Mar 15, 2007

Seeding a genuine Education System Transformation in Pakistan

Education System Transformation in Pakistan

Seeding a radical and genuine transformation - outside the purview of HEC

Super IratePakistani

March 15,


After many unsuccessful attempts at engaging the Higher Eduction Commission of Pakistan (HEC) in a productive problem solving oriented conversation between Jan 15, 2007 and February 15, 2007 over email, I had sent a comprehensive letter of feedback to HEC discussing the several shortcomings of their reconstruction of Pakistan's higher education system, and making some modest suggestions for opening up the process to public participation and more procedural adjudications of their expensive projects from its present whimsical ad hoc unaccountable mechanisms. After HEC failed to respond in what I felt was a reasonable manner (their response letter entirely ignored the contents of my feedback letter, and instead cited the accolades from the World Bank, as well as itemized some other genuine accomplishments - all irrelevant to my feedback letter), I initially attempted to make my feedback letter available to a select few members in the Planning Commission, as well as to select key notable academics and concerned governmental leaders in the nation. I imagined that I could seed a private problem-solving discussion-space on how best to go about transforming the education system K-16 and prevail upon the Planning Commission, using logic and rationalism, to clamp down on HEC funding of ill thought out "mega projects". I initially felt that working quietly behind the scenes might produce more efficacious results than making public brouhahas in the media, as we really aren't a public-opinion driven nation. But after impatiently waiting for these busy peoples to even be bothered with reading my documentation, I now believe that the old-wood is so mites-eaten, and so rotten to the core, that it will require being burnt down to ashes, and new treated engineered-lumber employed in brand new reconstruction by a brand new construction crew to make any genuine transformation even possible in our pathetic education system at every level.

Thus, while still not making brouhahas in the media (as its efficacy is entirely zero), I am now making my humble feedback letter available publicly in the hope that many more concerned peoples can view it, motivated students demanding a better future can read it, concerned parents can examine what it is suggesting, intelligent educators can think about how to contribute to the solutions spaces that I propose, influential business and industry leaders and rich tycoons can think about how they might fund some of these infrastructure projects that I outline through their generous altruistic benefaction as is the norm in Western nations in a unique private-public partnership, and a general grass-roots level momentum among the public themselves created to drive the changes forcibly upon our rulers who seem to think that the nation is their inheritance to dictate terms to its peoples at will. They only think so because we continually allow them to think so. No more! At some point, confrontation is inevitable. Let's not wait until our progeny curse us for our uncourageous inaction - let's make it happen now while we can still sow a better future for our children and grandchildren! Let's confront using constructive means, rather than perennially bitching and moaning, by planting the seeds of reconstruction with our own hands!

Please take the time to study this document, and to follow up on every single one of the cited 27 references. They are there for a purpose - an informed peoples cannot be so easily (mis)led! It is at most, a single full days worth of self-study. If education is important to you, you can spend the time educating yourself first. I have left the names and contact information intact where appropriate in the HEC feedback letter, as these are Government of Pakistan public servants paid from the state's treasury, and their contact information is easily available to anyone. Feel free to communicate to them, as public servants chartered to serve in your best interests, how you feel about what you read here. You want your rights, you gonna have to fight for it one right at a time! No one is about to hand it to us on a platter! Didn't happen that way in the West, and it isn't likely to happen in Pakistan, or anywhere else.

Also feel free to express your views in the Discussion Space at


In the feedback letter, after expressing my considerable frustration with what I see as silly single-purpose single-focus engineering universities being constructed in Pakistan according to an outdated model of education that has been rejected in the West itself in favor of multi-disciplinary universities, I make specific proposals. Please click on "Proposal for Restructuring" below if you are not interested in hearing me moan and lament in the first half of the feedback letter at the squandering of public monies and golden opportunities. Following the feedback letter, are two additional proposals for two task forces that I had submitted to HEC on the dates noted (for which I received no response). These task forces are self explanatory. I now propose that we seed these task forces through private-public partnership, and fund them entirely from non-governmental monies. Please also see my letter to the editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education letter-to-chronicle-editor.html.


