The image of Pakistan among the international community is usually tainted with a rhetoric that highlights either its religious bigotry or its export of terrorism. The country is branded as a failed state by many. It is this negative image on the international front that many politicians often hanker to vanquish. Nevertheless, not much has been achieved to implement their much-touted resolves. One significant strategy in this regard — the appointment of key departmental chairs in foreign universities — to this day suffers from administrative delays. The vacant seats in as many as 14 countries under the banner of Urdu and Pakistan Studies, and Quaid-i-Azam and Allama Iqbal Fellowship postulate a very dismal state of Pakistani educational sector.
These chairs, alongside educating foreign students, play a highly critical role in building a positive projection of the country and its societal affairs. However, the administration’s inability to appoint such a small number of eligible scholars points towards grave negligence shown by concerned authorities. It is particularly disappointing to observe the presence of these vacant seats despite the legions of PhD researchers produced by the country every year. India, on the other hand, appears to have realised the potential of academia in building its image, and has, hence, appointed 300 Chairs in foreign institutions.
The official selection committee cannot alone, however, be blamed for sticking out a lack of interest towards this initiative. It is also the responsibility of Higher Education Commission to oversee all policies with regard to higher education in Pakistan. Yet again, the institution has not achieved much significant progress in overcoming the throes of the educational sector, even on the domestic front. Only recently was the Commission reprimanded by the Senate Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training on the irregularities in the governance of Hazara University. One particular cause of concern was the university’s management in the absence of a functional Vice Chancellor for the past two and a half years. These examples propose a blatant decades-old oblivion of the education crisis by the federal government. The shambolic state of public education should be addressed by the authorities on an immediate basis. Revolutionising the educational reforms is not only required to create a positive image of the Pakistani nation among the global community, but also to cure the country of all its societal as well as economic woes. At present, Pakistan only spends a meagre 2.14 percent of its GDP on developing education. Consequently, it has only been able to achieve a measly 58 percent literacy rate, which is far behind that proposed by the Millennium Development Goals. In addition to reforming the primary schools in every province, the government should also pay heed towards the underdeveloped institutes of higher learning. Unless a handsome package is not offered by the public universities to hire highly qualified scholars, they will continue to sustain the “brain drain” in their pursuit of a better quality of life. It is high time that the parliament discourses over such legislations, which will initiate capacity-building of the public educational institutes. A very influential first step in this regard can be the appointment of deserving personnel to the vacant Chairs, followed by a pursuit to extend these posts to other foreign universities. Unless a change in the education sector is engineered by the governmental machinery, a change in the increasingly dismal state of Pakistan cannot be effected.