Save Pakistan's Universities from Arbitrary Control of the Military sign now

In 1979, a Pakistani--my namesake--was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to the electroweak theory. Before that, and since then, Dr. Abdus Salam remains the one and only Pakistani to receive this prestigious award. A nation of over 150 million has managed to produce only one Nobel Prize in science and that too for work done in a European Lab. Long before he won the Nobel, he left his alma-mater in Pakistan--where he was made the incharge of a football team--to go back to the United Kingdom because he felt constrained and unappreciated at his home institution. With his star-power after the Nobel, Abdus Salam founded the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy that hosts thousands of scientists and researchers from developing countries every year. Such was the state of scientific research in Pakistan and such is the power of one man to bring hope to thousands. This petition is about both these ideas.

Over the last 30 years since Salam's Nobel Prize, while Pakistani Universities and Research Institutions have continued to languish with little resources and appreciation for scientific research, there have been signs of fertility and a hope that things would turn around someday. Seven years ago, that hope received a big boost when public funding for universities was increased several fold. We were entering a golden period of funding and appreciation for the sciences, or so we thought...

Recently, with the blessings of Pakistan's de-facto leader General Pervaiz Musharraf, an ex-Army Brigadier was appointed as a Vice Chancellor of one of Pakistan's Universities. This is not the first such appointment in recent years. Two of Pakistan's largest public-sector Universities are already headed by ex-Military Generals. The Premise for such appointments, as always, is that civilian academic leaders (i.e. professors) are incapable of controlling student politics--and sometimes violence--on campuses.

The widely promoted underlying premise is that somehow academics-professors are not effective leaders even for institutions of higher learning in Pakistan. That these institutions require military-style leadership and "control" to flourish. That professors are best left to do their own research with no administrative-management control over their own fates.

These hypotheses have not only no basis in reality but also are based on a faulty understanding of the role of a vice chancellor in a university--who, much more than anything, is the intellectual leader who must inspire both faculty and students to achieve and excel through his own personal example. Putting a military man who "speaks the language of the stick" in-charge not only kills that important purpose but creates seriously negative dynamic and incentives in these institutions.

These are clearly very serious developments for Pakistan's already dilapidated universities and academic-research institutions and must be stopped at all costs. They also come at a time when the country's Higher Education Commission (HEC) is funding thousands of PhD scholarships a year--both at home and abroad--and planning on setting up several new universities with International (mostly European) collaboration.

What is the purpose of spending billions of dollars of hard-earned resources if these institutions are going to be merely "glorified" teaching schools where free-thinking, debate, and dissent--the very fountains of intellectual progress--is suppressed?

There is no doubt that Pakistan needs more universities and scientific research--lots of it--to create an informed and responsible citizenry, and escape poverty and under-development. However, alongside that it needs academic freedom in these institutions. Putting Military Generals in-charge of academic institutions--a trend that if remains unchecked--would ensure that it never gets the latter.

In a recent survey by Pakistan Research Support Network (PRSN), the Pakistani research community overwhelmingly condemned the above practice. However, for several reasons, not the least important of which may be the fear of reprisal, it fails to stand up to these developments.

Pakistani educators, researchers, and scientists need help and support of the global scientific community in this very urgent cause.


- That it is a complete outrage to "appoint" unqualified military-men as vice chancellors in Pakistani Universities. That such appointments be only made on academic merit and through the process of peer review, as is the norm around the world.

- That all pre-existing military appointments at University of Baluchistan, University of Punjab, and Quaid-e-Azam University, among others, be immediately reversed and qualified academics selected through a competitive process be appointed to these positions.

- That these academic vice chancellors be provided all means, authority, and freedom necessary to effectively lead their institutions including, if necessary, law-enforcement to arrest violence on campus. And that if a military-man has to be appointed to enforce discipline, he must be appointed under the leadership of an academic vice-chancellor.

- That academic freedom and a healthy debate be promoted--and not suppressed--on campuses as a means to creating healthy and thinking minds and a responsible and informed citizenry.

- That Pakistan's Military government stop the "appointment" of military men--without regards to merit and ability--to all civilian institutions that leads to destruction of civilian institutions and leadership in the society.


I would like to urge all members of the global scientific and academic community to help us--Pakistani academics, researchers, scientists, and students--reverse these pernicious developments in our society.

Today, several new universities with foreign collaborations are being planned in Pakistan and if enough foreign academics show their concern over these developments, they might be able to reverse these appointments. This might only seem a small victory for academia in Pakistan, it may, however, bring about much bigger and far-reaching changes in the society.

If you agree with this petition, please sign it and urge your colleagues in academia around the world to sign it too.

In addition, you may write to the following to express your concern:

1) General Pervaiz Musharraf
The President of Pakistan
Write at:

2)Dr. Atta Ur Rahman,
Chairman, Higher Education Commission
[email protected]

3) Dr. Sohail S. Naqvi
Executive Director, Higher Education Commission
[email protected]

Also, should you like to remain informed of this and related developments, please feel free to subscribe to a mailing list by sending a blank email to: [email protected]

I hope, with your help and support, we can reverse this ominous development threatening the future of Pakistan's academic institutions, universities, and the society.

I also most sincerely hope that no matter what, you would CONTINUE SUPPORTING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN through mentoring Pakistani students and researchers and collaborating with researchers in Pakistan.

Only through more--not less--collaboration and appreciation can we BUILD BRIDES AND SPREAD HOPE ACROSS OUR DIVIDED WORLD. This might be a step in the right direction.

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Lizzie BarkerBy:
People and OrganizationsIn:
Petition target:
General Pervaiz Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Dr. Atta ur Rahman and Relevant International Agencies


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