Feedback letter to HEC: "HEC - mes amis, is Alice in wonderland" 15 Feb 2007

Proposal for Restructuring

Appendix A: Letter to Stanford professor on Faculty training in Pakistan and MIT OCW

Appendix B: First order comments on Ministry of Education's new White Paper

Appendix C: Letter of inquiry to Pakistan's most prominent scientist on "Dilemma of power to influence"

Modest Proposal TFI-21 Rev 0.0 17 Jan 2007

Modest Proposal TFI-MIT Rev 0.0 17 Jan 2007

Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 17:21:38 -0500 (EST)
From: "Super IratePakistani"
To: "
Chairman Atta-Ur-Rahman", "Exec Dir. Sohail Naqvi"

Subject: feedback letter - are you screwing up monumentally, or making fantastic progress?

Dear Sohail and Atta - distinguished academics and friends,

Please find the attached detailed letter that addresses the question posed on the Subject line. I have tried to shed some light on the questions what are you doing wrong, or what is it that you should be doing and are not.

I hope you will find the letter useful and not irrelevant. It took a lot of effort and angst to write, and even more to send.

Please note that in the letter I have requested your kind permission to forward it to the Planning Commission, the Ministry of Education, the President, and the Prime Minister, in addition to making its contents public. There are some time-lines noted in the letter for your response.

Warm regards,

Super IratePakistani

To: Prof. Atta-Ur-Rahman, Chairman, HEC
To: Prof. Sohail Naqvi, Executive Director HEC

From: Super IratePakistani
- an ordinary concerned Pakistani

Subject: HEC - my friends, is Alice in wonderland?

In Reference To:
Is HEC screwing up monumentally, or making fantastic progress?

Three appendices, see end
Documents: See citations at end

Saturday February 10, 2007 - Thursday February 15, 2007

My Dear Distinguished and learned Academicians, friends, Atta and Sohail,

As Salaam Alekum - may peace be with you.

It is with a great deal of consternation and effort that I write this letter as a concerned Pakistani citizen. I do not possess any imposing credentials or impressive accomplishments, Nobel prize, or medals of honors, and nor do I occupy, elected or otherwise, any powerful positions of influence or authority or seniority that might make me qualified for writing this letter or make me worthy of being quoted on ones' websites and in the news media.

My only entitlement to writing it, apart from my being your friend who is grateful for the friendship and support you have shown me and benefited me, is as an ordinary member of the Pakistani public in whose greater interest you deem to serve in your capacity as the enlightened stewards of the higher education system of Pakistan, and to whom you wish to benefit with your own diligent hard work as well intentioned public servants.

Because you serve in this capacity, and because I feel that you are failing to deliver on the promise and the mandate, I feel compelled to speak up honestly, frankly, and without any syntactic sugaring. I would do no less with my own sons, the pride and joy of my life, and whom I have raised lovingly as an active and involved parent these past several years, if they were in these public positions of fiduciary trust and responsibilities and I felt they were screwing up!

Why do I feel you are failing to deliver? I have tried to answer that here.
Having sampled both good and bad higher and lower education systems, I have some sense for what a really good one feels, smells, and tastes like, and what a rotten one stinks like. Thus being an informed parent-consumer keenly interested in shopping for quality education for my own offspring, and hence by extension, for others' as well according to the adage: "choose for others what you would choose for yourselves", not only do I not see what I want presently on the shelves, but what is about to be put on them also stinks highway to heaven. I am not an expert nor an educator, only an ordinary citizen of this nation still in possession of at least some of my critical senses to realize I and others are being cleverly cheated by the grocers with fancy packaging! Please allow me to share with you how.


Follies of morons are usually minor, they haven't the imagination to wreck major havoc; it's the follies of the learned and the educated, that can be supremely monumental and leave an unrecoverable legacy for years to come. Witness Einstein's letter to Roosevelt that ushered in the nuclear age which is still keeping the world a perpetual hostage to the dangerous testosterone levels of a few war mongers while denying social spending on other more essential human development needs worldwide including in our own SE Asian region, or Nobel Laureate William Shockley's repugnant ideas on racial superiority of the white race, or philosopher-hypocrite par excellence, Bertrand Russell's misogynistic ideas in "The Impact of Science on Society" which I am sure you are both quite familiar with and from which I needn't quote here to make my point. And finally, a more contemporary example of the follies of the learned with many PhDs: who has more brain density of scholars and thinkers per square inch than the AEI - American Enterprise Institute, and you can see their neo-con agenda thinly veiled in "Noble Lies" for world conquest bringing untold death and misery to millions. All very educated and incredibly brilliant and accomplished peoples? Nay, monsters to those on the receiving end of their brilliance!

