Report from Aga Khan University, Karachi:

Aga Khan University was the first private International university established in Pakistan in 1983.
The university plays a pivotal role in the Aga Khan Developmental Network, AKDN, which runs educational, health and social institutions in a large number of countries around the World, especially in South Asia, Central Asia and East Africa, areas with an important presence of Ismaili communities for which Aga Khan is the spiritual head.

Persons we met:
Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, professor of Paediatrics, and member of SASNET’s South Asian Reference group
David Taylor, Professor of history, Provost of the Aga Khan University
Mohammad Khurshid, Professor of Pathology & Medicine, Dean of the Medical College
Mehtab S. Karim, Professor of sociology, Head Population & Reproduction Health Program, Noormahomed P. Sheriff Professor of Demography, Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Medical College
Sadrudin Pardhan, Professor & Director of Outreach, Institute for Educational Development
Gordon Macleod, Professor and Director, Institute for Educational Development

Reports from Staffan Lindberg’s and Lars Eklund’s visit Friday 21 November 2003

With Zulfiqar Bhutta, who in 2001 visited Lund University and took part in SASNET’s Workshop on Global Networking, we discussed several matters related to SASNET. Zulfiqar Bhutta is very eager to encourage and promote increased cooperation between Swedish and Pakistani researchers, and he feels that SASNET has an important role to play. In July 2004 he will convene panel no 28 of the 18th EASAS conference at Lund, something he is looking forward to. Not the least because the Lund conference gives an opportunity for researchers from India and Pakistan to come together.
In the last few years it has become more and more difficult to obtain visas to visit conferences in the neighbouring country; during the last year Bhutta has been invited to take part in six different research conferences in India (including the International Seminar & Workshop on “Fermented Foods, Health Status and Social Well-being” at the Institute of Rural Management in Anand, Gujarat, 13–14 November 2003, partly sponsored by SASNET). Twice his visa applications have been rejected, and in the other cases a visa has been qualified by unacceptable restrictions in the form of reporting every step to the police.
Zulfiqar Bhutta enthusiastically informed us about a WHO sponsored Health Sciences conference at the Maldives in August 2003, which he attended. There Indian and Pakistani researchers in the field had an opportunity to meet and discuss their results without any hindrances. The Lund conference might offer a similar opportunity.
Finally he announced that he is most willing to include one of the students from SASNET’s and Lund University’s ongoing Masters programme in Asian Studies in his programme at Aga Khan University on women’s health during the fall of 2004.

We then met David Taylor, professor of history and Provost of the Aga Khan University, that is, the Rector. Taylor got his PhD in 1970 and has for many years worked at SOAS, School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, UK, and also been active in the British Association for South Asian Studies, BASAS. He recently signed a contract to work at AKU for a period of 4-5 years.
We informed him about the purpose of SASNET and our ambition to involve more Pakistani scholars and students in the network, and how we already are linked to Aga Khan University through the long standing relationship between Prof. Bo Lindblad at Karolinska Institutet Medical University, Stockholm, and the Department of Paediatrics here. David told us about the great changes that are planned for the Aga Khan University. After mostly keeping to Health sciences (AKU is situated in the middle of a hospital), and since the last 10 years also to Educational development, AKU now is going to expand its activities. A Faculty of Arts and Sciences with interdisciplinary approach is going to be established at a new campus area outside Karachi, giving it unlimited space for new constructions of institutes and reserach centres. The new faculty is scheduled to be inaugurated in 2007, and efforts are now under way to choose the architect for the construction.
By including social sciences within the scope of AKU the ambition is to enhance studies on the relation between health and the society, e g by studies on Human Development, Psychology, Economic growth, and perhaps even Journalism.
The staff at AKU is already very International, even though only few Western expatriates like himself are staying on because of the worsened security situation in Karachi during the last 10 years. But the faculty today consists of members from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ismailis from East Africa, and Taylor emphasizes that a strong ambition is to encourage bright young Pakistani PhD’s now staying overseas to return home, and he would also like to have faculty members from India if that was possible.
Taylor also informed us about AKU’s activities in Afghanistan, including the establishment of IMEI, the International Medical Nursing Institute; and a scholarship programme offered to students from Afghanistan. In neighbouring Tajikistan AKU has been heavily involved in creating a new pan-Central Asian university high up in the Pamir mountains, University of Central Asia at Khorog. Taylor however told us that the mood has gone down with the project, and the planning has been taken over from AKDN by the regional Central Asian universities.

