Battling Extremism (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Intolerance and bigotry on Pakistan’s campuses is symptom of a deeper malaise — disrespect for knowledge, disdain for free thought and inquiry, and penchant for authoritarianism. Published in Daily Times, August 21st, 2017.
Pak-India Nuclear War — Avoided (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
PAKISTAN and India celebrate their 70th anniversaries next week. Shall they be around for their 100th one too? It depends on how long their luck holds out, and if they can stop their mad rush to increase the chances of disaster. What’s new? Two weeks ago, a terrifying report published in the Indian Express should have scared sensible people into asking hard questions. But no one paid much attention to it — jaded publics on both sides would rather tune in to the hottest political intrigue or celebrity gossip than waste time on something that didn’t actually happen. Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017.
The Ummah At War With Itself (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Where does this leave the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), whose job is to bring together and represent the ummah? Based in Saudi Araba, it has 57 member states and calls itself “the collective voice of the Muslim world.” The OIC has had nothing to say about wars that have consumed Syria, Iraq, Libya, or Yemen. Nor is it relevant to any other conflict between Muslim states or that within them. It has yet to give a single cent to desperate refugees who, instead, must rely on the West. Published in Dawn, July 22nd, 2017.
Pakistan’s Professor Mafia (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
It is time to reject the grotesque distortion of priorities and reorient Pakistan’s universities towards their major responsibility and purpose — teaching. Incentivising paper and PhD production has resulted in mega-corruption. HEC’s foolish policy must be reversed even though the professor mafia will bitterly oppose it. Else even duly certified degrees awarded by Pakistani universities will soon have the worth of an Axact degree. Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2017.
Why Remain a Petro-puppet? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan must declare absolute neutrality in the Saudi-Iran conflict by immediately quitting the IMA. The recent attacks on key targets in Tehran — claimed by IS but which Iran’s Revolutionary Guards blame on KSA — makes this ever more urgent. The recruitment of Pakistani mercenaries to fight wars for KSA must stop and Gen Raheel Sharif must be ordered home immediately. If he is keen about fighting terrorism, there’s plenty for him to do here. Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2017.
The Saudization of Pakistan (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
It would be tragic if Pakistan should surrender its rich and diverse cultures to oil-rich bedouins who consume ferociously, produce nothing, read nothing, and despise art and beauty. It is all the more astonishing that ultra-religious Pakistanis should revere those who have systematically destroyed the sacred sites of Islam, erected hotels and shopping malls in their place. Instead of imagining a cultural connection that does not actually exist, Pakistan needs to look to its actual roots. As heirs to the ancient civilizations of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa, its younger generations must be told of their magnificent heritage. This essay was first published by Newsline magazine in 2008. It was updated for inclusion in the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Pakistan (2017).
Kashmir: Hard Choices Only (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
“I recently received an extraordinary email from a troubled young Kashmiri in Srinagar. Days before the Indian authorities turned off the internet, Saif (not his real name) had watched on YouTube the 45-minute video documentary Crossing the Lines — Kashmir, Pakistan, India that I had helped make in 2004 and mostly agreed with its non-partisan narrative. A nationalist boy turned stone thrower, Saif is outraged by the brutality of Indian occupation. He is fortunate, he says. His 14-year-old second cousin lost his left eye to pellets.” Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2017.
پاکستان میں انتہا پسندی: پرویز ہود بھائی کا خصوصی انٹرویو
معروف آن لائن اردو کمیونٹی “ہم سب” کی نامور دانش ور ڈاکٹر پرویز ہود بھائی کے ساتھ ایک خصوصی نشست، جس میں پاکستان میں انتہا پسندی اور عدم برداشت کے اسباب اور عوامل، اور ان کے تدارک پر گفتگو کی گئی ہے۔
Why they Lynched Mashal Khan and Pehlu Khan (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
“Vigilantism is best explained by evolutionary biology and sociology. A fundamental principle there says only actions and thoughts that help strengthen group identity are well received, others are not. In common with our ape ancestors, we humans instinctively band together in groups because strength lies in unity. The benefits of group membership are immense — access to social networks, enhanced trust, recognition, etc. Of course, as in a club, membership carries a price tag. Punishing cow-eaters or blasphemers (even alleged ones will do) can be part payment. You become a real hero by slaying a villain — ie someone who challenges your group’s ethos. Your membership dues are also payable by defending or eulogising heroes.” Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2017.
انسانی شخصیت اور سیکھنے کا رویہ (Wardah Noor)
جو افراد عقل اور غور و فکر کے بغیر زندگی گزارتے ہیں، وہ انسان کم اور مشین کہلائے جانے کے زیادہ مستحق ہیں کیونکہ ان میں جب کچھ بھی بھر دیا جائے، وہ صرف اسی کے مطابق چلتے ہیں۔ اب یہ فیصلہ ہمیں خود کرنا ہے کہ ہمیں باشعور انسان بننا ہے یا ایسی مشینیں۔
End of Enlightenment? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Even so, terrorists — unless they somehow seize nuclear weapons — are not an existential threat to humanity. The number of victims of terrorism is small compared to wars, traffic accidents, killings by deranged individuals, etc. Terrorism alone does not explain why the US is drifting away from its wonderful Enlightenment ideals. Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2017.
Conflict Between Religious Scholars And Scientists — Why Is It So? (Wardah Noor)
Science doesn’t claim to be based on any divine revelation, and hence, let it work the way humans deal in accordingly scientific method. This is what religious people need to regard about science. On the other hand, scientists need to realize that the path toward progress includes being sensitive to how others believe. When people from both the sides confront each other with lack of compassion, it’s unfortunate.
