My fair thoughts on Punjab University book fair

My fair thoughts on PU book fair
Lahore, May 29, 2008: The first book fair organized by the Punjab University made me happy as well as sad. It was nice to see the new Vice-Chancellor of the Punjab University, Prof Mujahid Kamran, making his earnest effort to resurrect the seat of learning from IJT members who had been organizing their own book fairs in the PU. They were never book fairs, as such; nor was this one any better. I found a lot of Islamic propaganda material and some irrelevant titles. Only a few good publishers had turned up at the fair to sell their books that may actually be called books. The rest of it was nothing more than ink splashed on white paper in decipherable language.

There was not a single book that befitted Franz Kafka's definition of a book "A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul."

How truly applicable is Kafka's words are for the frozen minds of students at the Punjab University. The IJT had taken over the faculties of learning at the Punjab University towards the end of the 70s. Since then, the University of Punjab has become a blind spot rather than a seat of enlightenment.

A misinterpreted creed of Islam was imposed by the Jamaate Islami on the campus, putting a check on the very element of curiosity that books arouse in the budding minds. Even the faculties of the departments were not free to express and transfer the knowledge that has spread like wild fire, changing the world altogether from what it had been only 50 years ago. Man is reaching the perfection zone in every department of learning but at the PU, the process of learning has remained retrogressive. Like the rest of the Muslim world, this process had stopped at some stage and never advanced.

Puritanical Muslim rule in the Spanish peninsula brought an end to their golden era and the same happened with the Ottomans in Turkey and Mughals in India. I wonder if the legacy of the Mughals had been furthered by Dara Shakoh instead of Aurangzeb, Muslims might have survived as one of the modern nations.

But let's get out of the historical lament. There is a kind of revival of learning in Pakistan. Institutions like LUMS, FAST and GIK are producing crops of competitive students. The reins of the Punjab University, which remained under the dictatorial rule of generals (lols), has finally been handed over to an educationist. I have known Prof Mujahid Kamran since he was a lecturer. You cannot call him an ultra modernist but he is in no way backward. Hailing from an educated family, he is an enlightened person who knows very well that the Punjab University needs a complete transformation. He is already facing administrative problems in handling the fundamentalist group.

But he won't be alone in waging a different kind of 'Jihad', the struggle to revive transfer of free thought, liberating the mind of students to think without inhibitions, without artificial barriers and without impediments, liberating the soul straitjacketed in the ritual of a religion.

The Punjab University will have to go miles and miles. It must get a cue from the other institutions in Lahore. It must benefit from LUMS which has accumulated one of the finest libraries in Lahore. In terms of health minders, you are what you eat. In terms of intellect, they say you are what you read. The books must be selected. It should be a choice reading. The book fair had more trash than anything worth reading.

"Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.

One of the great Pakistani book readers and collectors was Barrister Khalid Ishaq. He left behind some of the finest books, about 200,000.

It was he who told me that "you are what you read". He donated about half of the best and most costly books to LUMS. It is a treasure trove. LUMS teachers often provide photo-copied reading package to its students.

At LUMS every course module is replete with tests, quizzes and final tests. Why LUMS is at the top in business and social studies is because its teachers always award grades on merit and cannot be influenced by anything else than the output of students. The Punjab University will have to follow the suit.

The PU is lucky to have teachers like Syed Mansoor Shah who heads the IT Department. The highly qualified teacher from the US can raise generations of experts by transferring what he learnt abroad while doing specialization and teaching in the US.

I asked him at the book fair if there are any books relevant to his subject displayed at the book fair, he nodded, "No". The PU must find good books and see to it that they are not stolen and nor plagiarized.

This has been the biggest curses at the Punjab University. I'd wind up with one of the best quotes on books. "To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." (Edmund Burke)

By MAK Lodhi (The News)

Post your comments

IJT behind foiled attempt to hijack book fair?
Lahore: Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) activists tried to hijack the Punjab University (PU) Book Fair, but failed due to the presence of heavy security and the media.

More than a hundred IJT workers, wearing IJT badges and distributing the student body's pamphlets, were present at the book fair claiming to be part of the fair's organising committee. PU authorities refuted the IJT workers' claims and said the university had 'single-handedly' organised the fair.

The controversial three-day book fair attracted more than 1,000 visitors on its first day. The fair attracted a lot of attention earlier this month when the IJT had planned to hold the fair on May 12, but the PU administration closed the university for four days to stop the IJT from holding the event.

On Wednesday, PU vice-chancellor Dr Mujahid Kamran and Prisons Minister Chaudhry Abdul Ghafoor inaugurated the fair. The administration called in security personnel from a private firm and strong contingents of police. The organising committee included several teachers, department heads and five bright students from every department. Since the students were chosen on merit, many IJT workers became part of the organising committee. This gave the organisation a chance to claim partnership in the fair.

A group of IJT workers went around the stalls noting the problems of publishers and those on the stalls. The PU administration told them to stop, but in vain. Tension intensified when Iftikhar Baloch, a PU teacher, stopped Zulqarnain, an IJT worker who was on the organising committee, from distributing IJT's pamphlets at a stall. A group of IJT workers gathered there and quarrelled with the teacher, saying that they did not "consider him a teacher". However, the administration and security personnel took control of the situation and the IJT workers dispersed.

A PU official said that Zulqarnain was distributing IJT workers fake entry passes. He said that some members of the organising committee were supposed to deliver the teachers their entry passes, but the members distributed the passes to their friends.

Zulqarnain said that he was a PU student and had been selected for the organising committee on merit. He said the teachers were victimising him for being sympathetic towards the IJT. He said the IJT workers were also PU students and had the right to participate in the university's activities.

