Herald Special Report
Forman Christian (FC) College, Lahore has refused to renew the contract of Professor Pervez Hoodbhoy, a noted Pakistani nuclear physicist, peace activist and intellectual citing ‘over-staffing’.
Reports of his termination have been making rounds on social media. However, Dr Hoodbhoy told Naya Daur online news portal that he will teach a semester at the college before tendering his resignation.
His contract for the ongoing month was not renewed and the administration told him that they have to let him go.
Dr A.H Nayyar, a friend of Prof Hoodbhoy, confirmed to The High Asia Herald that his contract as a professor on an endowed chair at FC University is not being renewed.
“This may have something to do with the departure of the Rector, or someone else may be eyeing Prof Hoodbhoy’s endowed professorship, we do not know for sure. What we know is that this will be one huge loss for the FC University,” he said.
Dr Nayyar, physicists and peace activists, said all higher education institutions are rated on the basis of their faculty. An exceptional faculty attracts good students as well as high-class teachers, taking it on an upward spiral of excellence. Only a few first-rate faculty members can turn the fortune of a university. “FC University will regret the decision to end its association with Pervez Hoodbhoy,” he noted.
Publisher and writer Bilal Zahoor said “In a shocking display of administrative ferocity, FC College has reduced Prof Hoodbhoy’s contract to one year, meaning he’d be forced to leave the college in 2021. It’s ironic how “overstaffing” manages to appear as a reason when Prof Hoodbhoy is the only professor of Physics in the college.
“Moreover, he’s the Zohra and ZZ Ahmed Foundation Distinguished Professor for Mathematics and Physics, indicating that his salary comes from the foundation, not FC College. How can then Prof Hoodbhoy be included in the cost-cutting calculus?,” questioned Mr Zahoor.
“We don’t want to jump into conclusions too soon, but clearly the latent reason of his (gradual) removal is not the same as the manifest one—”overstaffing”. Earlier we saw Zagum Abbas, a young academic of political science, being removed from GCU, Lahore, and just a few months ago Ammar Ali Jan’s engagement at FC College has been reduced to one course.
In Sindh, two professors, Sajid Soomro and Dr Arfana Mallah are struggling to save their lives in the aftermath of politically-driven blasphemy charges, he noted.
“Seems like the government and the establishment (terms that can be used interchangeably in Naya Pakistan) has started viewing academia from the same lens they look at print and electronic media. The model of media control and censorship is making its way to academic spaces. This is already manifest in the hiring of puppet VCs at public universities and the burgeoning number of establishment-funded “research” centre are at private universities.
We stand in solidarity with Prof Hoodbhoy and will continue voicing against such systemic removals and silencing of critical voices, Mr Zahoor concluded.
Prof Hoodbhoy has always been a critic of government policies and the establishment is well-liked and respected in progressive and liberal circles.
An essayist and peace activist, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in electrical engineering and mathematics, followed by a master’s degree in solid-state physics and then a PhD in nuclear physics.
He has also worked as a visiting faculty at various universities, including MIT, the University of Maryland, and Carnegie Mellon University.
Prof Hoodbhoy is also the sponsor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and a key member of the Permanent Monitoring Panel on Terrorism of the World Federation of Scientists.
He also won various awards for his performance at different times, such as the IEEE Baker Award for Electronics in 1968 and the Abdul Salam Award in Mathematics in 1984.
He was also awarded the UNESCO Kalinga Prize in 2003 for his efforts to raise scientific awareness among the people.
He was awarded the Joseph A. Burton Award in 2010 by the American Physical Society and the Jean Meyer Award from Tufts University. In 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential Global Thinkers in the World. In 2013, Prof Hoodbhoy was elected a very important member of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory.
Dr Hoodbhoy is the author of “Islam and Science: The War of Religious Orthodoxism and Rationalism” which is now available in eight languages. He also edited the book Confronting the Bomb – Pakistani and Indian Scientists Speak Out.
He produced and hosted two series on PTV introducing scientific theories to the general public.
He is head of the Mashal Book Lahore. He has translated many important scientific and non-scientific books into Urdu on modern thinking, human rights, role of women in society.
He also founded Eqbal Ahmed Foundation to promote critical thinking an alternative model of education.