Who’s Enemy Number One? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Doubling Pakistan’s population means that there will only be half as much fresh water as today, the air will become yet filthier, pollutants will poison the land and sea, and road traffic will become nearly impossible. As poverty skyrockets, hordes of beggars will roam the streets, madressahs will swell in size and number, and the unemployed and unemployable will chafe in anger and frustration. They will be easily persuaded that their predicament comes from some international conspiracy. Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2017. Read it in Urdu here.
What If Scientists Behaved Like Mullahs? (Muhammad Tahir Ranjha)
One cannot find any fatwa by any scientist about accepting or not accepting the concept of gravity or the theory of relativity. There’s not a single example in the history suggesting that any scientist was killed or he killed someone for not accepting any theory. If scientists acted like mullahs then they would have incited to kill people on not believing in black holes.
Lacking the Scientific Method (Muhammad Bashir Baloch)
Scientific method is an evidence-based method for investigating truth and acquiring knowledge. We teach our students what science says, but most of times they don’t have a clue from where and how does this information come.
Lessons For Pakistan From Trump’s America (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
I cannot remember the last time when Pakistanis rallied together for a cause that was not specifically Muslim. Of course, Kashmir, Palestine, Bosnia and Myanmar are all worthy causes, but they are Muslim causes. In contrast, the thousands of Americans who stormed airports last month to protest Trump’s Muslim ban were there to protect a principle — that all peoples of all religions and ethnicities should have exactly the same rights. Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2017. Read it in Urdu here.
تخلیقی ذہن پہ تبلیغی اثرات: جنید جمشید اور دوسرے مشاہیر کا نفسیاتی جائزہ (Dr. Khalid Sohail)
An analysis of how an existential crisis hits the celebrities and changes their hearts and minds, and an individual starts questioning the very foundations of life: whether one’s life has any meaning, purpose, or value.
Rewarding Men of War (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Gallantry will have little place in this planet’s future wars — at least those between states. Technology will confront technology, with humans simply entering policy algorithms into robots on land, sea, air and space. AI will also arrange logistics for military campaigns. Good or bad, that’s the way it’s going to be. Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2017.
Grieving Abdus Salam and the Muslim age of darkness (Nayyar Afaq)
Will Pakistan be able to produce another Abdus Salam? The answer, in the present and in the near future, is a big no. The state of science in Pakistan is dismal, school curriculums fail to inspire any interest in this beautiful subject, orthodoxy is dominating society, and space for free thinking and rational enquiry doesn’t exist. The Muslim world, by and large, has the same scenario, and one can rightly refer to our present as the dark ages for Muslims.
Who is to Blame: Us or Fate? (Zuhaib Shah)
Every action and reaction, significant or insignificant as they may seem, play part in making things happen.
Abducting Social Activists (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
The army, police, and Pakistan’s security agencies have paid a terrible price in lives and material at the hands of religious fanatics. Extremist organisations and individuals have declared bloody war upon the state. Against the culture of intolerance, corruption, and militancy that is ruining Pakistan, only a few brave souls have dared to speak out. It is insane to crack down on them. Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2017.
Land Grab at QAU — Again (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan’s leaders must soberly consider the consequences of losing control over the nation’s public lands and its public assets. QAU may be just the tip of the iceberg, but it is an acid test of governance. It is time to demonstrate steely resolve and disprove the notion that Pakistan is a failed state. Mian Nawaz Sharif had opposed the land grab in 1996. His government must now protect the public interest by protecting the land of Pakistan’s premier state university. Published in Dawn, December 24th, 2016. Read it here in Urdu.
Promoting Anti-Science via Textbooks (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
A Biology textbook is normally expected to teach biology as science, meaning a scientifically based study of the structure, growth and origin of living things. But what if such a book instead says science must follow ideology and loudly denounces the core principles of biology, condemning these as wrong and irrational? Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2016.
Changing Perspectives (Muhammad Bashir Baloch)
There is no refutation to science and even if there is one it will surely come from science itself using scientific method, not from outside. So if we are sceptical to something, we should consult our reasoning in order to refute it or accept it rather than taking sides based on dogma.
The Establishment’s Dilemma (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Missing from the establishment’s perception of national interest is a positive vision for Pakistan’s future. I could not find any enthusiastic call for Pakistan to explore space, become a world leader in science, have excellent universities, develop literature and the arts, deal with critical environmental issues, achieve high standards of justice and financial integrity, and create a poverty-free society embodying equalitarian principles. Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2016.
Debating Culture (Muhammad Bashir Baloch)
An educated debating culture is needed, where things are judged based on relevant information and evidences rather than our personal prejudices. We must differentiate between people and ideas. Talking about people and talking about ideas are two different things; ideas are never sacred and no idea is immune to scrutiny.
Pakistan’s Pseudoscience Menace (Interview)
Miseducation and the spread of pseudoscience in the country have harmed the teaching of science, feels Pervez Hoodbhoy in his interview for the Gulf News.
The Brain Filters (Muhammad Bashir Baloch)
There are certain problems from which our judgement still suffers. Our thinking process is not ideal in any sense; emotions and certain factors still drive us irrational. We are affected by them while listening and judging someone. I call these factors as filters on the basis of which we decide our response. These are filters of language, filters of beliefs, filters of cultures, values, attitude, expectations and intentions.
The Practicality Delusion (Muhammad Zain Mobeen)
Newton did not just create a whole branch of mathematics to come up with the laws of motion just so that centuries later reproducing these laws on exams could help someone get into medical school. Nor was any other scientific discovery made so that it could be used to kill off any trace of wonder and curiosity in children and instead brainwash them into believing that science and math are torturous hurdles that stand in the way of them and ‘success’.
Why Are We Failing in Science Education? (Muhammad Bashir Baloch)
Mark Twain, a renowned American writer, once said “If you don’t read newspapers you are uninformed and if you read it you are misinformed.” Same is the case with our education system today. We are producing a generation who is misinformed and has a very little knowledge of truth. Our educated and uneducated people both seem to think on same lines and in some cases so called educated people appear more dogmatic, more illogical and even prone to extremism in their thinking.
