VCs Discuss How Universities Can Counter Extremism in HEC’s Conference

The Higher Education Commission (HEC), in collaboration with the Islamic Research Institute, International Islamic University (IIU), organised a Vice Chancellors’ Conference on Monday on the “Role of Universities in Advancing National Narrative to Counter Violence, Extremism and Terrorism” at Allama Iqbal Auditorium of IIU’s Faisal Masjid Campus.

The Conference, attended by over 80 university heads from across the country, took into consideration challenges faced by Pakistani universities owing to intolerant behaviour and radicalisation, and aimed to contribute in the debate on the reconstruction of Pakistani society in accordance with teachings of Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan.

Specific objectives of the conference included searching a legal and theological framework for saving campuses from onslaught of militant ideologies, proposing measures for effectiveness of universities’ administration in inculcation of national narrative, encouraging awareness and appreciation for peaceful coexistence, preparing faculty and students to strive for a nonviolent culture and receptive to new ideas and cognizant of Islamic principles and disputing the morally bankrupt ideologies of the extremists and militants who are trying to target Pakistani youth.

Mr. Mumtaz Ahmed Tarar, Federal Minister for Human Rights was chief guest in the closing ceremony. He stressed the need to engage students in healthy curricular and co curricular activities. He said it was imperative to study our respective holy books in our own language so as to completely understand the divine message.

He expressed his confidence that deep study would help eradicate the malice of terrorism. Mr. Abdul Kareem, Federal Minister for Communication was Guest of Honour. He appreciated the effort to initiate the dialogue to help create better communication at all levels.

Addressing the Vice Chancellors, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC related previous efforts of HEC regarding sensitising university leadership about the prevalent issues of violence, extremism and terrorism in higher education institutions, wherein a broad spectrum of realities and hurdles were put forth and the Vice Chancellors and Rectors were encouraged to institute sustainable programmes and processes to address possible threats of radicalisation.

Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman HEC stressed that Pakistan’s armed forces are safeguarding our geographical borders but being educationists, it is our foremost duty to secure country’s ideological borders.

He emphasised that our youth is being neglected at all levels ranging from their homes to educational institutions and it is responsibility of teachers and parents to address their issues and challenges with utmost care and engage them in productive activities.

Talking to the audience during plenary session, Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed quoted Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, “Education is a matter of life and death for Pakistan” to stress the importance of education in the country.

He congratulated the conference organisers for gathering educational leaders on a topic of greater national interest. He assured that recommendations of the conference will be keenly deliberated and will help in future legislation.

The Senator appreciated efforts of HEC and said that access to education has qualitatively and quantitatively increased during the last few years. He also showed his support regarding amendment in legislation for empowering of Vice Chancellors in universities.

He also informed the audience that in 2005 he was among parliamentarians who initiated celebrating National Teachers Day to dignify educationists.

Ms. Farhana Qamar, Member National Assembly emphasised on industry-academia linkages. She underlined the need for betterment of education and health sectors and emphasized that unemployment is one of the major reasons of extremism.

Ms. Romina Khurshid Alam, another Member of the Parliament said that interfaith harmony can only be achieved through respect and tolerance. She said that for every problem we blame government instead of working at our own level to resolve the problem. She said that we need to develop a thorough strategy regarding narrative of counter terrorism.

Dr. Masoom Yasinzai, Rector International Islamic University said that extremists have started targeting our youth and in some cases faculty and staff were also involved.

The Rector informed the audience that over 1500 Ulemas have unanimously drafted a declaration called as “Paigham-e-Pakistan” which is approved by President of Pakistan, Mr. Mamnoon Hussain and is under publication which would soon be disseminated as a policy document.

Dr. Ahmed Yousif A. Al-Draiweesh informed the audience that IIU is working with the government institutions to bring a unanimous declaration to be implemented in institutions after getting recommendations from stakeholders.

During the conference, the Vice Chancellors and Rectors were divided into four groups to deliberate on Ideological Challenges to the Universities, Security Challenges to the Universities, Role of Universities in National Integration, and Ways and Methods of Mainstreaming University Faculty/Staff/Students.

In conclusion, the Vice Chancellors and Rectors unanimously declared that it is imperative to institute measures that engage youth and students in gainful academic and social activities and promote professionalism, higher moral and ethical conduct, tolerance and respect for diversity.

Furthermore, the university heads resolved that Higher Education Institutions would be developed as communities of scholars who will inform, instruct and inspire community in the light of National Action Plan (NAP).