We also had a brief meeting with Dr. Mohammad Khurshid, Professor of Pathology & Medicine, Dean of the Medical College (photo to the left). He told us more about the linkage with Karolinska institutet and that it was the most important partner for Aga Khan University besides Harvard. He emphasised the importance of the joint PhD-programmes and that in the future the sandwich technique could be further developed. Within Pakistan they had a joint programme with other universities within the field of biology. He also told us that once there had been a Pakistan-Swedish Institute at the time when there was much development cooperation between Sweden and Pakistan.

During lunch we met Dr. Mehtab S. Karim, Professor of sociology, who is working with the demography & health programme. His main area of research is migration, especially between India and Pakistan. He has been involved with a Masters programme on Health Policy and Management at the Aga Khan University. He expressed keen interest in participating in the EASAS conference at Lund next year, and was also interested to link up with SASNET in various ways.

After lunch, about 40 teachers and senior students attended a SASNET presentation meeting, where we informed about the main objectives of SASNET and details about our gateway and how it can be used. We also invited people to our conference next year. There were many questions related to the conference and to the academic environments in Sweden. Was there an interest in South Asian languages? How come we included Afghanistan in the network? Etc.

Finally in the afternoon we had a drive across the entire city to reach the Institute for Educational Development (IED), which is also part of the Aga Khan University. Here we met Dr. Sadrudin Pardhan, Professor & Director of Outreach, Institute for Educational Development (photo, standing to the left) and Dr. Gordon Macleod, Professor and Director, Institute for Educational Development.
IED has an impressive array of activities, spanning from running its own schools (primary, secondary and higher secondary), teachers training colleges and research. The institute has been funded by the European Commission since its inception in 1992. The staff is about 70 persons, including several professors and 17 PhD-students registered with various universities around the world (including Toronto and Oxford). There are Masters programmes and they plan to start a PhD programme in 2004.
The institute operates in a wide circle around the Arabian Sea and in ten countries, stretching in the southwest down to Tanzania (including Zanzibar) and eastwards to Bangladesh. India is included in the programme, but can only be linked up through Tanzania because of the visa problems involved. The institute even runs shorter training courses for teachers in northern Afghanistan. They have had some contacts with Pia Karlsson and Amir Mansory from the Institute for International Education, Stockholm University, and wish they could develop more cooperation with them.
Sadrudin startled us by greeting us in Swedish language. It turned out that he has a special relationship to Sweden. He was born in a Muslim Gujarati family in Kenya, but got his higher education in Chemistry at Uppsala University (PhD in 1969) and also a teachers training, and other members of his family still live in Uppsala. Sadrudin however returned to Africa, and worked in a Sida sponsored programme at Kenya Science Teachers College for 10 years. He also spent some time in Canada before joining the newly established IED in Pakistan in 1993.
Sadrudin Pardhan informed us about the extensive in-service programmes and research that IDE is involved with. It has 38 faculty members, and another 17 people engaged in research. Besides the International activities mentioned above IDE has built centres in the northern parts of Pakistan, in Gilgit and Chitral.
Before leaving IDE we were also introduced to the Director, Prof Gordon MacLeod, coming from Australia.

The drive back across the city was cumbersome and took its time. This was not just any Friday, but the Jumatul Wida, and the streets were jammed with people and vehicles of all sorts coming from prayers and going to the markets to buy Eid gifts. We were extremely tired after a hectic first day in Pakistan without a proper night’s sleep after arrival.

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Last updated 2008-02-26