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Arsalan Haider

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Dr Khalid Mahmood, of Remote Sensing, GIS and Climatic Research Lab (RSGCRL), National Center of GIS and Space Applications, has participated in United Nations Conference held in Ghana, representing Pakistan and Inter-Islamic Network on Space Science and Technology (ISNET). During his talk, Dr Khalid Mahmood highlighted the issue of depleting groundwater in Pakistan and identified the diversion of the natural courses of water by India as the root cause of burgeoning groundwater depletion rates.

He stressed the importance of an international plan to cope with the water scarcity scenario, and pointed out that mismanagement of water resources by local government alone is not responsible for depleting groundwater resources; rather regional misconduct is second to international negligence. He said that without the formulation and implementation of an international strategic plan that was above regional politics, no one on the earth would be safe and the planet would eventually dry one day. Dr Khalid also suggested developing a second tier of science that compensates for the budgetary and technical incapability of the developing world.

He suggested that for the development of alternate and economic science, satellite-based geospatial indices have the potential to serve humanity in a myriad of ways. With such initiatives, he said, policymakers would be equipped with the requisite scientific knowledge for making correct decisions.

Related: IWMI & KFUEIT to train students on Water, Energy, Food and Ecosystem

Punjab University (PU) and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University (SBBWU), Peshawar have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop academic cooperation in the areas of education, and research and other sectors through achieving a closer relationship.

In this regard, a signing ceremony for a memorandum of understating (MoU) was organized at the Vice Chancellor’s office in which PU Vice Chancellor Prof Niaz Ahmed Akhtar, SBBWU’s Dr Naseem Akhtar, Director External Linkages Dr Sobia Khuram, Associate Professor Dr Muhammad Ali and others participated in the event.

Both the universities agreed to coordinate joint research projects and organize joint academic activities such as academic conferences, cooperative lectures, seminars, symposia and exchange of academic publications and other information.

Related: HCC of Punjab University & PJiF sign MoU

Vice Chancellor of Government College University (GCU) Lahore Dr Asghar Zaidi has strongly condemned the recent major cut in the budget of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan for the upcoming Budget for the Fiscal Year 2022-23.

Dr Asghar Zaidi turned to social media site Twitter to share his views regarding the cut and wrote, “ALERT: The Grant of @hecpkofficial for 2022-23 has been cut by 56%, & after inflation, the total cut is ~80%. How can the public sector universities function (and aim to do better than before)? We must give high priority to education and topmost universities”

It is worthy to mention here that the current government of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PMLN) has decided to cut the 50 per cent budget of HEC Pakistan and suggested Rs 30 billion instead of demanded Rs 65 billion.

The decision was being widely criticized by educationists, teachers, vice-chancellors and even officials of HEC as they condemned the government decision.

Related: VCs shocked over drastic budget cut for higher education

University of Management and Technology (UMT) has been ranked 5th in Pakistan and 2nd among private universities for scientific research output by Nature Index for the period of December 2020 to November 2021.

Three articles from UMT have been published in two leading journals i.e. European Physical Journal C and Nature Medicine.

On this achievement, President UMT Ibrahim Hasan Murad expressed that being one of the leaders in scientific research from Pakistan is a great accomplishment for the university. He expressed that UMT is one of the Private Universities which emphasizes developing research-based culture in Pakistan. He highlighted that UMT strives to become a knowledge creator and thought leader in Pakistan’s education landscape.

The Nature Index ranks top institutions and countries by the number of scientific articles and papers published in leading journals. It also provides absolute count and fractional share counts of article publication at the institutional and national levels. The Index tracks contributions to research articles published in 82 high-quality natural-science journals.

Related: 8 surprising fun facts about UMT

The Vice Chancellors of public sector universities on Thursday showed serious concerns and strong dismay over drastic cut in the higher education budget for the fiscal year 2022-23, expressing apprehension that the cut would make it impossible for universities to pay salaries and pensions let alone meeting the overall expenses needed to run a university.

The Ministry of Finance has communicated IBC (Indicative Budget Ceilings) of only 30 billion rupees for higher education’s recurring grant against the rationalized demand of Rs. 104.983 billion. The allocation is 45 per cent less even than the current year’s allocation (FY 2021-22) that was Rs. 66.25 billion.

