Dr. Hoodbhoy: The Controversy Continues
July 18: With reference to a rejoinder by Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy
captioned: “Pakistan Buying Costly, Obsolete Scientific
Junk” it is stated that in his response to the rejoinder
by the Executive Director, HEC, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy continues
to distort, falsify and twist facts to fit his own viewpoint.
is absolutely incorrect that HEC has spent or is spending Rs400
million on the purchase of a Van de Graaf Accelerator. HEC is
not purchasing any equipment! HEC had allocated a total of Rs180
million to the National Center for Physics, (NCP) Quaid-e Azam
University, Islamabad for the establishment of an Accelerator
and an associated experimental Physics Laboratory. Out of this
amount only Rs90 million were estimated to be spent on the purchase
of the Accelerator and not Rs400 million as claimed by the writer.
The worthy writer finds it “shocking that no meeting of
potential users of this large scale project was called, as is
the practice in the rest of the world. And no one will have a
clue of what to do when this machine finally arrives in Pakistan”.
It is to be noted that the top scientists of the country in the
discipline of Physics were involved in the preparation and submission
of the project to HEC. The project was prepared by Dr. Riaz ud
Din, HI, a top notch physicist of the country and the Director
of the National Center for Physics. Prof. Hoodbhoy claims that
Prof. Riazuddin has acknowledged to him that he made a mistake.
Even if his statement is true, how, is that the fault of HEC?
project for the purchase of the Accelerator was reviewed by Dr.
Samar Mubarakmand, NI, HI, SI, Chairman NESCOM and a top nuclear
scientist and submitted to HEC by Dr. Ishfaq Ahmad, NI, HI, SI,
our leading nuclear scientist, in his capacity as Chairman Board
of Governors of National Center of Physics.
actual specifications and type of the Accelerator to be purchased
are still under consideration. A committee of scientists constituted
for this purpose will take the final decision.
It is highly unfortunate that by making remarks about the project
such as “stupid decision” and ridiculing the competence
of those who are involved in establishing this facility, the worthy
writer has insulted the above mentioned top scientists of the
country as HEC is only sponsoring a project prepared, recommended
and submitted by them.
the objections raised on the research proposal of Dr. Saadia Chishti,
it is clarified that only Rs.400.000 and not Rs5.5 million have
been released for the project. While processing the case HEC procedure
of a rigorous peer review by top experts in the field, in line
with international norms and practices, was strictly followed.
project as well as the total amount to be allocated was approved
on the recommendation of the Referees. Later on, HEC has had the
progress report of her project evaluated by experts and the case
is being processed for final decision in the light of evaluator’s
comments. No further funds beyond Rs0.4 million were released
after July, 2004.
The honorable writer has also falsely contended that the Allama
Iqbal Open University (AIOU) has only a distance learning program
and questioned the feasibility of carrying out chemistry research
by Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman at such an institution.
seems to ignore the reality on ground that AIOU has a first rate
chemistry laboratory with a functional gas chromatograph, mass
spectrometer system, Fourier transform infra-red spectrometer,
ultra-violet spectrometer, high pressure liquid chromatographs
and other sophisticated equipment installed and fully operational.
are carrying out M.Phil and Ph.D. level studies in AIOU with the
help of these facilities. Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman is the leading
scientist in the country who has written/edited 87 books published
mainly in USA, Europe and Japan, many of which are used in courses
in the West. He also has over 600 research papers, chapters in
books and international patents to his credit which have won him
numerous international prizes.
had the rare distinction of becoming a Cambridge Don (1969-1973
) and he is the only Pakistani scientist (besides late Prof. Abdus
Salam) to have been honored by the University of Cambridge with
award of an honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Sc.D.) by Cambridge
is also the only scientist from the Muslim world to have been
awarded the UNESCO Science Prize by the Director General of UNESCO
in the 30 year old history for his eminent scientific contributions.
Yet Prof. Hoodbhoy feels that being incharge of more than one
institutions Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman should not carry out research.
the “Best Teachers” awards, the worthy writer now
acknowledges that it was impossible for HEC to interview 250,000
students (note that this is what he had recommended earlier --
that the students opinion should have been sought!) -- this time
he has now changed his stance and made a different set of allegations
against HEC saying that the “Administrators simply nominated
themselves as best teachers” (presumably he means departmental
reality is that nominations under the program were accepted by
HEC only from Vice Chancellors and not directly from any “Administrators".
new objection raised by the worthy writer in “Physics Master
Trainers Program” is not understandable. HEC has given the
project to the Physics Department Quaid-e-Azam University and
it is being run by the Head of the Department.
HEC welcomes positive criticism however, articles based on incorrect
figures, spinning of facts and those creating public misperceptions
about sincere efforts to develop S&T and higher education
don’t serve any noble purpose.
Pervez Hoodbhoy responded to this latest rejoinder with these
remarks on Saturday, July 16, 2005:
HEC appears terribly confused. The
official rejoinder of the HEC (17 July) to my article states that
I have misrepresented facts and that only Rs 90 million shall
be spent on a Tandem Accelerator. But this is not what the HEC
chairman wrote on 25 June, 2005 (Dawn, Sci-Tech section, http://dawn.com/weekly/science/archive/050625/science3.htm).
to the above article: “HEC has allocated Rs180 million to
establish a 5MW Tandem Accelerator” and, to support its
function, “HEC will spend Rs164 million to set up laboratories
at the NCP, Quaid-i-Azam University”. Whoever on the HEC
payroll is charged with defending the HEC has obviously not read
what the boss has written.
have no idea, or interest, of which individuals are behind this
senseless project, one that is an astonishing waste of precious
national resources. The author’s attempt to drag in other
names is a mischievous move designed to create and inflame conflicts.
previous statements are correct and can be easily verified: Professor
Riazuddin, whose scientific credentials everyone seems to agree
upon, has expressed his view saying that he cannot support this
project on grounds of scientific merit. He has communicated this
in writing to the HEC chairman.
the matter of Dr. Saadia Khawar Chishty, the HEC web page shows
for the project “Quranization Of Science Courses At The
M.Sc level” the following entries: Total Amount –
Rs5,581,000 and Current Year Award – Rs1,857,000. I do not
see the figure of Rs 400,000 anywhere. Where is it?
is my hope that the HEC will not make yet another attempt to change
these figures or tamper with web pages that were created in 2003-2004.
One such shallow trick has already been caught and exposed.
Teacher Awards: it is alleged by the HEC-commissioned author that
I have “changed my stance” on the issue of getting
students to evaluate a teacher’s performance in class. Rubbish!
I think that without getting this crucial input, the whole idea
of a “Best Teacher Award” is nonsensical. The problem
seems to lie in the author’s limited comprehension of English.
And, yes, I did mean that departmental heads had nominated themselves
as the best teachers. It is perfectly normal to call departmental
heads as “administrators” in the English language.
for the other matters raised by the HEC’s second rejoinder:
I think I have made my position clear in my initial and follow-up
articles. There is no need to prolong a now tedious debate.
Mamoona Amjed is Director General Public Affairs, Higher Education
Commission, Islamabad, Pakistan