By Aabid Hussain
No doubt, educational institutions turn out to be the incubators of revolutionaries and revolutions. Great institutions produce great minds with great ideas and lofty motives. To name a few, some pre-partition institutes like Aligarh University in India, Islamia College in Peshawar, University of the Punjab and Government College University in Lahore have garlanded many pearls to the political and literary history of Pakistan. The picture galleries of these universities are a big source of inspiration for all epistemophiles and philosophiles. Every nation pins its hopes in its wisdom centers. Unfortunately, KIU, the only institution of Gilgit Baltistan is lagging behind in this revolutionary role due to a plethora of internal and external challenges. The annual clash among students on the pretext of some religious festivals speaks in volumes in this regard. The moral bankruptcy of the policy makers has added insult to the injury.
The Karakoram International University Gilgit Baltistan is the only university of GB which is our sole centre of knowledge and wisdom. Though, it is in its embryonic stages, its campuses are proliferating throughout the region, almost in all districts now, more rapidly as compared to any of the above mentioned old universities of Pakistan. I believe KIU, which is my Alma Mater, is a treasure holding the most beautiful minds of GB. I feel proud for being part of this glorious veracity as a student and a Visiting Faculty in the Department of Modern Languages. It is a fort to me as it shelters me from the nefarious winds of ignorance. It is a home to me as it protects me from the evil designs of the society outside and it cradles me gently with the sweet lullabies of wisdom and knowledge. But my heart bleeds when I see my Alma Mater suffering in the hands of its own people who are fed by it. Much to my chagrin, these responsible authorities of the university have dragged it into shambles to meet their personal whims. Beginning with the expeditious proliferation of its campuses, it may be a good omen for some of my more optimistic friends. But for me, it is an abortive and sinister attempt to clip its wings as it has miles to fly. These immature peripheries may be a source of employment for some lapdogs but only at the cost of the Main Campus. This proliferation poses a number of threats to the whole region.
Firstly, instead of strengthening, invigorating and developing the capacity of the Main Campus, the educated but naïve KIU administration is hand in gloves with the uneducated provincial and federal governments in launching sub-campuses in every district of GB. The Main Campus is still in shambles and its education standard is at its lowest ebb which can be easily analyzed by surveying the number of KIU graduates succeeding in getting admissions in some top ranking government universities of Pakistan. Above all, in some of these universities, the degree of KIU is disliked for a number of reasons. As a result, our students either go for private universities which are generally termed as haftawar universities in Pakistan or they have to join a low profile government or semi-government university in Pakistan. It strangulates the intellectual potentials of our students which is a grave problem for the whole nation.
Secondly, the proliferation of these peripheries has an intensely polarizing impact. It not only weakens the main campus by dividing the attention of the authorities, it also divides our students along sectarian and cultural lines. In the very near future, each of these campuses will represent a particular color and creed which in turn will widen the sectarian gulf in the region.
Thirdly, the separation of different parts of GB will weaken the already fragile national fabric of the region. The students will not be able to play their role outside their self-defined caves. Moral and intellectual servitude will be its immediate outcome. Fourthly, these separate campuses will be used as laborites and breeding grounds for particular ideologies dominant in that particular region. Also some dishonest people will use them as their power banks. Fifthly, it is a glaring example of the denunciation of diversity. If we, the students of KIU, cannot travel within this small territory of 72,000 km2, how can we think of travelling to other parts of the world in search of education? Similarly, if we cannot accept each other with some baseless slight differences piloted by some hidden obnoxious forces, how can we accept the diversified world of today? If we don’t change our path, our generations will remember us in the same words the Americans will remember their myopic president John Donald Trump in future.
Besides, this so called education and progress has done little to break down the antediluvian notions of faiths, sects, ethnicities and colors as it build walls instead of bridges. This lackadaisical approach of our educational doyens is apparent on the main campus as well. As I have already mentioned that I have an emotional as well as an intellectual attachment with the Department of Modern Languages and its enlightened faculty. Sorrowfully, a recent meeting with some graduates of Modern Languages gave me an electric shock. I found in them some incurable germs of extremism and moral turpitude as they were sympathizers of some anti state actors like Abdul Aziz, the cleric of the Red Mosque in the federal capital. Though they were students of English Literature, their ideas and ideologies landed them in the row of some short sighted students brainwashed in a seminary by a blind extremist cleric. Their irrationality, even after spending four years at KIU learning English Literature, raised questions not only about their mindsets but also about the irrationality of our whole curricular system.
In a nut shell, the predicaments of KIU are numerous. It is direly needed to thoroughly overhaul the education system of our university in order to meet the modern challenges. Instead of opening new campuses, the already established Main Campus should be well equipped with modern facilities of education in general and research in particular. Students should be given an enlightened and democratic environment of research which must be free of prejudices of all kind. Social Sciences should be given a special importance to produce free thinkers. To my own department, it should focus on Modern Literature rather than sticking to the field of Linguistics only. Similarly, students should be introduced with writers like Manto and Pinter rather than just teaching them Naseem Hijazi and Umaira Ahmed. Literature must be taught in its true sense so that it would be able to mould the venomous hearts and minds into beautiful and enlightened hearts and minds. Last but not the least, a teacher’s role can never be denied. Within the sacred space of classroom, not only does a teacher has the power to transform lives but also saves them. Students should be prepared to raise questions rather than just giving answers in a more democratic fashion. We should live up with the fact that KIU is all we have now. We have to work day and night for its real progress what may come. It is the harbinger of peace, prosperity and light of knowledge in the region.
The contributor is an Independent Scholar of M.Phil English Literature at GCU Lahore. Email: email@example.com