Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan’s

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan: A non-conformist to the core

By Tahir Ali

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan is an all rounder. He is an academician, writer, critique, columnist, traveller and human rights activist. He is the senior member of NWFP public service commission. He has taught for forty years in universities and after retirement teaches free of cost at Peshawar and Qurtaba universities.  He says teaching is my life, “it will continue as long as I am alive”.

Dr Zahoor was born in united India in 1942. His family migrated to Pakistan from Indian-held Kashmir via Muree in 1947. He did his masters in Urdu, English and Political Science from Peshawar University. He did his MS in international relations from Clark Atlanta University in USA and PhD in Central Asian Studies from Area study centre Peshawar University.

He has visited dozens of countries like USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Turkey, Iran and India and others, some even several times. He has also received the prestigious Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. He had also been appointed educational counsellor at Pakistan Embassy in the US in 1996.

He has written extensively on literature, history and politics. He is a known columnist who is liked for his blunt style. He has around 80 publications that include books, travelogues and literary works in Urdu, English and Hindku languages. He has written over ten thousand columns. He writes what he deems fit and necessary even if it be disgusting to others. He damns care. He is an outspoken critic of rampant corruption, hypocrisy, illiteracy and injustice in our society and says that Pakistanis have excelled all in dishonesty and mastered cheating others.

He is a self-made man. He belonged to a poor family and in his school days he had to work at bicycle repair and bookbinding shops. He educated in extremely unfavourable conditions. He says every one gets opportunities but few lucky ones avail it and I am one. He can be role model for ambitious but poor persons.

This writer interviewed him recently. Excerpts follow.

Tahir Ali: Being a political analyst, how do you look at the post 9/11 unipolar world?

Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan: I think the withering away of the USSR has dealt severe blows to world politics. It has bereft it of morality and exposed the world and especially the weaker nations to ruthless use of force by stronger nations. Would the USA dare attack Iraq and Afghanistan had the USSR been there? Whenever there was any such attempt on its part earlier, the USSR’s quick arrival or warning would deter it. The unipolar world and the USA as sole world power owe much to the Muslims who helped the capitalist world destroy the USSR. We, the Muslims, are just reaping the thorns we had sown earlier. You need balance of power locally as well as in international politics. Counterbalancing is needed but the question is who after the US. China can bridge the gap but it is going very slowly – it wants to conquer, rather it has conquered the world economy. It is too much careful in responses and avoids confrontation and jumping into disputes with countries, smaller or bigger. It wants to preserve its might and resources unless the other world powers give in to their intransigence or China takes them over economically. But for this to happen, china will have to say goodbye to its degenerating standards. It, in my opinion, will be committing suicide if it continues to produce substandard items on demand as in the long run it will lose consumer confidence world side.

The US has come to the region but not to go prematurely. I think it will stay here and won’t leave until and unless it becomes sure that the region is no more a threat to its security.

TA: How do you analyse the educational system of the country?

DZA: Lack of planning and its rigorous implementation have spoiled the educational endeavours. Our universities are producing a mass of good-for-nothing and half-baked educated persons with out any purpose and planning. Our students seek degrees, not knowledge. The government is also increasing the number of colleges and universities but is neglectful of the worsening standard of education in the country. No Pakistani university is there fore seen in the top 1000 universities of the world. Teachers lack commitment and are ill-qualified. Lack of funding is also a problem. Whereas the UNO standard requires allocation of at least four percent of the GDP for education, our educational budget had never crossed two per cent of the budget – for this year it is around one per cent, only Rs30 billion out of the total outlay of Rs2.9 trillion.

I love books, scholars and research and want my countrymen to devote a portion of their incomes to buy and read as many books as possible. It’s very unfortunate that book-reading is on the decline with each passing day.

TA: What are your suggestions as an academician in this regard?

DZA: Educational budget should be brought at par with international standard of four per cent of GDP- Pakistan’s GDP is estimated at $164 billion and its educational allocation, by this standard, should be around Rs500 billions. I know this is a tough task but at least we should start our journey and take the fist step in that direction by allocating a minimum of Rs100bn in the next fiscal to education.