Over 120 heads of public sector universities, who attended a virtual meeting from across the country, were unanimous in lamenting the Government’s decision for the unprecedented cut in the universities’ budget and urged the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and the Minister for Education to urgently look into the matter and enhance the budget as per rationalized demand, to avoid subversion of long-term socio-economic goals of the country, and save the higher education sector from total chaos and collapse.

They said that the rationalized demand was submitted following a rigorous review and assessment process of the requirement of 100 existing universities, 49 Research Centers/Institutes and 18 new Universities (eligible for funding) by a joint Assessment Committee of HEC and Ministry of Finance.

The Vice Chancellors stressed that the Pakistani universities are already under enormous financial pressure because of stagnant funding during the last five years. The Covid-19 pandemic in 2020-21 and 2021-22 has further exacerbated the financial stress by increasing the cost and reducing fee inflows. They said that the Public Universities would be left with no other alternate but to increase the student fee drastically, enhance student intake beyond capacities, adding that these repercussions will lead the sector to disaster and severely dent the quality of learning and graduates.

The university heads stressed that if CFY additional grant of Rs. 15 billion committed by the Government last year is not provided, funding cut is not reversed, and budget for FY 2022-23 is not allocated as per the demand, universities will not be able to survive.

Addressing the meeting, Chairman HEC Tariq Banuri emphasized, “it must be realized that education is as much important as the country’s defense and security.” He expressed his apprehension that the budget cut, if materialized, would land the higher education sector in a severe crisis. He stressed the need for collectively and clearly making out a case to the government about the loss and consequences of unprecedented reduction in higher education funding.

Executive Director HEC Dr. Shaista Sohail underlined the challenges of the higher education sector, especially in the face of the proposed budgetary cut. She regretted that the recurring grant allocated to HEC since FY 2017-18 has almost been stagnant and its share as percentage of GDP kept on declining to the level of 0.14% in the current fiscal year.

She highlighted that the higher education sector has witnessed a tremendous growth during last five years through establishment of number of new universities/HEIs by the federal/provincial governments, while the students’ enrolment has also remarkably increased.

Related: APPSF presents pre-budget educational recommendations

A two-day media conclave and roundtable conference titled ‘CSR Initiatives in Gwadar (The Gateway to CPEC)’ was held to review socioeconomic development & CSR projects. It was co-organized by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad and the University of Gwadar (UG) in collaboration with COPHC, Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) and Gwadar Development Authority (GDA) in the strategic port town.

The speakers at the conference urged that the initiatives in the domain of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) undertaken by China Overseas Ports Holding Company (COPHC) and other Chinese firms in Gwadar were appreciable and were aimed in the right direction, however, effective development communication and positive engagement with local communities are critical for the effectiveness and long-term success of these projects. They also recommended that all stakeholders should devise a mechanism for an integrated socioeconomic development strategy and ensure the inclusion of the hopes and aspirations of the inhabitants of Gwadar vis-à-vis CPEC.

Speaking on the occasion, Naseer Khan Kashani, chairman, of Gwadar Port Authority (GPA) stressed the importance of bringing the locals together through CSR. “We must prioritize people over infrastructure development. Drinkable water and electricity are the top priority of the authorities in Gwadar”, he stated.

Kashani said a desalination plant of about 1.2 million gallons would become operational in six to eight months that would provide drinkable water for the locals. Moreover, the newly inaugurated state-of-the-art Pak-China Vocational & Technical Training Institute will provide three years’ training to local youth, which is a big contribution by our Chinese friends, he added. “Chinese authorities have also recently provided 3,000 solar panels to the poorest of the poor in Gwadar for the provision of electricity,” he informed.

While delivering the keynote speech, Zhang Baozhong, Chairman COPHC spoke at length about the experiences of his seven-year stay in Gwadar. “We are cognizant of the fact that Gwadar deserves more rapid development to live up to the expectations of the local people. There is no denying the fact that it has developed much during the past seven years”, he remarked.