Charlatans in a Science Illiterate Society (Dr. Muhammad Usman Ilyas, Dr. Ayesha Razzaque)
Dubious scientific discovery claims and their unquestioned acceptance by public speak volumes about the poor state-of-affairs of science literacy.
Bogus University Rankings (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Parents everywhere, and increasingly in Pakistan, want their children to go to a good university. This is an important decision about a student’s future — and an expensive one. Looking at university websites is no help because many misrepresent or lie. So they turn to international organisations thinking them to be neutral. But they don’t know what lies underneath. Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2016.
Shoreham’s Example (A.H. Nayyar)
Contravening international laws and standards, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has failed to make evacuation plans for those residing within a distance of 30 km from the plant; the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority failed to insist on it when approving construction. No evacuation plan means when people are asked to leave, there will be chaos — traffic logjams, riots, etc. Nearly all will get stuck and be exposed to radioactivity.
Celebrating Ignorance (Muhammad Bashir Baloch)
Is there any example in history when a civilization has been ruined just because they preferred evidence and logic. On the contrary, we may find such examples where irrationality spoiled the nations and perished their civilizations. One wonders why people celebrate ignorance?
The Hanging of Mir Quasem Ali (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan needs to do far more than Bangladesh. As a starter, it must no longer allow young Pakistanis in schools to be filled with wildly distorted versions of history. These ignore the horrors West Pakistan inflicted upon the Bengalis. Rather than defend war criminals or deny what happened in 1971, Pakistan should seek to normalise relations with Bangladesh. Truth and reconciliation is what is needed. Published in Dawn on 10th September 2016.
Everyone Bleeds in Afghanistan (Anwaar Hussain)
Once the present game of Buzkashi is over, with the wasted heroes lowered into their graves in flag-draped caskets, the politicians, the Generals and the Mullahs will promptly wash the blood off their hands with well-worded sorrow.
Pakistan’s Paranoid Politics (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Imagined conspiracies serve only to distract us from the enemy within, the religious extremists who have repeatedly declared they will wage unending war upon the country and its people until the establishment of an Islamic state in Pakistan. We need facts not finger-pointing if we are fighting those who murder Pakistan’s schoolchildren, lawyers, policemen, and soldiers. Published in Dawn on 20th August 2016.
سائنسی درسی کتابوں میں مذہبی آمیزش (Dr. Zulfiqar Khan)
سائنسی تعلیم کا مقصد طالب علموں کو محض سائنسی معلومات دینا نہیں بلکہ ان کے اندر سائنسی انداز فکربھی پیدا کرنا ہے۔ مذہبی خیالات کی آمیزش سے یہ انداز فکر خالص سائنسی نہیں رہتا کیونکہ سائنس کی دنیا مشاہدات و تجربات پر مبنی ہے جبکہ مذہب کی بنیاد ایمان بالغیب پر ہے۔ سائنس میں تقلید نہیں اور نہ ہی کوئی شے مقدس۔ سائنس میں قدیم کی بجائے جدید کو فوقیت حاصل ہے اور ہر بات، اور ہر دعوے کی تصدیق و تردید کا معیار مذہب سے بالکل مختلف ہے۔
Hidden Dangers (A.H. Nayyar, Zia Mian)
The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has finally cleared construction in Karachi of two large Chinese-supplied nuclear reactors. Approval of the Preliminary Safety Analysis Report (PSAR) submitted by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was the final step required for building the K-2 and K-3 reactors. But this safety report, which is supposed to critically assess the safety of the reactor site, the reactor design, the management of the nuclear fuel, and possible accidents due to technical failure and human error and their consequences, is flawed in important ways. Published in Dawn on 13th August 2016.
Cooling down Kashmir (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
No one sees the Kashmir dispute having a solution in the foreseeable future. Everything has been tried: war, repression, elections, and inducements. The only question at present is how to prevent a bad situation from spiralling out of control. Lest thousands more die, it is now time for calm thinking, letting passions subside and moving ahead. Rather than look for ultimate solutions now, the present needs to be managed. Published in Dawn on 30th July 2016.
A Breath of Stale Blair (Anwaar Hussain)
At one time Tony Blair looked like a strong leader with great promise. Combined with a gift of gab, he seemed to overshadow all around him, at home and on the continent. Ironically, his unswerving support for the Neocons’ misadventures earned him the nickname of US poodle rather than a place in the European hall of fame. Subsequent events proved him, instead, to be a great deceiver, a past master at selling half lies and half truths, schooled rather in the art of never admitting, yet not categorically denying. History now bears out that all his moralizing, all his lofty rhetoric dished out, were in the sure fore knowledge of the Neocons’ real agenda. He only proved that his oratory skills and high-sounding rhetoric were nothing but the lamb talk of a wolf.
Why Liberals Are Losing? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Liberals everywhere are fighting an uphill battle — and winning only rarely. It is so much easier to be backward looking, narrow, prejudiced, parochial, tribal, sectarian, and nationalist rather than be accommodative, global, and universal. It is even more difficult in Pakistan. While erasing the last 300 liberals may be a noble goal in the eyes of some, it is unlikely to solve a truly large and vexatious problem. Published in Dawn on 9th July 2016.
Social Progress Index 2016 and Pakistan (Anwar Akhtar)
The message from the SPI table for 2016 is terrible. Pakistan is staring into the abyss, a perfect storm of rapid population growth, social injustice, a huge street children population (estimated by the United Nations at 1.5 million), gender inequality, institutionalised state violence against women and chronic lack of economic opportunities for most people. Yes there’s a growing middle class, but in a country of 200 million, too many are left out.
