KARACHI: Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani on Monday called for ‘academic freedom’ and reinforcement of intellectual discourse in the country where parliament should also benefit from the intellect of varsity scholars.

It would offer better prospects and bright future for Pakistan and help the parliament come about with ‘reality-based’ solutions to all sorts of challenges Pakistan faced, he said while speaking as the chief guest at the opening session of the Sindh-Hainan Universities Forum under China-Pakistan Partnership organised by the Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU) at Hotel Marriott.

With the advent of the three-day forum, affiliation of the SMIU with four universities in Hainan was formally announced.

According to the agreement, the universities would offer admission to the two countries, and SMIU initially will send its 20 students to China for a short period.

Three-day Sindh-Hainan Universities Forum opens; SMIU’s affiliation with four Chinese varsities announced

Mr Rabbani said dominant bourgeois stopped debate in universities and colleges to perpetuate their rule, which should be restored.

There should be a link between the universities and the parliament as being practised elsewhere in the world, which would help parliamentarians to act under the guidance and advice of scholars, said the senate chairman.

He said the senate had signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) with eight leading universities of Pakistan, under which the latter would send interns to the upper house. In fact, he added, some of those interns were already working in the senate.

Similarly, Mr Rabbani said, an MoU had been signed with the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi, under which it would provide intellectual pool to the Senate to help members and standing committees devising concrete and reality-based opinions.

He said it was high time to ensure autonomy of universities as they were the only forums that could help exposing best Pakistani talent to the world and make the country one of the leading academic nations in the world.

The Senate chairman said collaboration between the universities of Sindh and Chinese province of Hainan was a ‘healthy departure’ by Pakistan from the old policy of looking towards educational institutions in Europe and United States, and that ‘education corridor’ would play a role in forging unity among the nations in Asia.

Speaking about the historical background of the Sino-Pakistan relationship, he said former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto struck up an everlasting friendship with former chairman of the communist party of China Mao Zedong.

“We, the people of Asia, share many things in common in our rich history and tremendous future, and initiatives like this will help us a long way to fashion inseparable Asian unity,” said Mr Rabbani.

He said Sindh and Hainan had many things in common from geography and history to the fact that both communism in the Chinese province and Sufism in the Sindh province fought against autocracy. “This education corridor launched by the two provinces of the sisterly nations will bring prosperity for both the countries and create economic fortunes that will benefit the generations to come,” said the senate chairman.

He said China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would cement relationship between the two countries and improve Pakistan’s ability to defend its soil more efficiently.

Earlier, Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh traced back the civilisational past of Pakistan and China, which was as ancient as 5000 years. He said both the countries had strong trade relations for millennia. He said universities were leading the world and effective engines that offered advancements to the world.

He said formal contact between the universities of the two countries materialised last year when a Chinese delegation visited Sindh and was reciprocated by a Pakistani delegation headed by him to China.

He said the vice chancellors of 13 universities of Sindh were taking part in the conference, which would provide opportunity to them to have direct contact with 10 Chinese delegates from four universities of Hainan and strengthen the relationship further.

Acting consul general of the Chinese mission in Karachi, Mu Yong Ceng, hoped that the forum would open up new avenues in the field of education.

Prof Lu Dan, president of Sanya University, said cooperation between the two provinces in the field of education was the only way to gain prosperity for which he gave example of China’s development that it achieved in one-third time compared to what other nations took.

Later, various cultural and educational initiatives which the two countries took in past decades were discussed in a technical session, presided over by Abdul Qadeer Rajput, chairman of the Charter Inspection and Evaluation Committee. The audience was informed that Confucius institutes had been established in the University of Karachi, National University of Modern Languages (NUML) and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Across the border in China, Pakistan Study Centres had been established in four of its universities.

On educational landscape in Sindh and Hainan, chaired by Iqbal Hussain Durrani, secretary to chief minister for universities and boards, experts said there were huge prospects of mutual cooperation in the field of education for both the countries.

Qing Zhijun of Hainan Normal University said it was great time for Hainan and Sindh to go for mutual learning through a sustainable partnership.

Discussing dual degree programmes in the final session of the day, heads of various universities and functionaries of the governments of the two countries mulled over prospects of the idea and mechanisms for quality assurance.

Dr Akhtar Baloch, vice chancellor of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University, Lyari, said Sindh suffered huge deficiency of PhD faculty members, thus, such split programme be more research oriented to get the desired benefit from it.

Xuebing Ling of Hainan University said Pakistani students would have greater prospects in China.

Justice (retired) Syed Deedar Hussain Shah and MNA Ghous Bux Maher, members of the SMIU syndicate, also spoke.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2016