Thus personal brilliance and imposing academic credentials are no guarantee of good works - only the actual empirical results on the ground is evidence, as I am sure both of you, being of sound reasoning, will surely agree. Thus in this letter, I am going to overlook your imposing credentials and other distinguished awards and decorations, as impressive and incomparable as they are. Indeed, I have actually read your 37 page resume (Atta) and can surely attest to your love of your own people, as you spent almost all of your distinguished academic career serving within Pakistan and not abroad, and as you have yourself noted on your resume, your being elected to FRS for work done in a poor developing nation rather than in a developed nation, wonderfully bespeaks of your own personal brilliance. Similarly, I am also aware that you (Sohail) could have easily continued on in the United States in the academe or the industry and made tons of money and enjoyed a wonderful personal technical career, but you gave it all up for the love of your people and came back to Pakistan to serve at a pittance. Thus, being cognizant of all these wonderful things about you, I am still going to focus on the reality on the ground because I find much wisdom in the ancient adage: "proof of the pudding is in its eating".

Most of your critics you are easily able to dismiss with an amazing nonchalance, as demonstrated in the recently published paper in the prestigious American journal of education, Chronicle of Higher Education: "In Pakistan, the problems money can bring", that appears to be a telling characteristic of overzealous people in positions of absolute power who are unable to listen Affectively to their customers, clients, and to whom they deem to serve in the single minded pursuit of doing good for them - almost like a doctor who is so focused on curing his patient that he does not listen to the patient screaming in pain and ends up killing him!


First of all, I must bring to your attention the incredible dichotomy in the projection of your works. Your HEC website is full of glossy PDF files and news releases, many of which I downloaded and read very carefully over the past month. I cite only one of your monthly reports to acknowledge the fact of your world view of how you yourselves have perceived your performance, and indeed that some of your initiatives are laudatory. You have also projected the problem space accurately in your writings and promotional material. These are quite consistent with the perceptions of the ordinary Pakistani consumers of what ails them. Here however, let me offer you an alternate view of the efficacy of some of your many acts and generous spendings on some of your more questionable unilateral initiatives that substantially differ with your own self-projections of your work on your website. You have applauding hailed many of your own brainchild schemes to the media, both in the nation and abroad, as incredible progressive moves that will transform our higher education system, producing impressive looking mind boggling numbers on glossy slides. These projects of yours have also seen much adulation and projection by those who have appointed you in these powerful positions and are favorably disposed towards you. So everything is hunky dory as far as you see the world from your prominent and higher visibility perches.

And thus there is a genuine dichotomy here. You don't even seem to perceive why all your critics are complaining and why there is a growing resentment in the country against you. You do sense that people are unhappy, but don't understand why. The questions what are you doing wrong, or what is it that you should be doing and are not - entirely bedevils you. In your own mind, I suspect you are inclined to simply dismiss your detractors as a bunch of communist/socialist malcontents who just long to have power and are jealous of your successes, or are just silly lazy students or third rate academics who know no better, or simply want to create trouble for political gains, or are greedy for their 15 minutes of fame at your expense.

Mes amis, this dichotomy cannot be explained away as mere jealous malcontents and/or prejudicial political detractors who know no better. I am neither jealous, nor political, nor malcontent, and nor do I have any nefarious ax to grind, nor harbor misguided Utopian dreams. I won't deny some of the other alleged perceptions noted above as it may become rather self-serving. Furthermore, each one of the referenced citations is specifically and minimally culled for a specific purpose, and not merely to show how thoroughly I have investigated and analyzed your performance - which is based more on my own hands-on direct and grass-roots experience in Pakistan since 2005 and my own long experience of my nation, rather than recorded opinions of others - and nor to convey to you any one else's opinion of your work, but to demonstrate my own independent thinking and experience that is substantiated by others' opinions both inside and outside the country. I am not a scholar and neither could I write an erudite paper if my life depended on it. Indeed, I can even proudly claim six publishers rejecting my first manuscript. Hence please forgive me for not more formally referencing these matters in this rather informal letter. But I hope that both of you will pay a little bit more affective attention to what I am saying than you have done to other critics.

The scathing questions asked in the article "HEC's Unconvincing Mega Projects" in Dawn today (Feb 10, 2007), while perhaps shocking for many in the country, are nothing new, and should not come as a surprise to either of you. While I consulted for you at HEC in 2005, I was asked to look at, and approve by signing off, as perhaps another informal adjudication of the scheme, the 6 PC-1s for six new foreign universities that were to be imported from Europe at considerable expense to the national exchequer. Now from the news article, I understand they have become 9!