A Generation Void of Dreams (Muhammad Zain Mobeen)
What troubles me the most is that we are raising a generation void of dreams. There are hardly any children nowadays that aspire to be great scientists, artists or historians. These are professions that have been labeled as impractical, unconventional and of course financially unstable, because according to our traditional wisdom if there is one thing that can be used to gauge one’s ‘success’ and satisfaction, it is definitely the size of one’s home and bank balance. Clearly, this way of thinking has gotten us nowhere.
The Caliph, Muslim Ummah and the concept of an Islamic state (Usman Asif)
This series of three articles will focus on these subjects: the institution of the Caliph, what the Muslim community (Ummah) is and what is the concept of an Islamic state. Focus will be on the plurality in understanding these institutions and concepts and how they have developed through history. (Part I, Part II, Part III)
This Ramadan (Anwaar Hussain)
Let us pause this Ramadan and ask a few questions from ourselves. Who were we? Where do we stand today? What happened to us along the way? Which way are we going?
Droning Mullah Fazlullah (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Fazlullah must go, whether by drone or otherwise. But what we want for ourselves, we must also want for those across the Durand Line. For this, the successors of Mullah Mansour — however many are yet to come — will also have to go. Published in Dawn on 18th June 2016.
Motel Kandahar: The Principles of Failure (Anwaar Hussain)
With the bulk of American forces now gone from Afghanistan, and with a mere token presence left behind, President Obama has allowed the remaining American troops to once again directly battle the Taliban, loosening restrictions on airstrikes and on ground combat in support of Afghan forces. The Americans just don’t seem to have learned much in their fifteen years stay in Afghanistan. Let’s see how. A contributed article by Anwaar Hussain, an ex F-16 fighter pilot from Pakistan Air Force.
A Balance Sheet For May 28 (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
The atomic bomb was supposed to create a state of bliss. Unsurprisingly that didn’t happen. Indeed, Pakistan’s security problems cannot be solved by expanding its missile fleet, buying more F-16s, or developing tactical nuclear weapons. Instead, the way forward lies in building a sustainable and active democracy, an economy for peace rather than war, a federation in which provincial grievances can be effectively resolved, elimination of the feudal order, and creating a tolerant society that respects the rule of law.
Is It Science or Theology? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Science has no need for Pakistan; in the rest of the world it roars ahead. But Pakistan needs science because it is the basis of a modern economy and it enables people to gain decent livelihoods. To get there, matters of faith will have to be cleanly separated from matters of science. This is how peoples around the world have managed to keep their beliefs intact and yet prosper. Pakistan can too, but only if it wants. Published in Dawn on 7th May 2016.
Democracy Under Assault (Hammad Raza)
The concept of democracy as a political notion of governance for the people and by the people has now become an instrumental tool by impersonal forces to control the general masses. Deep strains on democracy can be seen in the threatening fractures all over the world.
Can Pakistan’s F-16s Fight Terror? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
To destroy terrorism will require a massive change of public attitudes and a complete repudiation of Pakistan’s current policy. This uses two hoses to fight a terrible fire. One pours water to douse the flames. But the other hose spews petrol, subtracting from the gains made by the first. Published in Dawn on 16th April 2016.
Piety For Profit (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Commercialised piety now rakes in profits, reducing religion and spirituality to business. It’s time to get priorities right. Eliminating interest on loans, whether advanced for real or frivolous needs, has so far grabbed all the attention. But would a just God prefer that you pray to Him on a luxury prayer mat — even if purchased with a Sharia-compliant credit card? Why would He give lower priority to the Quranic injunction of adl (justice)? In a system that is unjust at the roots, surely the fight to build a just, sustainable, and compassionate society should take precedence over form and ritual. Published in Dawn on 26th March 2016.
Is Pakistan’s Problem Urdu? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
No nation becomes stronger by having the ‘correct’ official language. Instead it gains strength when it addresses the real needs of its people. Likewise, education cannot be improved by flipping from English to Urdu or vice versa. Change can happen only when education is seen as a means for opening minds rather than an instrument of ideological control. Published in Dawn on 5th March 2016.
Science Education In Schools (Dr. A.H. Nayyar)
That science education in Pakistan is inadequate is saying the obvious. In fact, it is bad enough to scare students away. There is a long list of problems with science education in the country. Textbooks written for Pakistani textbook boards and colleges are dreary and uninteresting, and only overload students with facts. Badly printed, they are terse in their explanations, and care little for graphic presentations. Teachers are either untrained or poorly trained, and hence uninspiring. Many have poor knowledge of the subject they teach, and hence discourage questions, and kill curiosity. Published in Dawn on 4th March 2016.
Our Varsities Have Turned into Junk Factories (Interview)
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy speaks to MIT Technology Review Pakistan about science and technology in context of higher education including teaching, capacity-building of professors, current situation at universities and research.
N. Korea Follows Indo-Pakistan (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Bravo, North Korea! You have faithfully followed South Asia down the nuclear and missile gutter. State propaganda machines everywhere have successfully fooled gullible populations into lauding these ‘achievements’. Yes, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had threatened to make Pakistanis eat grass but only you had the guts to force an entire population to actually eat it. Your nuclear ambitions have deprived millions of a decent life, and hundreds of thousands of North Koreans are locked up in your wretched prisons. My congratulations to Kim Jong-un and others of the Kim dynasty. May they all rot in hell. Published in Dawn on 13rd February 2016.
Before I Speak of the Stars… (Dr. Ravi Sinha)
Let me speak first of Rohith Chakravarthi Vemula. I never met him. I wish I had, although that would have made me hardly any worthier of speaking about him. Had I met him, I would have come to know that I shared with him a passion for science, nature and stars. I would like to think that he would have found in me, despite my being from another generation, a comrade-in-arms and a fellow campaigner for a better world. Perhaps I would have also recognized a few of the scars left over from a childhood spent in poverty. But, there, the similarities would have ended.