He stated three reasons for the promising prospects of Gwadar: the cooperation of the Gwadar people, its vast resources, and its strategic location.  “The inhabitants of Gwadar deserve respect and development according to their rightful demands”, Mr Baozhong underscored.

“We are sending 20 students to China on scholarships every year. We have been running a primary school here for the last five years and soon we will construct a secondary school as well. More than 6000 solar panel units have been distributed among the people of Gwadar so far, and around 500,000 trees have been planted,” Shahzad Sultan, Country Head Marketing of COPHC informed while providing details of the CSR initiatives.

Chairman IPS Khalid Rahman highlighted the concept of CSR and elements that can improve the lives of the local inhabitants. “We must have solution-oriented recommendations, not problem-oriented,” he said adding that positive thinking and improvement in governance will bring a huge change in the life of the people of Gwadar. “CSR activities do not mean spending a share of your profit, it’s about creating an environment which is not harmful to society in any way,” he added.

Professor Dr Abdul Razzaq Sabir, Vice-Chancellor, University of Gwadar, in his welcome address earlier appreciated the initiatives of IPS for identifying challenges in the area. He said giving back to society is the biggest responsibility of the corporate sector. Working on the development of human resources should be the biggest priority of the government and private sector. As Gwadar is expanding after the development of the port, it is important to learn from China’s experience and expertise through a student exchange program. “We must train our youth to become productive elements of Gwadar.”

Jawad Akhtar Khokhar, advisor, maritime affairs, Ministry of Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, earlier gave a detailed overview of the development projects in Gwadar under various modalities and highlighted the CPEC projects in Gwadar worth $2.1 billion so far.

He said so far three projects worth $314 million have been completed. These projects included the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan, the physical infrastructure of Gwadar Port and Free Zone Phase-1, and the Pak-China Technical and Vocational Institute. Another seven projects worth $1.44 billion are under the implementation process. These projects include the Eastbay Expressway, which is 98 per cent complete; facilities of freshwater treatment, water supply and distribution, which are 70 per cent complete; New Gwadar International Airport; Pak-China Friendship Hospital Gwadar; infrastructure of Gwadar Free Zone Phase-II; 300 MW coal power plant and 1.2 million gallons’ desalination plant.

Related: PU CSAS organizes seminar on CPEC

A one-day workshop on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Nutrition was conducted at Kinnaird College (KC).

The workshop was organized by Kinnaird Centre for Learning and Cultural Development. Students of the Food and Nutrition department participated in the workshop. Dr Sidra Farooqi from Shalamar Medical and Dental College (SMDC) led the seminar which concluded with students having an insightful understanding of the topic. The session was interactive and the participants had a good time asking questions about Medicine and beyond.

IBS is a chronic disorder that affects the large intestine and causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea. It creates immense physical and social difficulties for the patients affected by this condition. Stress and certain foods etc may trigger symptoms in people with this disorder. Researchers have investigated probiotics and a variety of dietary supplements for IBS.

The workshop focused on the standard and complementary management of IBS through lifestyle changes which was mostly about dietary modifications. It was centered on all the new diets that have been recently introduced for IBS patients and every food that they could avoid to lead a healthy life. The students found the workshop interesting and had a prudent outlook for more such workshops in the future.

Director of Kinnaird Centre for Learning and Cultural Development Ms Maha Jamil shed the light on the need for Practical Exposure for Professional development and appreciated the passion of Young Women who were attending the workshop to be a positive change in society.

This Workshop is a series of Activities to Achieve the UN Goal of Zero Hunger and a Healthier Lifestyle.

Related: French higher education attaché visits Kinnaird College

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony between the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority (SMEDA), Higher Education Commission (HEC), and five Universities for the National Idea Lab initiative pilot phase was held at HEC Secretariat.

The universities include the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Islamabad, National Textile University (NTU) Faisalabad, Institute of Management Sciences (IMS) Peshawar, NED University of Engineering and Technology (NEDUET) Karachi, and Balochistan University of IT, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS) Quetta. Mr Hashim Raza, CEO SMEDA, Dr Shaista Sohail, Executive Director HEC, and Vice-Chancellors of the respective Universities signed the MoU agreement.

