Quality research continues despite covid-19 pandemic
By Afzal Hussain Bokhari
The early winter chill had descended on KP’s scenic southern district of Mansehra. Dressed in warm clothes, a group of professors converged on the quiet Hazara University. Taking precautions against the covid-19 pandemic the selected, mask-wearing university professors arrived to attend a couple of high-profile literary events. Two research scholars were expected to get their PhD degrees approved after clearing the defence ceremonies. With stiff upper-lips the learned examiners took their seats, showing traditional seriousness. With every passing moment, the heart-beat, blood pressure and pulse of the research scholars increased. They were themselves senior professors attached to privileged institutions, but on such occasions they inwardly feel like being nervous students. Both the research scholars – Professor Aamir Sohail, Head of Urdu Department (HOD) and Professor Adil Saeed Qureshi of the same department – happen to be attached to Urdu Department of the Abbottabad Public School and College. Adil Qureshi submitted his thesis to Dr Yusuf Khushk, when he was in Khairpur University of Sindh. Later, he took over as director of Pakistan Academy of Letters, Islamabad. The topic of Aamir Sohail’s thesis was “The stylistic analysis of Qurratulain Hyder’s novels”. In Urdu it was titled: “Qurratulain Haider ki novel nigari: usloobiati mutala”. Dr Altaf Yusufzai, and Dr Nazar Abid of Hazara University acted respectively as the supervisor and the co-supervisor. His external examiners included Dr Abdur Rab Ustad, Head of Urdu and Persian Departments of Gulbarga University in India and Dr Arzu Soren of Istanbul University in Turkey. His internal examiner was Dr Robina Shaheen, who remained Chairperson of Peshawar University’s Urdu Department up to October 2020. Naturally, Aamir Sohail’s thesis went to Dr Robina Shaheen for assessment. It may not be out of place to mention here that Dr Altaf Yusufzai also remained Dr Robina’s student with regard to his work on Mushtaq Yusufi. For Aamir’s defence ceremony, Dr Khalid Nadeem, HOD of Urdu Department in Sargodha University was called in as a ‘blind reviewer’, who asked on-the-spot questions, which Aamir Sohail did not know or expect beforehand. During the research he covered four main areas: phonetics, morphology, syntax and semantics. Textual analysis and applied linguistics were the main research tools. According to Aamir Sohail, this type of research had never before appeared in any university of Pakistan. For the record of future research scholars the defence ceremony was held on sixth of November. According to the shrewd assessment of Dr Robina, Aamir Sohail had done full justice to his research work. She said that Aamir had encompassed the topic of Annie Apa’s diction on a technical and scientific basis. Out of sheer love, the admirers of Qurratulain called her Annie Apa. When asked if Dr Gopichand Narang’s book on Annie Apa was not the final word, Dr Robina said that Dr Narang was in the habit of piling up expansive wordage, thus creating more confusion than clarity. She said that far better work on Annie Apa was done by Mirza Khalil Ahmad Beg, Head of the Linguistics Department, Aligarh Muslim University in India. Prominent academics narrated how the higher seats of learning had been serving the cause of the national language. However, the narrative of Dr Robina sounded more optimistic than others. She said that full-fledged Urdu Departments were functioning in the privately-managed Qurtuba University and Sarhad University. In the public sector, Peshawar University, Islamia College University, Hazara University and Swabi University were doing their best to promote Urdu language and literature. In a statement, Aamir Sohail thanked all those who helped him acquire the PhD degree. These included Dr Mohammad Sufiyan Safi and Syed Majid Shah. The death of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth of Peshawar High Court (PHC) came as a shock for the community of jurists across the country. He was said to have been suffering from Covid-19 pandemic. He remained admitted to the privately-managed Kulsum International Hospital in Islamabad, where he breathed his last on the night of November 12. He was laid to rest in Peshawar City’s Sarki area, which was also the last resting place of his mother. Originally from the southern district of Dera Ismail Khan, the 59-year-old senior judge was of a different temperament. Expressing his sense of shock and grief, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Abdul Lateef Afridi, said that the nation had lost an outspoken and dauntless judge, who never compromised on norms of justice. Justice Seth shot to prominence after his judgments in the cases of BRT, military court sentences and, last but not least, the Musharraf high treason case. In place of late Justice Seth, the government announced that Justice Qaiser Rasheed would act as the interim Chief Justice of PHC until the appointment of a permanent Chief Justice. The acting PHC CJ belongs to the village Thana of Malakand Division. Everything does not seem to be fine with the Islamia College University (ICU). The good name that Peshawar’s historical Islamia College earned over the years now appears to be on its way out. Every new day has brought bad news, after the government upgraded it to the university level. On November 11, it hummed with some disturbing activity. From the Ahmad Faraz Block to Vice-Chancellor’s office, the female students staged a protest rally. A number of girl students from the city's other universities showed solidarity with ICU girls by joining the protest demonstration. The protesters told media persons that cases of sexual harassment of girl students were on the rise. They said that they were taking part in the rally collectively so that they should not be identified and victimised. They named some teachers and male students who allegedly harassed them. The students said that they felt anxious and insecure at the state of affairs. They said that the ICU administration tended to look the other way. Vice-president of the Islamia Law Fraternity, Maimoona Khan, said that girls felt compelled to organise a walk or rally. She said that the anti-harassment committee of ICU had become dysfunctional. She further said that the ICU administration had failed to take action against the harassers. When contacted, Registrar of the University, Dr Abrar, confirmed that the parents of a student visited his office last week and verbally lodged a complaint against the head of a department. On his request the parents lodged the complaint in writing so that further proceedings could begin from November 11. He said that the administration would also probe the motives behind the rally, which was taken out without ICU’s permission. He said that some elements might be having ulterior motives to defame faculty members. As an exercise in crisis management, the provincial government swung into action. In his capacity as being the ex officio Chancellor of all KP universities, Governor Shah Farman, later ordered the Governor’s Inspection Team to conduct an inquiry into the harassment cases and submit a report within two days. It may be recalled that, on account of some reported irregularities, the governor, in a notification on October 27, had sent the Pro-Vice Chancellor of ICU, Dr Naushad Khan, on a compulsory leave for three months. After that, the VC of Agriculture University was given the additional charge of overseeing the ICU matters. It is very nearly impossible for a human being to single-handedly supervise the affairs of two full-fledged universities. Administrative chaos can trigger all sorts of blunders and scandals with alarming implications. The affected girl students are caught up in a painful dilemma. Their entire university education is at stake. If they report the cases at home, the parents can feel helpless. They may advise their daughters to discontinue the studies and stay indoors. The only choice left for the harassed female students is to end up as nervous wrecks and begin taking antidepressants. If seen in a larger perspective, the dropout rate of girls after primary school is shamefully high in the country. With every passing day, the hurdles are increasing in the way of girls aspiring to attain higher education. For brainy girls, ambition to do their Master’s, MPhil, PhD or Postdoctoral is already like the proverbial forbidden tree. This is done on the basis of flimsy social, cultural and other grounds. If we continue to forcibly keep out 51 per cent of the population, the progress which the country makes will be hugely lop-sided. ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������