Back From the Enemy Country (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan and India may be moving along divergent paths of development but their commonalities are becoming more accentuated as well. Engaging with the other is vital — and certainly possible. Although I sometimes took unpopular political positions at no point did I, as a Pakistani, experience hostility. The mature response of both governments to the Pathankot attack gives hope that Pakistan and India might yet learn to live with each other as normal neighbours. This in spite of the awful reality that terrorism is here to stay. Published in Dawn on 23rd January 2016.
Our Wonder Deficit (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
‘I WONDER’. These two words have incalculable power. It’s because of this innocuous phrase that humans stand at the top of the evolutionary ladder. Whereas animals look only for basic survival, you and I reflect, seek cause and comprehension, and speculate. Then, from wonder’s bosom springs expansive thinking. You theorise, explore depths, and perhaps have a Eureka moment. Without wonder there cannot be science or art. Published in Dawn on 2nd January 2016.
Burn These Books, Please! (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
The tiny number of Sindh’s children privileged to access British ‘O’ and ‘A’ level schools — and use their books — are doing okay. For the rest, one can only weep. Published in Dawn on 12th December 2015. Read the Urdu translation here.
Enough PhD’s, Thank You (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
No country becomes wealthy by printing a mountain of paper currency. And no university system becomes better by dishing out substandard PhD degrees, or by accepting vacuous research papers as valid. Instead, the way forward lies in adhering to strict ethical standards, cultivating excellence, rejecting mediocrity, and nurturing a spirit of inquiry and intellectual excitement. Published in Dawn on 21st November 2015. Read the Urdu translation here.
Interview: Pervez Hoodbhoy
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy speaks with Muhammad Akbar Notezai on liberalism, religious freedom, and extremism in Pakistan. Published in The Diplomat on 5th November 2015.
Win Pak-India nuke war? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
More likely is that in the heat of the moment, reckless passions will rage and caution will take a backseat. A tit-for-tat exchange could continue until every single weapon, small and large, is used up on either side. It is difficult to imagine how any war termination mechanism could work even if, by some miracle, the nuclear command and control centres remain intact. At the end both India and Pakistan would win, having taught the other a terrible lesson. But neither would remain habitable. Published in Dawn on 31st October 2015.
Pervez Hoodbhoy’s Response To LUMS
LUMS has officially responded (Oct 24) to my article of Oct 2 with two assertions, both of which are wrong, needlessly personal, and indicative of the strong anti-science and anti-intellectual currents within that university. Published in Dawn on 27th October 2015.
پاکستان کی یونیورسٹیوں پر جنات کا حملہ (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
پاکستان کے تعلیمی اداروں کو روشن خیالی کا منبع ہونا چاہیے۔کھلے ذہن کے ساتھ نئی سوچ کو جگہ دینی چاہیے۔ نہیں تو یہ جانوروں کا باڑہ بن کر رہ جائیں گے۔ ذہنی طور پر سست اور نالائق پروفیسروں کی فوج کو ایسے طالب علموں کی ضرورت ہوتی ہے جو ان کی ہر بات پر سوال اٹھانے یا چیلنج کرنے کی بجائے اس پر سر تسلیم خم کریں ۔ وہ یہ جانتے ہیں کہ مافوق الفطرت اور خیالی واقعات سنا کر 20 سے 25 سال کے نوجوانوں کو موت کا خوف دلا کرڈرایا جا سکتا ہے۔
Jinns Invade Campuses (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan’s universities should have been beacons of enlightenment, open inquiry, and bold new thinking. Instead they are sheep farms. A legion of intellectually lazy and ignorant professors wants a breed of students who will submit to authority, not question or challenge. Published in Dawn on 10th October 2015.
پاکستان کا ڈونلڈ ٹرمپ (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
عقیدت کی حد تک حمایت کرنے والے لوگوں کو جارح رہنما پسند ہوتے ہیں۔ ٹرمپ، جنہیں امریکی تاریخ کا کھردرا ترین سیاستدان کہا جاتا ہے، نوکیلے اور ہتک آمیز الفاظ کا استعمال کرتے ہیں جبکہ عمران خان بھی ایسے ہی اپنا بلا گھماتے ہیں۔
Pakistan’s Donald Trump (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Made of the same stuff but packaged differently, the Trump-Khan duo has thrilled racial and religious extremists. The former leader of the Klu Klux Klan, David Duke, declared that of all presidential candidates, Trump is “the best of the lot”. Khan received still greater appreciation. He was nominated by the TTP as their representative to last year’s (cancelled) peace talks, the reward for leading massive “peace” marches protesting American drones. Resolutely refusing to condemn any Taliban atrocity, Khan would seek to shift the blame on the US. Published in Dawn on 19th September 2015.
Is Third Largest Large Enough? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
In the present climate of a tribal blood feud between two nuclear-armed neighbors, vision and judgement have been severely impaired. Since 1998 we have pretended to be two responsible nuclear states. But calling off talks and hurling accusations (as well as artillery shells) exposes this myth. Meanwhile, those who stand to gain more power and influence from nuclear expansion are multiplying in numbers. It is hard to imagine what can restore sanity. Published in Dawn on 29th August 2015.
Review of “Eqbal Ahmad: Critical Outsider and Witness in a Turbulent Age” by Stuart Schaar (Hafsa Khawaja)
Although I became acquainted with his life and work long after his demise, his intellectual honesty, courage and brilliance has taught me to think, to learn and to question; inspiring me never to dim the dream of a progressive and peaceful Pakistan and world; to stay true to the pursuit of this vision. Written by Hafsa Khawaja.
Some Thoughts on the Discovery of Earth’s Bigger, Older Cousin (Salman Hameed)
Kepler 452b is a great candidate for life. But hold the celebrations. Astronomers estimate that 10% of stars in our galaxy host Earth-sized planets that may exist in the habitable zone. In a galaxy of 200 billion stars, that leaves us with 20 billion potentially habitable planets!
