In my humble opinion, the PTI government should establish a university of international standards, offering programs in Parliamentary Affairs and Government Reforms so that all the parliamentary debates, deliberations, legislation, and strategic level decisions are made based on judicious insight and meticulous research of the scholars, academics and researchers of this new university. The university should offer mandatory degree programs for the training of all our politicians, elected representatives and parliamentarians to promote effective policy making and good governance through enhanced interaction between parliament, government and other stakeholders in the society. Full-fledged departments for the diverse disciplines in social sciences will be of immense implications for promotion of internal harmony, social cohesion and empathy as bountiful sum of money has already been spent on promoting science subjects. For its ideal location, the university must be attended by the international students, faculty and experts from the technologically advanced countries so that their valuable insight can be effectively utilized for public sector reforms in the country.
One of the opposition leader, Nafisa Shah, continued expressing her displeasure at the government’s decision of turning the Prime Minister House into a university. She uttered her disapproval at the PTI’s determination of converting the PM House into a university of international standards claiming that the property is not Imran Khan’s personal ownership. Nevertheless, irrespective of her political affiliation, she might have some fantastic ideas, advancing well-being of the upcoming Prime Ministers, five or ten years, down the line, but as a student her ideas hurt mine, as well as, the feelings of those who firmly believe that survival of the nation rests on putting extra efforts in promoting higher education and research in the country.
A thorough analysis of her remarks speaks volume of what mindset she reflects and what the PTI government is intended to deliver.
The thread of her condemning tweets, the other day narrates, “So does PTI expect that the future Prime Ministers will park themselves in Islamabad’s guest houses and when foreign dignitaries come host them in Shadi halls in Pindi? ” The tweets went on to add, “This is the first Prime Minister who is set to obliterate Prime Ministerial spaces from where he/she operates.” Earlier the PTI chief was picked apart, “The PM House is not the personal property of Imran Khan. He should convert his own Bani Gala ‘Mahal’ (mansion) into a university”. The final tweet stressed, “Islamabad a city of 12 lakh people has 20 universities & 100 colleges & each of them needs more resources to improve their quality. PM House is an institution not simply a residence. It is sad that PTI is resorting to such cheap stunts.”
The debate started when it was announced by Shafqat Mahmood, the PTI Education Minister, the government’s decision to utilize the Prime Minister House for establishing a university. In fact, this was reiterated by the PTI Chairman, Imran Khan on numerous occasions, first as a part of his election campaign and very recently, in his victory speech, he renewed his commitment that he would not use the PM House as his residence and that his party would decide about the fate of the edifice. The most effective utilization of the Prime Minister and Governor Houses has already been deliberated upon in a recent article.
A microscopic view
While analyzing her argument, there seems to be no logical thinking and wisdom behind her argument. I wonder, who is going to buy it. For her, this is a cheap political stunt, but for the academics, this is indeed a landmark decision, a revolutionary step which defines the strategic direction of the PTI government, which needs to be appreciated on the mere account that at least someone at the helm of country’s affairs is delivering what he had committed. For an impartial analyst, the PTI leadership is thinking in terms of the well-being of the entire nation, peculiarly the next generations and Nafisa Shah is promoting the cause of the next Prime Ministers. Moreover, this is not the personal and individual decision of Imran Khan, but a consensus decision of the entire PTI leadership.
In fact, there are 21 universities in Islamabad out of which 15 are public sector whereas 06 are private sector universities. The Pakistan Institute of Development Economics was the first postgraduate research institute established in Islamabad in 1957. The Quaid-e-Azam University was established in 1968. Out of the total, eight are the “First Generation Universities” whereas, the remaining are the “Second Generation Universities”. Most of the “Second Generation Universities” were established in the Parviz Musharaf dictatorial regime. Thanks to the efforts, spearheaded by Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman, the eminent educationist, who was the Chairman, Higher Education Commission of Pakistan at that time and was the triggering force behind the sweeping reforms and rapid expansion in the higher education sector. The era may be rightly regarded as the golden age of higher education in the country. During the period, higher education received unprecedented attention, to the extent that even the Indian Government felt apprehensive about such initiatives of Pakistan, giving much importance to the higher education sector in the country.
It is worthwhile to mention that these universities, regarded as “Second Generation Universities” were far better than the First Generation Universities”, in terms of its infrastructure, research facilities, faculty, and learning resource centers. This has been discussed in detail in the Governance issues in the public sector universities in Pakistan. I wonder, if such universities were established ten or twenty years back then the present higher education landscape of the country would have presented entirely a different picture.
Who is responsible for the mess?
The two major political parties PPP and PML(N) who were basking in the corridors of power, alternately, during the course of the last thirty years and are mainly responsible for the mismanagement and bad governance in every sector of the public domain including higher education in the country. To have the Vice Chancellors of their own choice, these forces always played with the autonomous status of the institutes of higher education obliterating the entire system of governance in academia. We must accept that the politicians like Nafisa Shah are primarily accountable for the pathetic state of affairs in the institutions of higher education, in the country.
Can the PTI be blamed for it?
PTI is in the government at the center, for the first time in the history and that too, hardly for one and half months, in the office and hence, cannot be blamed for the poor infrastructure, outdated equipment, deficient libraries, and insufficient faculty in these universities, in the first place. Moreover, her argument lacks clear and deeper perception of the situation as the capital city, Islamad houses some of the best and top ranking universities such as COMSATS, National University of Science and Technology, QAU, and International Islamic University.
If a little introspection guides us, for the first time in the history of the country, a university is going to be established with a different approach, a different vision without claiming any political mileage but only to rectify some historical mistakes and to get away with colonial mindset. This is, of course, not Imran Khan’s personal property but is neither the personal property of next premiers. Similarly, Khan is neither taking the property of PM House under his personal possession nor transferring it under his own name.
It is recommended that the university should organize a range of training programs, conferences and policy colloquials to address current public policy issues on the international stage and offer training modules to change the mindset of the politicians like Nafisa Shah on the local level who do not want the minds of youth liberated from slavery of feudal lords…So, indeed, we need to educate our political masters, first!.