the HEC website, the commission has recognised around 10 research journals of various languages. However, local languages like Punjabi and Kashmiri, and some most significant international languages like Arabic and Persian have not been recognised in its list. The commission promotes and entertains researchers whose works are published in the languages HEC has listed.

Dr Saleem Mazhar, a professor of Persian at the Punjab University (PU), said that he and his colleagues had taken up the issue with the commission many times, but no attention had been paid to the requests. He said that HEC officials did not bother consulting Oriental College teachers and experts before making the policy for the selection of research journals. He said authorities had made a banker the head of the committee formed to award recognition to journals associated with languages and literature. He said that the PU Punjabi Department had produced some great names like Dr Ismatullah Zahid, Dr Shahbaz Malik, Dr Saeed Khawar Bhutta and Dr Naheed Shahid, while its journal Khoj, based on research articles, was being published for more than 25 years.

Not even Arabic and Persian: Mazhar said that the commission had not even recognised research journals in Arabic and Persian. He said that the HEC had not recognised any of the journals in Punjabi and Kashmiri, saying that the journals were not 'up to the mark' and did not qualify their criteria. He said that most of such journals, including the one published in the Oriental College of PU with the name of Oriental College Magazine, had been serving since 1925 and contained research material of great value.

Available but not recognised: Prof Jamil Pal, a Punjabi linguist, said that a number of credible Punjabi research journals including Khoj and Parakh were available, and alleged that the HEC officials were either unaware of the significance of regional languages, or were deliberately tried to discriminate Punjabi to please the anti-Punjabi lobby.

He said that Punjabis were the only people in Pakistan whose children were not given basic education in their mother language, and that the bureaucracy had never allowed mentioning great Punjabi heroes like Bhagat Singh in the textbooks.

"The works of Prem Chand, Krishan Chandar and Gian Chand is being taught at the Karachi University, but the authorities have refuse to teach the works of people like Bhagat Singh and Chander Shekhar Azad by declaring them non-Muslims," Pal said.

He claimed that Punjabi was flourishing as a global language and had had great recognition in countries like the UK and Canada. He said that Punjabi was being spoken by millions of people around the world, and was being taught at recognised foreign universities. "Punjabi is being killed in Pakistani Punjab on purpose, and Punjabis are compelled to use Urdu as their first language," he alleged. "According to the rules, a person qualifies for professorship and PhD degree only if his research work is published and recognised."

Trying to resolve: HEC Executive Director Dr Sohail Naqvi admitted that the commission had failed to take some regional and international languages on board, and Punjabi was one of them. However, he said that the HEC officials were working to resolve the issue, and that he was personally holding meetings with social scientists and linguists in this regard.

He said that none of the Punjabi journals fell in the criteria for being HEC-recognised journals, as the commission had made it compulsory for all journals to have a review committee, an editorial board containing at least 50 percent of foreign experts, and regular publication of the journals.

He said the HEC was aware that its main focus had been on the development of science and technology in the academic sector, but the commission had never downplayed regional languages. Daily Times

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