Herd Mentality in Politics (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
It is not easy to resist group conformity anywhere in the world. Our desire to somehow fit in moulds attitudes. We value social acceptance, seek assimilation, and fear rejection of our views. In fact the smaller a minority, the more it hesitates to express a contrary opinion. In repressive societies the penalties for not conforming can be severe, even death. Published in Dawn on 8th August 2015.
Math in Our Madressahs? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Unless horizons are broadened by including secular subjects, madressahs will remain a perennial danger. Published in Dawn on 18th July 2015.
Weather Change: A Conspiracy? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan’s weather is getting more extreme, less predictable. Concomitantly there is rising temptation to put the onus upon some human agency. Unsurprisingly, sinister and malign forces bent upon reshaping this country’s climatic pattern are being conjured up. But how well can they survive scientific scrutiny? Published in Dawn on 27th June 2015.
Why Pakistan Needs a Carl Sagan (Muhammad Ahmad Tirmazi)
Pakistan is blessed with countless young and intelligent people. Intelligence, however, in spite of popular belief, is not a requirement for being a scientist. There is just one requirement for being a true scientist, and sadly, most young minds in this country seem to lack it: curiosity.
The Pervaiz Rasheed Affair (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
When Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed spoke at the Karachi Arts Council on May 3, he stated the self-evident. Without explicitly naming madressahs, he said large numbers of factories mass-produce ignorance in Pakistan through propagating “murda fikr” (dead knowledge). Published in Dawn on 6th June 2015.
فقیر سائیں کا شعری کلام
یہ ایک ایسے شاعر کا مجموعہ کلام ھے جو اپنے آپ کو گم نام رکھنا چاھتا ھے۔ اس نے اپنا شاعرانہ نام فقیر سائیں رکھا ھے اور اسی نام سے اپنا تعارف کرانا چاھتا ھے۔
The Intellectual’s Intellectual (Kabir Babar)
Kabir Babar reviews Stuart Schaar’s new biography of the late Eqbal Ahmad. Published in The Friday Times on 22nd May 2015.
War to Mould Minds (Dr. A.H. Nayyar)
The coercion worked. Fearing for her life, Dr Bernadette Dean, an eminent Pakistani educationist and one of the 12 members of the Government of Sindh’s advisory committee on school curricula reform, has fled the country. She is a victim of a decades-long effort by religious extremists to control our education system. Published in Dawn on 17th May 2015.
More Lethal Than RAW (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Imagine that an enemy has perfected a super weapon that destroys reasoning power. Published in Dawn on 16th May 2015.
Eqbal Ahmed: A memoir of Munno Chacha (Vaqar Ahmed)
“Eqbal’s nick name was “Munno” (a small boy), an unlikely name for a larger than life figure. But, I think it was very appropriate as he was a very humble man who wore his brilliance very lightly.” A tribute to Eqbal Ahmad by Vaqar Ahmed published in Dawn on 14th May 2015.
Smokers’ Corner: Eqbal Ahmed: the Astute Alarmist (Nadeem F. Paracha)
A tribute to Eqbal Ahmad by Nadeem F. Paracha published in Dawn on 3rd May 2015.
Let Saudi Arabia Fume (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan must stand firm behind its parliament’s decision. Let the Saudis fume. We must not fight their war. They cannot afford to retaliate too harshly. But even if they do inflict some pain on Pakistan, it will be limited and we will emerge stronger at the end. Published in Dawn on 25th April 2015.
پاکستان، سعودی عرب کا ناگزیر ایٹمی پارٹنر (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
حال ھی میں پاکستان کی پارلیمان نے سعودی عرب کے تحفظ کے عزم کا اعادہ کرنے کے باوجود یہ قرارداد منظور کی کہ وہ یمن میں حوثی باغیوں سے لڑنے کے لئے سعودی عرب کی قیادت میں بنائے گئے بلاک میں شامل نہیں ھوگا۔ بیشتر پاکستانی ملک میں طالبان شورش کی وجہ سے قوت کھو چکے ھیں، اس لئے وہ ملک سے باھر ایک ایسے دشمن سے لڑنے کی مخالفت کر رھے ھیں، جس کا نام تک وہ پہلی بار سن رھے ھیں۔
Pakistan, the Saudis’ Indispensable Nuclear Partner (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
The Pakistani Parliament, even while stating its commitment to protect the territory of Saudi Arabia, recently adopted a resolution not to join the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Many Pakistanis are worn out by the Taliban insurgency at home and oppose intervention abroad, especially to fight an enemy whose name they are hearing for the first time and risk worsening relations with its backer, Iran. Published in International New York Times on 21th April 2015.
Saudi-Israeli anti-Iran nexus (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
A WAR-TORN world heaved a sigh of relief on Thursday night after success was declared at the Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland. Months of tortuous negotiations have ended for now, while a fuller agreement is to be finalised by the end of June. This is huge cause for celebration — peace has been given a chance. Published in Dawn on 4th April 2015.
The Sin and the Error (Dr. Ravi Sinha)
Future historians of India may well describe the past year as a year of political sin. This was the year in which the man who had earlier presided over the Gujarat Carnage was awarded the ultimate prize. The year saw an election that touched a new low marked by shallowness, vulgarities and lies – in no small measure by the labors of the man himself. Equally appalling have been the exertions of a large class of literati and glitterati to portray philistinism and inanities spouted by the most powerful mouth as wisdom of a visionary leader.
Saudi Academics Must Speak up for the Freedom to Dissent (John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry)
We write out of concern that the fabric of international co-operation may be torn apart by dismay at the severe restrictions on freedom of thought and expression still being applied to Saudi Arabian society. We have no doubt that members of KAUST share that concern, aware that the cruel sentence passed, for example, on Mr. Raif Badawi, who established a forum for open discussion, sent a shock around the world. We take real hope from the fact that the government of Saudi Arabia, responding to international outcry, is re-considering that sentence.