'IJT, PU agreed to joint venture': Talking to us, PU IJT Media Secretary Imran Kiyani said that the administration and the IJT had agreed to organise the event jointly. He said that 40 IJT workers were members of the organising committee and were present on various stalls. He said the PU administration had wasted Rs 500,000, which it had paid to the security company.

No IJT help: PU Public Relations Officer (PRO) Shabbir Sarwar said the PU administration was holding the event without help from the IJT. He said the event aimed at promoting a 'book culture' in the youth.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony, the Prisons minister said, "The nations that love books last long and progress in every field of life." He appreciated the PU for organising the fair instead of letting it be conducted by a student union.

PU VC Dr Kamran said the government should organise such events to attract students towards books and said that such events "could help bring about an educational revolution". The stalls sold books giving up to 50 percent discounts. A first-aid centre was also set up where PU Health Centre doctors and students were present. Several notable publishers set up stalls at the book fair. These include: OUP, Dogar Publishers, Book Home, Al-Faisal Book Publishers, Function House, Takhleeqat Nastaaliq Publishers, Rabia Publishers, Adabi Publishers, Iqbaliyat, Minhaj-ul-Quran, Al-Ikhwan Publishers.

Post your comments

LUMS to host conference on Indo-Pak issues
Lahore: Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) will organise a two-day conference titled 'The Pace Between Pakistan and India on Model of Post war Franco-German Rapprochement' on June 3.

The conference is meant to dig out the common grounds between the two countries, on which they can develop friendly ties like World War II archrivals (Germany and France) did after thousands of civilians and soldiers were slain.

The LUMS spokesperson said on Wednesday that the Social Sciences Department would organise the conference in collaboration with the French Embassy and an NGO, Hanns Seidel Stiftung. He said foreign delegates with a grip on the reconciliation between the two European neighbours would speak on the occasion.

He said the speakers would analyse the peace process between India and Pakistan and discuss its flaws. He said they would also recommend solutions to fix the issues between the two countries. He said Social Sciences Department faculty Prof Muhammad Waseem would coordinate the event.

Muhammad Shoaib, a LUMS student, said his class fellows were excited to take part in the conference and were going through the history of Franco-German reconciliation and India-Pakistan rivalry.

He said researchers, educationists and students should come up with a genuine and progressive solution to the issues between the two countries.

Maleeha, another student, said healthy ties between the two nuclear powers had a multidimensional impact, as it was not only essential for peace and stability in the region, but also economic growth. She said that the two governments should listen to their scholars instead of depending upon their armies or politicians in this regard. She said, "Politicians and armies of both countries have been deliberately lingering the issue for the last 60 years." Daily Times

Post your comments

Long wait for result of scholarship exam
Toba Tek Singh: Hundreds of primary class students, who appeared in annual scholarship examination held under the Punjab Examination Commission (PEC) in Nov 2007, are still waiting for their results.

Some parents of these students told reporters here on Wednesday that their children had been promoted to Class VI but they were not being paid scholarship because of delays in notification of their results.

An official of the education executive district officer (EDO) said that 2,243 candidates, including 1,237 boys and 1,006 girls, took the examination but the PEC returned result sheets of around 50 per cent candidates to recheck names and roll numbers of the candidates. He said the rechecking process was in progress and lists would be dispatched to the PEC after a through verification of particulars of each and every candidate. He said that results of the remaining 50 per cent were also being compiled.The parents urged Chief Minister Sardar Dost Muhammad Khosa to direct the PEC officials to notify the results immediately.

Meanwhile, Education EDO Malik Bashir Awan on Wednesday visited Pirmahal Government Boys High School No1 where hundreds of answer sheets of middle standard examination candidates were gutted due to a fire in a schoolroom being used as central marking room.

The marking staff told the EDO that the fire broke out apparently owing to a short-circuiting after they had left the room. The EDO, however, ordered an inquiry into the incident.

LHC: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday cancelled Punjab special education secretary's orders transferring the vice-principal of the Federal Government Sultan Bahoo Special Education Centre, Jhang, as Multan special education district officer.Mahmooda Kausr had moved the LHC challenging her displacement and said that her husband was an officer posted at Toba Tek Singh and on her request, the federal government had placed her services on the disposal of Punjab government to post her as headmistress of the Government Deaf and Defective Hearing School, Toba Tek Singh, under its wedlock policy. She said that the Punjab chief secretary ordered the same but later on she was appointed as Multan special education district officer in sheer violation of the orders of the chief secretary.

The court said that the petitioner's three-year deputation period was meant for Toba Tek Singh only and not for any other place, so the orders of her posting at Multan were nullity in the eye of law and the petitioner was entitled to be posted at Toba Tek Singh for a period of three years from the date of her deputation.

Post your comments

GCU asked to regularise contract teachers
Faisalabad: The Academic Staff Association of the Government College University (GCU) has demanded that the university regularise the services of contract teachers and initiate a housing scheme for faculty members.

A general body meeting of the association here on Tuesday with its president Mudassar Butt in the chair unanimously approved the constitution of the association and formed a three-member election body headed by Mass Communication Department Director Dr AR Khalid. The election body would make arrangements for the annual election.

Members of the association said contract teachers were very much concerned about their future. They said the situation required the administration to refrain from further appointments and expedite efforts for the regularisation of contract faculty members. They asked the university administration to initiate a housing scheme for faculty members and give them loans for construction of their houses.

The association said some unscrupulous elements were using its name and dispatching letters to the chancellor against the people appointed on contract. Dawn

Post your comments



Post your Feedback about information available on this page.