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KARACHI, Dec 1: “We may be losing the battle of enlightening our society through social science but it is a battle that we still have to fight,” said historian Dr Mubarak Ali at an international conference on ‘Social Sciences in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities’ organised by Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist) here on Saturday.

“Education and knowledge are our tools to bring about a change in society,” he observed while moving on to show the faults in these tools and how they came about.“History as you know it has two sides to it — fictionalised history and real history. The novels of Nasim Hijazi are an example of fictionalised history. But it is not until you understand the second kind that you can bring about a change in society,” the historian said.

“And as one needs specialisation to make headway in any field, the same is the case for historians. But do our universities produce professional historians? It certainly doesn’t seem so,” Dr Ali regretted.

“Our teachers of history here do not even have the necessary tools to research history like knowing Arabic or Persian. How do they then research their subjects if they can’t even go through the old texts that are mostly available in Persian?

“Then we also don’t have any organisation or congress of historians here unlike in India where they can meet to discuss new research. There are no regular sessions or debates on the aspects of history either. In this situation when someone wants the history of Pakistan penned, you don’t even have properly educated professional historians to do that. So you have generals writing history making us follow their point of view,” he observed.

“History for us is just looking into what happened during Partition and what happened after it. Meanwhile we are dangling between Jinnah’s Pakistan and Ziaul Haq’s Pakistan. Doing that we are also wondering if we need a new ideology other than Iqbal’s,” he continued.

“It’s about time we left Jinnah in the past and thought of creating the Pakistan that we wanted. He is gone but we are alive and here and now. Society is not stagnant, it moves on,” he urged.

The dilemma and crisis of Pakistani society: challenges of social sciences were also discussed by other speakers.

Economist Rauf Nizamani, who is working as a senior joint director at the State Bank of Pakistan, said that since the beginning there had been social gaps in our society that were then filled by the bureaucrats who couldn’t really gave us what we needed.

The bureaucracy should strengthen military and state, which it could not do. There was not much economic growth new ideas were not encouraged, he said. “Ideas are born at educational universities so social sciences in universities are important and very much needed,” he said.

Speaking on social sciences and the media, Dr Tauseef Ahmed, chairman, Mass Communication Department, Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast), looked back at history from the very beginning when people used signs to communicate, followed by drawing pictures to how printing and publishing came about to let us have books and newspapers and how the Mughals didn’t promote newspapers leaving the masses ill-informed while the East India Company introduced its newspaper to bring about the change.

“Then Sir Syed Ahmed Khan used his paper to spread enlightenment as later Abul Kalam and Hasrat Mohani’s papers brought about political thought,” he said while talking about the roles played by the Pakistan Times and Imroz in Lahore and Dawn, Jang and Anjam in Karachi. “Newspapers have now come a long way due to computers and IT but they still haven’t been able to make a mark as far as making people more socially aware although the same cannot be said about Sindhi newspapers,” he said while discussing radio and television’s role in helping people change their way of thinking. “There is the Internet as well but it is only used by four per cent of our country’s population so the [electronic] media takes the lead here,” he added.

Shedding light on International Relations and Social Sciences, Dr Mutahir Shaikh from Karachi University said that there was a failure in understanding Social Sciences scientifically. “Our preconceived notions leave no room for scientific thinking,” he said, adding that the media, too, had a part to play in this.

Dr Riaz Shaikh, head of Social Sciences Department at Szabist, in his presentation on ‘Contemporary sociology in Pakistan: why it became irrelevant to us’ said that even though there was a uniform sociology programme issued by the Higher Education Commission in some 70 universities, it wasn’t really relevant to our needs.

Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) Chairman Dr Tasneem Ahmed Siddiqui spoke about innovation and its linkage with social development. “Pakistan is facing a multifaceted crisis. In spite of initial progress, we are socially under-developed. Lack of resources is one reason for this. Look at your annual budget. About 40 per cent of money is not used. And what is allocated is also not used for the purpose it was allocated.

“Our people, too, suffer from biases making us move in circles as we always come back to square one. There is the elite class, which knows nothing about the common man and our political parties want those very important people to run in the elections for them, so we are no longer suffering from feudalism but elitist-ism.” he said.

“Mismatch is the cause of unemployment. We are producing more doctors than nurses or paramedical staff and the doctors are more women than men most of whom give up practice as soon as they get married. There is a shortage, too, of paramedical staff or skilled workers while the people with high degrees are going abroad,” he explained.

“In education, our academia is fossilized. We are teaching outdated theories that are not relevant from the point of view of 80 per cent of the population. Social Sciences need to be introduced in our colleges and even there, only what is relevant to the people should be taught. Prescribed theories do not work. There should be innovation in order to move forward,” he pointed out.

Dr Saleh Yucel, a Turkish academic from the Monash University in Australia, spoke about the language of intolerance. He said: “Racism comes from ego. ‘I am right and everyone else is wrong’ sets boundaries. Greed, too, has a part in causing internal conflicts,” he added. Dr H.R. Ahmed, professor, Jinnah Medical College, Karachi, Dr Amanat Ali Jalbani, VP (Academics), SZABIST, and Dr Tilo Klinner, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Karachi, also spoke.