Let’s Go Nuclear — Safely (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistan must indeed look towards nuclear energy, but only of the fusion kind. Cheaper by the day, small decentralised solar and wind units offer the best option for households. This will greatly decrease the pressure on gas, oil, and hydro generation and release energy for industry. Instead of chasing outmoded and dangerous 20th-century technology, it is time for us to follow the world into a cleaner, safer 21st century. Published in Dawn on 14th March 2015.
Healing Our Sectarian Divide (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
More razor wire, guards, and gun licences cannot assure the safety of Pakistani citizens. Whether Sunni, Shia, Christian, Hindu, or Ahmadi, they all live in fear. Real protection can come only by educating Pakistan’s upcoming generations that all faiths are entitled to equal respect, moving firmly and equally against all militant groups, and giving every Pakistani citizen exactly the same legal rights and privileges as any other. Published in Dawn on 21st February 2015.
If a Pakistani Went to Mars (Salman Hameed)
Reginald Foulds is ready to go on a one-way trip to Mars. His dream may be a step closer as he is amongst the final 100 candidates chosen by Mars One, a private organisation that is planning on sending humans to Mars by 2025.
Scientists Depend on the Power of Reason (John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry)
Damage to science today stems from demand by policy-makers that outcomes of scientific research be evident in advance of the research being performed.
Obama’s N-mission to India (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Wholly missed by Pakistani commentators was the positive part of Obama’s promise: he offered American assistance to help meet India’s goal of having solar capacity of 100,000 MW by the year 2022. This is 45 times the electrical capacity of the two Karachi nuclear reactors! If India can build this much solar capacity in a few years, why can’t Pakistan? Published in Dawn on 31st January 2015.
Notes on South Asia in crisis (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)
Here we publish a letter and an excerpt of an article. The letter was sent by four West Pakistani academicians in protest of West Pakistan’s brutal attack on East Pakistan in 1971. It was published in The New York Times on April 10, 1971. The article was written by the famous West Pakistani scholar Eqbal Ahmad. It was first published in Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (Vol 4, No.1: Winter 1972). He was conferred the “Friends of Liberation War Honour” by Bangladesh in 2013.
Mosque versus State (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
A crisis is said to be a terrible thing to waste. Before the horror of the Peshawar atrocity fades from our collective memory let the state act decisively — albeit in small steps — to restore its right to regulate religious activities within its boundaries. Else the people of Pakistan shall continue to suffer terribly. Published in Dawn on 10th January 2015.
Impossible Lessons (Dr. Ravi Sinha)
It might appear as if we are back to the affair of impossible lessons. Are we going to elect a new people, as Brecht is supposed to have said somewhere? Are we going to conjure up a new way of life and rewire the social brain so as to give rise to a new civilization? If the haystack is ever ready to catch fire, what can we do other than making sure that no one
throws a matchstick into it? Any lesson about religion or about the make-up of a civilization is not likely to be of any real use.
It Wasn’t the Final Atrocity (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
The gut-wrenching massacre in Peshawar’s Army Public School has left Pakistan aghast and sickened. All political leaders have called for unity against terrorism. But this is no watershed event that can bridge the deep divides within. In another few days this episode of 134 dead children will become one like any other. Published in Dawn on 20th December 2014.
یونیورسٹیز کو کیسے پرکھا جائے (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
پچھلے ہفتے اخبارات کی شہہ سرخیاں کافی خوش آئند تھیں۔ ‘ایک پاکستانی یونیورسٹی کو یو ایس نیوز اینڈ ورلڈ رپورٹ نے دنیا کی 500 بہترین یونیورسٹیوں کی فہرست میں شامل کرلیا ہے’۔ بھلے ہی قائد اعظم یونیورسٹی اسلام آباد نے پڑوسی ممالک ایران اور ہندوستان کی 10 دیگر یونیورسٹیوں سے نیچے 496 ویں پوزیشن حاصل کی ہے، لیکن اس کے باوجود یہ ایک اچھی خبر ہے۔ کیا واقعی ہم ہماری اعلیٰ تعلیم کے گرے ہوئے معیار سے اوپر اٹھنے لگے ہیں۔
Misjudging Universities (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
The headlines earlier this week were celebratory: a Pakistani university has been included in the “500 Best Global Universities” by the US News and World Report. Although Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad occupied only the 496th place — well below 10 other universities from neighbouring India and Iran — this is welcome news. Have we actually zoomed up and away from the rock-bottom standards of our higher education? Published in Dawn on 29th November 2015.
سائنس کلچر کی غیر موجودگی (Zubeida Mustafa)
ایک ایسا معاشرہ جہاں سائنس کلچر پایا جاتا ہے، وہاں عقلی بنیادوں پر سوچنے کی قابلیت میں اضافہ ہوتا ہے، جو کہ تمام سائنس کی بنیاد ہے۔ سائنس کلچر کے لیے ہر کسی کا سائنسدان ہونا ضروری نہیں ہے، لیکن ہاں یہ ضروری ہے کہ لوگوں میں فزیکل اور سوسشل سائنس کے لیے قدر ہو، اور وہ شخصی ترقی اور بڑھوتری میں اس کے کردار سے واقف ہوں۔
No Science Culture (Zubeida Mustafa)
A society that has a science culture has characteristics which are essential for the growth and development of rational thinking, the basis of all sciences. One doesn’t necessarily have to be a scientist to enable a science culture to take root. But it is important that the people should have respect for science — physical and social — and recognise its role in their personal growth. Published in Dawn on 29th October 2015.