As you will surely recall, I had passionately argued against this hair brained scheme while it was still on paper. May I further recall for you, my most compelling point, that we needed to produce an entirely different type of engineers and scientists for the future who were multi-disciplinary, well versed in both sciences and humanities, and that we needed more multidisciplinary programs rather than single purpose engineering universities that would just create more of the same - an outdated education model that the West itself was discarding. And furthermore, that these PC-1s were a waste of our resources, that instead, we ought to examine MIT's opencourseware program and its interdisciplinary philosophy of education to adapt it to our existing universities by shoring up their existing facilities first at a minuscule of the cost of these expensive PC-1s, so that at least there was one decent university in Pakistan to which I would consider sending my own kids. Your response? And I quote from memory: "I am not interested". And my follow up question: "when will your ideas bear any results?" Your response? And I quote from memory again: "in ten years". My follow up question (from memory): Have you signed a bond with the Government of Pakistan to be around that long to see what comes of it, fruits or thorns? Your response? Silence! And we said goodbye on that day and shook hands in my temporary office in HEC, where one of you (Atta) had so generously stopped by to thank me for my day-and-night efforts during my short 2-week stay at HEC, and to wish me well, and which is where I had grabbed 15 minutes of your precious time to speak to you directly about these PC-1s as you were running late to catch your flight to Saudi Arabia.

After your almost four and a half years running HEC, there still isn't a single good university in Pakistan, a fact as you already well know and also agree with. [Sentence redacted] My problem is, why couldn't you construct even one single decent university program in all these years in power [phrase redacted]? This is the first question I had raised at HEC in 2005, to both of you, asking for one decent university program where I could send my own kids. Where is it? You may have considered overhauling an existing engineering university for instance, and incorporated the tremendous amount of intellectual capital that is now available freely from opencourseware collaboration from many Western universities. No need to spend money for curriculum or course material. Incredibly intelligent and progressive programs can be crafted out from what some universities are generously giving away - their crown jewels - an unheard of phenomenon in modern times. And clearly you were familiar with it because you attended its presentation at MIT in February 2003, even before I came to you proposing to adapt MIT opencourseware for Pakistani engineering universities in the Summer of 2005.

Knowing all this, and you could not construct one single good science-engineering-humanities oriented multidisciplinary program where [we might consider sending our own children - phrase modified], and instead, got carried away in importing billions of rupees worth of debt financed universities from who knows what kind of credentialed programs and what kind of unevaluated, unadjudicated, foreign garbage we might be ending up with to create more of the same crappy engineers and scientist that we are presently producing, albeit certainly with a foreign unpronounceable name on their degrees. I still can't pronounce them properly myself!

You came to HEC in 2002, got a carte blanche with a certified blank check drawn on the World Bank - and not by reducing the defense budget as you have mistakenly, perhaps out of ignorance of the inner workings of the national financing structure, claimed in your interview with the Chronicle. An interesting claim by you that can be trivially shown to be false considering our debt financed economy. Please stop fooling yourselves and others by bringing up bombastic GDP numbers in isolation, look at GDP/cumulative-debt ratio, what percentage of GDP is being taken out of the country by foreign multinational investors by depleting our foreign currency reserves, and what percentage of GDP is actually going for debt servicing also from the foreign currency reserves. Whatever remains after the debt is subtracted is what we net earned domestically - not GDP! Living on debt is not earned money my dears! Your claims are just number and accounting wizardry that I am perhaps more familiar with than the Chronicle reporter who interviewed you and did not have the wherewithal to challenge any of your statements, perhaps more interested in maintaining congeniality, than giving you a proper grilling. Our minuscule social spending and large defense expenditures come largely from debt deferment while it continues accumulating interest. All mostly pseudo secretive stuff that few in the public really know about in actual quantitative numbers but most senior and privileged persons in the Finance Ministry and the State Bank, I can assure you, as every single former and current Finance Minister, knows it at least qualitatively, and if they are any good at their jobs, they will also know the exact numbers and what was signed away in the fine prints for the further privilege of borrowing for some more silly toys and things, but mainly to pay just the rapidly accumulating interest without defaulting - the classic lenders' trap! So what indeed can you show for this blank check today that the lenders will return to demand their pound of flesh soon enough for, with the next tranche of structural adjustment schemes and new demands for the privatization of our public commons sacredly held in trust by the state for the common good of all our peoples, other than beautiful glossy slides and amazing magical numbers? Even you are now compelled to seek admissions for your kids elsewhere - almost five precious years wasted! Pathetic? You tell me!

