Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU), Shaoor Foundation, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Paigham-e-Pakistan, and Iqra University jointly hosted an online conference of the Vice Chancellors. The topic of the conference was “Academia’s Response to the Challenge of Extremism”.
Forty (40) Vice-chancellors from across Sindh and Islamabad attended the conference. They discussed in detail the issue of extremism in Pakistan. The VCs reviewed and approved the set of recommendations aiming at the promotion of peace and tolerance at Universities.
The recommendations stressed, peace-and-civic education of students through co-curricular activities, faculty training on conflict resolution, the establishment of peace platforms, student societies, and elected bodies for peace and improvement in curriculum and pedagogy. Dr. Qibla Ayaz, Chairman Council of Islamic Ideology, while speaking at the occasion said that there was a dire need to redesign the curriculum and pedagogy in a way that true peaceful teachings of Islam reach the students and the Islamic principle of non-compulsion should be at the forefront while imparting these teachings. He further said that students should be given an understanding of other religions too so that they learn acceptance and tolerance.
DG (NACTA) outreach Ms. Dure Maknoon also attended the event and explained how NACTA was engaged in countering extremism/terrorism in all its forms and manifestation. She said that academia’s role in this endeavor was also critical as they were the shapers and builders of the society. She urged all institutions and educational fraternity to make collective efforts to eradicate extremism. She also stressed the need for a stronger mechanism that could support and implement the policy recommendations being proposed in the VCs’ Conference.
Vice-Chancellor, Quaid-i-Azam University and Chairperson of the VCs’ Committee, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ali, while addressing the occasion said that the set of policy recommendations was really a comprehensive document and all the participants of the conference had endorsed it. He further said that it was the need of the time to step forward and come up with implementation strategies for these recommendations that the academic fraternity has agreed upon to counter extremism.
Dr Waseem Qazi, VC Iqra University emphasized the need of accepting and celebrating national diversity at educational institutions. He said this would not only create a tolerant culture but will also create a conducive environment for creative thinking and innovation.
Dr Ziaul Haq, DG Islamic Research Institute (Paigham-e-Pakistan) emphasized the need for co-curricular activities to inculcate acceptance and inclusivity among students. Dr. Khalid M Iraqi, VC University of Karachi said that student societies and clubs should play a pivotal role in co-curricular activities as this will engage them positively, provide them leadership skills and polish their innovative and creative skills.
Dr Raza Bhatti, VC Shaik Ayaz University Shikarpur said that training was the key to the solution of this problem, he added that a strict training regime starting from university higher administration and faculty and coming down to the lower administrative staff should be implemented that doesn’t only train them but also equips them with the skill to implement the learnings.
Dr Tayyaba Zaffar, VC University of Hyderabad said that it was important to give students due respect and role. She said curbing hate speech was very important and that would only be possible when students are taught to respect each other and practice it in their daily lives. Syed Ali Hameed, Executive Director, Shaoor Foundation, thanked all the honorable guests and assured all the possible support to the cause of peace. He further shared that the PACT for Tolerance project team had already interviewed 55 vice-chancellors and held 16 Focus Group discussions that helped draft these recommendations.