English should be made medium of instruction from day one. Colleges should have PhD faculty. Student-teacher ratio should be brought down to 15:1 –it is over 40 at present normally and even higher at places. Basic education should be made free and compulsory and parents should be punished in case of non-compliance.

University professors should be limited to research endeavours. Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post graduate examinations.

Teachers should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade seventeen as against the present grades 7 to 12. They should be offered refresher courses.

Syllabus is good but too much religious contents should be removed from it. It should be goal-specific –we should teach doctors, engineers and other specialists about their own fields rather than making religious scholars of them. Students should study the text and supplementary books instead reading notes and guides prepared by teachers.

Student evaluation should be internal at primary level but it must be external at the higher levels of study so that objective marking is possible.

Sports have obtained a status of religion in USA and other western countries. These should be given their due status.

TA: Tell us about your political ideology?

DZA: In my youth, I started reading Che Guivera, Dr Ali Shariati, Iqbal, Paulo Fereri, Frans Fanan, Thomas Paine and my other ideal missionaries. So I decided to dedicate my life to altruism. I stand for peace, liberty, equality and brotherhood between all human beings irrespective of their cast, creed and colour.  I am a leftist –in fact Bhutto loyalist-, secular, humanist and born feminist –I feel like respecting, serving and pitying the females –a noble creature that needs recognition, respect and support and must not be seen only as entertainer. Actually Manto instilled in me the respect of woman even if she was a whore. I believe in scientific socialism but also believe in Allah. I am a progressive person but not an atheist. Progressivism to me stands for the betterment of humanity. It is a jihad against the injustices perpetrated on the downtrodden. It is a crusade for eradication of property, ignorance, hunger and exploitation.

TA: what maladies, in your opinion, plague our political system?

DZA: Democracy requires educated and independent citizens but in Pakistan democracy and electoral system is pawn in the hands of the wealthy capitalist and feudal class. Lack of education and training of the citizens, corruption, weak institutions, feudalism and hereditary system in parties hamper the development of democratic norms in the country. In my country a TV boss is hired for Rs0.2 million a day while the ordinary clerk or teacher get a start salary of Rs5 to 6 thousand. This is why I hate the oligarchy operated/perpetuating so-called representative democracy. It is nothing more than a transparent fraud wrought with my 170 million poor countrymen with the help of a million mullahs. Only around 1000 landlords decide the destiny of the people. They are divided between what I call the ruling, opposition and waiting parties. Democracy here is a one night bride. With the exception of two or three, all parties are dominated by certain families. There is no democracy in their structure or working though they profess it loudly. Democracy here starts and ends with elections. Rampant poverty diminishes any hope for reform or improvement. We are uneducated because we are poor and vice versa. It is a vicious circle.

TA: How can the situation be improved?

DZA: We can get out of it if our political class has a sense of loss and a resolve to confront and overcome the challenge which is lacking. The government will have to allocate more resources to public welfare. It should get into dialogue with India to have the Kashmir problem solved once and for all. Both India and Pakistan just can’t afford to spend that much on security. Resolution of the problem would help transform Pakistan into true welfare-state from a police-state which it is now.

I am a revolutionary from the core of my heart and believe in a welfare state. I think state should not allow big income disparities and concentration of wealth in a few hands –only 1:10 difference in incomes can be acceptable. I believe in nationalisation-that the state should have all means of productions in its control to divide and utilise them justly for the welfare of the masses. I am against private property. For me all property belongs to Allah which He has given to humanity as a common heritage, not as a gift to few oligarchs or aristocrats. My God can’t be unkind to humanity. He forbids injustice, inequality and exploitation. I myself have acted on my ideology and don’t have any money, property, bank balance or even my own house. But I have bankful of affection and respect in society and the world over.

TA: You have been to several developed countries. What do you ascribe their progress to?