I am actually more irate than you can read between the lines here because several existing universities in Pakistan, with a little bit of genuine imagination and determination, could have been repaired and updated with modern interdisciplinary curriculum, facilities, and inspiring leadership in its upper echelons, within this period making them attractive for more educated and skilled peoples to join them - instead of forcing whatever few that did stay on even in the existing dilapidated state, to depart! All located in major cosmopolitan cities and enjoying spacious acreages, they would have made immense impact as imposing historical traditions renovated and carrying on. The West does not throw away their heritage as they move to acquire new things of modernity as we in the East, especially in the Muslim nations, seem to want to, or being encouraged to, be doing. Look at Saudi Arabia, all our Islamic heritage being deliberately replaced by MacDonalds et. al. And not a decibel of protest is heard from any nation. We seem to be on the same band wagon to blindly adopt modernity at full speed discarding or ignoring our own crown jewels. Some of the best universities in the world are the oldest! Your (Atta) own included. Trying to chase down India blindly by emulating their large numbers of engineers and scientists that is presumably attracting foreign corporations, we are shooting ourselves in the foot! We cannot recreate the Indian experience like this. As learned scientists in your own fields, you must surely rationally see that neither the set of initial conditions, nor the transfer function, and nor the ambient parameters are the same. How do you expect to get the same output? When your superiors ask you to perform these miracles which are against the laws of non-linear system dynamics, what happens to your courage to just say no? Or perhaps you wish to continue to operate with "blinders on" deliberately?

It is a major puzzlement to me, how, despite having yourselves studied in prestigious universities abroad, and having been exposed to their remarkable interdisciplinary programs, you can advocate these silly imported one-of-a-kind engineering universities for your own nation, and keep defending those ad hoc decisions without even expressing any reservations or self-doubts whatsoever despite all the rational and coherent reasons put before you to the contrary! Dare I call you fundamentalists? No I won't, but some arguably might. Indeed, what is fundamentalism? Please permit me to suggest a laconic definition: Inability to rationally examine axioms! Alternately: Blind fanatic adherence to unexamined axioms. Can you suggest a better or more universal one? And to some possessed of even a modicum critical thinking skills, it might appear that your blanket refusal to rationally re-examine your premise upon which you have selected these foreign universities is being "fundamentalist", no difference in its essence than any self-righteous religious fanatics! Nuts? I know, but that's what your attitude might suggest to some. Examine for yourselves!

The worthy directive of the President of Pakistan to increase the number of engineers and scientists in the nation, as you have stated, seems to being pursued without regards to what kind of scientist and engineers and scholarship is needed in the future. The yes-man bureaucracy that you are surrounded with in HEC, compounds this problem, as I was even told in so many explicit words after heated exchange on why they weren't speaking up (direct quote): "ours [place] is not to question, but to implement, that is what we are taught in civil service bureaucracy", even when they privately confided in me that the schemes outlined in those six PC-1s did not make sense when I unraveled and dismantled it before their eyes. But despite my urging them to speak up, they would not volunteer their genuine opinion on these 6 PC-1 proposals that they had on their desk. Their outlook frankly confided to me after I broke through their outer facade of glazed look? If their views were needed, they would be asked for! It was their superiors job to know whether these proposals made sense or not, theirs was only to implement the directive issued to them. Is HEC a military command?

Please permit me to continue further.

I had energetically pointed out to you (Sohail) in the course of our often long and passionate conversations on nation building and our own imperatives, that we were a debt financed nation, and all this money for these PC-1 projects, while ostensibly coming from the national exchequer, will likely never leave New York or London or Paris, and for which yours and mine children and grandchildren will be beholden to the lenders through their collective noses. Your response, and I approximately quote from memory using almost your own words which I still distinctly recall as they had taken me by surprise coming from such an intelligent man like you (Sohail): "I have blinders on with a very narrow focus, I am here to do good work and I don't care where the money comes from so long as the Government keeps releasing it, it's their problem to worry about, not mine!" My response? And I quote from memory: "We cannot build sandcastles on the beach and not be cognizant of the tide!" Indeed, I had further pointed out that we were being deliberately encouraged to spend these borrowed monies on various and sundry white elephants, which the lenders well knew were white elephants and will never bear any fruits, to purposely keep us a debt laden dependent nation. I even gave you this famous cliche, again quoting from memory: "they would continue lending us money if we told them we needed it for a thousand men to dig up a trench, and another thousand to fill it back up, and needing to repeat that cycle a thousand times!", repeatedly cautioning you that these PC1-s were no different, that they will eventually be financed with an outstretched begging bowl, and will serve their interests perfectly, but none of ours!