The MoU is aimed to execute the National Idea Lab initiative which has been designed for enhanced cooperation in promoting entrepreneurship, innovation, and incubation across the Universities of Pakistan. The National Idea Lab will develop a co-creative and supportive environment – which will encourage students’ entrepreneurial intent and at the same time support open innovation approach in collaboration between SMEs and universities.

Through NIL, the students and researchers will get the opportunity to develop and commercialize their ideas through entrepreneurship or in collaboration with existing SMEs. During this process, student teams will have the opportunity to be mentored, guided, and advised through the NIL platform.

In her remarks, Dr Shaista Sohail said that the National Idea Lab initiative will further strengthen the Innovation and Commercialization efforts of HEC, and will act as a platform for the youth of Pakistan especially the final year students and fresh graduates. They will be provided with an opportunity to convert their innovative ideas into scalable businesses and contribute actively to the socio-economic development of Pakistan.

Mr Hashim Raza reiterated the need for collaborative efforts to promote and upscale the development of the SME sector in Pakistan by providing young and fresh talent with mentoring and capacity building. He said that there is much potential in the technology, agriculture, and tourism sectors in Pakistan that can lead to increased foreign direct investment in the country through innovative SMEs. The Vice Chancellors of the partnering HEIs showed their continued commitment to the NIL initiative and hoped that this initiative will further the innovation and commercialization ecosystem in Pakistan.

Related: Govt. decides not to extend the tenure of Dr Tariq Banuri as Chairman HEC

Oriental College of University of the Punjab (PU) has organized a book launching ceremony for “Everest’s Land – Travelogue Nepal” written by eminent writer Tahir Anwaar Pasha.

The event was attended by Ms Simli Awan, Hussain Ahmed Shirazi, Prof. Dr Nasir Abbas Nayer, Prof. Dr Ashfaq Ahmed Virk, Cartoonist Javed Iqbal, Shahid Zaheer Syed, Dr Ayesha Azeem, Nasir Mahmood Malik, Director Al-Hamra Zulfiqar Ali Zulfi and others.

On this occasion, the participants appreciated the travelogue and declared it one of the best travelogues. In their speeches, the participants expressed the hope that the author’s journeys and his travelogues would continue to inspire the younger generation to travel and develop their writing skills. They claimed that no one knew the art of presenting travelogue better than Tahir Sahib. He said that his travelogue provided an opportunity to get acquainted with the culture and history of other countries.

Tahir Anwaar Pasha said that there was a silent message in the travelogue in which an attempt had been made to highlight the relationship between the spouses. He said that not only could a good journey be made with the wife but a successful travelogue can also be written.

Related: PU Library marks World Book & Copyright Day

The Department of Special Education, Islamia University of Bahawalpur (IUB) organized an international awareness seminar on World Autism Day. Seminar held at the Main Auditorium Baghdad ul Jadded Campus IUB Under the direction of Prof. Dr Nasreen Akhtar, Chairperson Department of the Special Education. Dean Faculty of Education Prof Dr Irshad Hussain, Prof Dr Nasreen Akhter, Chairperson Department of Special Education IUB, International Speaker Dr Harpareet Kaur Dhair from California USA, Dr Shaheen Pasha Chairperson Department of Special education University of Education Lahore, Dr Hina Fazil Assistant Professor Department of Special Education Punjab University Lahore, Dr Samar Fahd Member Syndicate IUB, Usama Munawar Project Officer HHRD Bwp, Dr Zeeshan Akhtar Al Khidmat Foundation, Nadeem Akhtar President BWP Deaf Welfare Association and Sports Society and Principals and teachers from different Special Education schools and departments of Punjab participated this event and delivered different speeches in this awareness seminar. They talked about the importance of diagnosis of Autism Spectrum disorder symptoms and treatment. They also suggested that Autistic children should be treated differently than special children. The role of stakeholders, Parents, family, society, institutions and political system in the management of the Autism Spectrum Disorder was also discussed. Dean Faculty of Education Prof Dr Irshad Hussain Baloch praised Prof Dr Nasreen Akhtar and the department of special education for organizing such an event.

Related: IUB celebrates World Book and Copyright Day