بے عقلی میں اضافہ (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
ایک بار جب شواہد غیرمتعلق ہوجائیں تو ہر چیز ممکن ہوجاتی ہے، بے ڈھنگے نتائج، عام فہم پر حملے عام ہوگئے ہیں۔
The Rise of Unreason (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Once evidence becomes irrelevant, everything becomes possible. With only preformed notions as guide, outlandish conclusions, offensive to common sense, are frequent. The progress of science may suffer, but society and individuals take the brunt. Published in Dawn on 8th November 2014.
Why Does Malala Yusufzai’s Nobel Bother so Many on the Left? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
I have no expectations from the millions of my conspiracy obsessed fellow Pakistanis. But have Malala’s left-wing detractors – including those who I have long respected for their outspokenness in opposing multiple forms of oppression and imperialist wars – ever really bothered to know why she was shot? Published by TelesurTV on 5th November 2014.
مریخ پر کیسے پہنچا جائے؟ (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
اگر ہندوستان مریخ پر پہنچ سکتا ہے، تو پاکستان بھی پہنچ سکتا ہے، لیکن اس کے لیے پاکستان کو کئی مشکل کام کرنے ہوں گے۔
Sending Pakistan to Mars (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Pakistanis may well ask: can we do it too? What will it take? Seen in the proper spirit, India’s foray into the solar system could be Pakistan’s sputnik moment — an opportunity to reflect upon what’s important. Published in Dawn on 18th October 2014.
How TV Dupes Our Public (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Ratings-hungry TV channels eventually brought catastrophe to Pakistan. Their popular anchors gave space and sympathy to murderers and terrorists, and broadcast every lie, rumour, and idiocy that could sell. Published in Dawn on 27th September 2014.
Of Money-in-the-Blood and Blood-Money (Dr. Ravi Sinha)
It can be asked, perhaps more meaningfully, if great civilizations are created by money-in-the-blood types and one may wonder if Gujarati greats such as Narsi Mehta, Narmad, Govardhan Ram or Gandhi, too, had money flowing in their blood.
Siege of Islamabad: What Next? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Thousands of fanatical followers, led by the cleric-cricketer combination of Tahirul Qadri and Imran Khan, hold Islamabad hostage. A year ago such a possibility seemed remote. What of the future? In the years ahead, this pair may become irrelevant. Published in Dawn on 6th September 2014.
South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Shabbir Hasan Khan (1898-1982) of Malihabad, known by his nom de plume as Josh Malihabadi, belongs to the pantheon of Urdu poets alongside giants like Ghalib, Iqbal, and Faiz. Yet Josh was not a particularly popular poet in his native land, India. For reasons that are not entirely clear, a decade after Partition – against the advice of his friend Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru – he chose to migrate to Pakistan. But Pakistan, where he lived his final years, turned out to be even less enamored with him.
Taaqat Ka Saraab (Dr. A.H. Nayyar)
جنوبی ایشیامیں ایٹم بم: دفاعی فوائد اور مضمر خطرات کے سائنسی تجزیات
Human Psyche: Soul or Mind (Dr. Khalid Sohail)
There was a time in history when human psyche was believed to be a soul. In the last few centuries, there has been a third model that is becoming more popular in the world. It is the secular model. Followers of such model call psyche, mind, not soul.
Seven Reasons to Kill (Dr. Khalid Sohail)
“Man is the only species that is a mass murderer, the only misfit in his own society. Why should this be so?” (N. Tribergen)
Science, Religion and the Building of Scientific Culture in Pakistan (Dr. Salman Hameed)
Science seeks answers about how the universe works. Religion provides inspiration to explore the natural world. The late American biologist Stephen J Gould called science and religion as two equal but separate spheres of life, or Non-overlapping Magisteria in his own words. The former deals with the physical world and the latter with the questions of ethics and the meaning of life. The building blocks of a scientific culture in Pakistan will have to be laid upon this mutual respect and separation of these two vital spheres of life.
Religious Persecution in Pakistan (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
Blaise Pascal, the famous 17th century philosopher and mathematician, observed that “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction.” Published in Viewpoint online on 13th March 2014.
A Recipe to Create Gold in Space: Collide Two Dead Stars (Dr. Salman Hameed)
By the time our Solar system was born, many such collisions had enriched our Galaxy with gold (and other elements). The gas cloud that formed the Sun and the Earth already contained these elements. Some of this gold became part of the Earth. Four and a half billion years later, this rare element caught the attention of bipedal species and it became an object of desire and envy.
نیوکلیئر کراچی (Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian, A.H. Nayyar)
کراچی میں دو بڑے نیوکلیئر پاور پلانٹس کی سائٹ پر کام شروع کردیا گیا ہے- ان دونوں ری ایکٹروں میں سے ہر ایک کی پیداواری صلاحیت پاکستان میں موجودہ تمام نیوکلیئر پاور اسٹیشنوں کی مجموعی پیداوار سے زیادہ ہوگی- یہ پاکستان کے اب تک کے نیوکلیئر پاور اسٹیشنوں میں سب سے بڑا پروجیکٹ ہوگا- اس لئے چند بنیادی سوالات پوچھنے کیلئے ابھی زیادہ دیر نہیں ہوئی ہے تاکہ لوگوں کو، خصوصاً کراچی میں رہنے والوں کو پتہ چلے کہ کیا ہونے والا ہے-
The Nuclear Shadow Over Karachi (Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian, A.H. Nayyar)
A debate has started about the wisdom of building two large Chinese-supplied nuclear reactors in Karachi. The fundamental concern is that the nearly 20 million people living in Karachi—about one out of every 10 Pakistanis—could be at risk from these reactors. Published in Newsweek Pakistan on 22nd March 2014.
Jamil Omar – Indomitable Fighter – Rest in Peace (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
It was late 1979 – or maybe early 1980 – when I first met Jamil Omar. You could right away see that he was someone unusual. With intense, sparkling eyes and a determined chin, this young man had just returned from Romania and joined Quaid-e-Azam University as a junior lecturer in the computer science department. Published in daily Times on 21st March 2014.