Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan

Radical musings
DAWN November 7, 2010
By Tahir Ali

He may initially come across as a blunt and impolite sort but spending a little time talking to the man changes your first impression about Prof Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan.
A proud recipient of the Tamgha-i-Imtiaz, he has won many laurels as an academician, writer, critique, columnist, traveller and human rights activist. Having started his writing career as a freelancer during the 1970s, he contributed weekly literary columns and features to various newspapers and publications and has since then written thousands of columns while authoring over 70 books, travelogues and literary works in Urdu, English and Hindko.

Born in 1942 to a poor family, he is proud of how he shaped his life. “I have faced many hardships working at bicycle repair and bookbinding shops during my school days. But I knew how to avail the opportunities coming my way. Not everyone knows how to do that,” he tells.

“God gave me a pen and I tried to make good use of it. I was not a bright student but I did my PhD in Central Asian Studies from the Area Study Centre at Peshawar University. Other than serving as a university professor, I was also the senior-most member of the Public Service Commission, a life member of the Academy of Letters, a member of board of governors of National Language Authority, chairman of the Gandhara Hindko Board … you will require several pages to include all my achievements,” says the educationist who now after his retirement teaches at the Peshawar and Qurtaba universities for free.

Analysing the country’s education system, he says that the lack of planning and its rigorous implementation have spoiled many educational endeavours. “Our universities are producing a mass of good-for-nothing and half-baked educated persons without any purpose and planning. Our students seek degrees, not knowledge. The government may be increasing the number of colleges and universities but is neglectful of the worsening standard of education in the country. No Pakistani university is therefore seen in the top 1,000 universities of the world.

“Lack of funding is also a problem. Whereas the UNO standard requires allocation of at least four per cent of the GDP for education, our educational budget has never crossed two per cent,” he laments. “The educational budget should be brought at par with the international standard. I know this is a tough task but we should at least start our journey by taking the first step in the direction by allocating a minimum of Rs100 billion to education in the next fiscal year,” he says.

His other suggestions for improvement are: “English should be made a medium of instruction from day one. The colleges should have a PhD faculty. The student-teacher ratio should be brought down to 15:1 [right now it is over 40 or even higher]. 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.”

He adds: “Universities should be research centres only and must never be allowed to conduct graduate or post-graduate examinations. The teachers, too, should be given special packages. I think post-graduate primary teachers deserve better remuneration and should be given grade 17 as against the present grades of seven to 2. They should be offered refresher courses, too.”

The students he advises to study the text and supplementary books instead of making do with notes and guides prepared by teachers. Sports, too, need to be given their due status in educational institutions.

The professor has travelled all over the world to attend national and international seminars. He has also delivered lectures at the University of Germany. He ascribes the progress of the developed countries to their hard work, integrity, rule of law, education, equality, discipline and justice. “We, conversely, have no such values.

Pakistanis are a genius lot but we have mostly misused our intelligence,” he says.

He hates the existing style of governance in the country and points towards the lack of education and training of citizens, corruption, weak institutions, feudalism and hereditary system in parties to have hampered the development of the democratic norms here.

His solution for improvement: “Peace, development, education and financial freedom are the fundamental strategies for the purpose. Pakistan 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. A resolution of the problem would help transform Pakistan into a true welfare state from a police state which is what it is now. I think the state should not leave big income disparities and concentration of wealth in a few hands. I believe in nationalisation and am against ownerships and private property for everything here truly belongs to God.”

He has given everything to humanity as a common heritage, and not as a gift to few oligarchs or aristocrats. God forbids injustice, inequality and exploitation,” he concludes.


About Tahir Ali Khan (Official)
I am an academic, columnist, and a social worker.

2 Responses to Dr Zahoor Ahmad Awan

  1. ketlord says:

    Infact I Personally met and Interviewd him. He was a Learned man and devoted person. I wish i could publish Audio recording to his interview.

    May his Soul Rest in peace AMIN..

    I will Miss him.


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