DZA:  I think they are one thousand years ahead of us. I always wake up early in the morning at 4 a.m. In my stay in both America and Britian, I saw to my utter amazement people walking, jogging and getting ready to go to their jobs. I found that Americans and Britians don’t sleep that much. Sleep is only for the people of the East and particularly for South East Asia. I found that their strength and beauty didn’t lie in nude bodies but in hard work. Integrity, rule of law, hard work, equality, discipline and justice are the hallmarks of their society. These tours and studies changed my life in a positive manner, broadened my vision and increased my confidence. We, conversely, have no such values. We have created world records in dishonesty and corruption. Pakistanis are genius but they mostly have misused their intelligence. My mentor Dr Ali Shariati says Islam is endangered by the number two Islam. The avaricious Mullah and the demagogues have joined hands to deprive the people of their wealth, rights and powers. This is why I hate Mullah who used Islam for their personal gains and glory.

TA: Your critics say you are too harsh a critic. What do you say?

DZA: I write what I feel and accept no dictation. I neither write on somebody’s command nor stop it at somebody’s threats and offers. I am a non-conformist by nature. This has exposed me to hazards and losses all through my life but I never cared. On my travelogues on Iran and Turkey I was asked indirectly by their establishments to remove some parts of the text to make it acceptable to the bureaucracy of the two countries but my response was a big ‘No’. I try to write on untouched, unnoticed and fresh topics. I have learnt that being great is not difficult but being different is. I love to navigate on unchanted waters and have no fear of drowning. I hate double talk and hypocrisy. I am incapable of remaining neutral or silent. Rather I am a whistle blower. I take sides right or wrong but can’t say both are right. I do what I think is proper and necessary. I am a rationalist as well as idealist –rationalist and realist in my personal life but an idealist as far as my professional life goes. I never care for the opinions of others when it comes to my professional duties. I have always been steadfast in my ideals. I have always taken a position after rational analysis. People often fail to understand the difference between these two aspects of my personality invariably come to grief, often misjudge me, and accuse me of arrogance, disregard and coldness. But I damn care. You will find perseverance in my pursuits, writings and ideologies.

I am an extremist in love and hate but I hate only handful and love humanity at large.  My father had told me, “Never waste your energy and time on a bad man. Instead, try to find good people and shower your love on them. I think my most popular books are my travelogues. Their many editions have been published with out my permission as I specially write on all my books that all rights are reserved for humanity at large. I have dedicated my writings to the downtrodden and exploited majority. I live for them. I love the underprivileged and the poor in my country and the world.

TA: How do you look back at your writing career and lifespan?

DZA: I remember I started writing freelance weekly literary columns and features for national and provincial dailies way back in early 1970s when I was posted as a lecturer at the beautiful hilly station of Parachinar When I look back at my 68 years of my life, I feel no remorse. I came from a poor family and also not a TAight student –I got third division in Matric. But then I did my PhD and became a university professor, the senior most member of public service commission, a life member of academy of letters, a member of board of governors of national language authority, Chairman Gandhara Hindku Board. I won Tamgha-e-Imtiaz. I wrote around eighty books and thousands of articles thus far. I have been a globe trotter. I have attended national and international seminars and delivered lectures in university of Germany. I wrote fist ever book on Dr Ali Shariati and my book on him and Allam Iqbal. I published my first book when I was reading in MA.I have several other first classes details of which require several pages. I think I have done a lot and have completed my mission. God had given me a pen and I have made good use of it as far as possible. I am satisfied with my work and life. I would like to born again, if that was possible, with the same family, friends, job and duties.

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About Tahir Ali Khan
I am an academic, freelance columnist, writer and a social worker.

5 Responses to Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan’s

  1. Engr. Mudassir Hassan says:

    Salam Mr T

  2. Engr. Mudassir Hassan says:

    salam Mr Tahir Ali ,
    i need the conctact no. of Dr. Zahoor Ahmad Awan Sahib i need his help to write a book , i hope so you help me .

    with regards,
    Engr. Mudassir hassan
    from kuwait.

    • Tahir Ali says:

      Ok. You may contact him on phone through his home number 0919213799. But kindly do remind him about me. I feel indebted to him as he recommended me recently for the subject specialist post of BPS 17 for history cum civics.

  3. hassan khan says:

    i need book of dr zahoor ahmad awan… where from i can get that…????

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