No importation of foreign universities has produced any scholarship, as I learnt myself in my business visit to Qatar and Dubai in 2003-2004. The land replete with foreign sounding imported universities and more being planned at the time, where entire tracts of vast open lands had been given away for a song to these universities and schools, and yet, amazingly, not a single modern public library with current books, or public technical-scientific reading room to boot in either place that I could find - and I had asked! Education of the mind or low-tech mindless skilled fodder for multinationals? When I spoke to the second-in-command of Dubai Silicon Oasis in 2004 while exploring technical business opportunities, and subsequently wrote them a detailed feedback on how to genuinely pursue developing the high-tech for design and innovation, silicon valley style, pointing out "silicon valleys" are not created by constructing more huge buildings situated in fancy districts named "knowledge village" anymore than engineers and scientists are created by wishing them into existence, I was merely responded with a glazed incomprehensible thank you. At least they were courteous and gracious at receiving the feedback. Subsequently, several of my colleagues informed me that they had done the same, and lo and behold, today DSO Dubai has a new management, and I have heard that their new CEO is pursuing ideas along very similar lines outlined to them a few years ago!

The same incomprehensible look now bespeaks your own implementations of your "unconstrained imaginations", but for which there are not even thank yous for the feedback you receive. Either only deafening silence is heard, or only incomprehensible defensive posturing which does not even address the questions raised, and is instead often full of hypotheses asserted as truths that have no bearing in empirical evidence for efficacy of positive impact anywhere else on Earth.

And we now see the fruits of such unilaterally asserted thinking in the worsening of our higher education system, the few gains which you did make - and for which I have also complimented you in our recent email conversations - being quite overshadowed by the monumentality of your other blunders which were so easily avoidable had you chosen to form proper technical working groups and accommodated a diversity of views, skills, and professional space from the arts, sciences, and education, to vett your raw ideas and benefit them through the rational cycle of imagination, analysis, culling, transformation, refinement, or outright rejection, that is the norm in the developed nations for any matter, be it in the corporate, or in the public sector!

As remarkably educated and learned as you both are, you have repeatedly failed to see that numbers do not produce scholarship or science, but instead that love of learning, spirit of inquiry, and irreverence for wisdom du jour collectively do, and that these qualities are produced by having decent and accessible modern libraries in every city and locality, decent K-12 programs where the kids are allowed to explore and thrive according to their own innate potentials, and that undergraduate and graduate schools are the harvest of fruits planted in these early stages of education and that a tree cannot be resurrected from gathering and counting its leaves, and instead, your deliberate emphasis on fantorgasmic red herrings such as numbers of papers published in foreign journals to wish science, technology, and scholarship into existence, and to award pay raises and professorships based upon it quite out of context and character of the underfunded under-resourced departments in the vast majority of our dilapidated universities that has now created only the expected culture of plagiarism and regurgitated rehash to advance their limited careers as human nature would predictably dictate, or acquiring foreign faculty from third and second tier European nations who are as much victims of economic conscription in their own nations as people in third world nations, and expecting them to produce the miracles of science and technology in our poor nation which is even worse off than their own. Indeed, due to short sighted ill thought out planting of seeds that can only yield weeds, then anemically yelling at the weeds once they take root "why are you a weed!" only to have the weeds move on to another field quite happily without any consequence to their plagiarizing intellectual property and passing it off as their own, is continually bringing disgrace internationally. A generation being created and nurtured without ethics and integrity precisely because all the wrong incentives have been conjured up by your "unconstrained imaginations". All of these missteps taken collectively, including many more outlined in the cited references, rationally demonstrate to any non-sycophant capable of even a modicum of rational thought, your profound inability to understand and comprehend not just the process of education, but the global realities that surround our beleaguered nation.

Indeed, the inexplicable obscurantism demonstrated by both of you over the past several years, from the pressing issue of ignoring the exposes on fake degrees, to proliferating substandard universities and diploma mills through uncourageous inaction, to persisting in autocratic administration of a public service rather than creating collaborative task forces in which notable ideas can be subjected to proper vetting, analysis, refinement, culling, and rejection cycle among a jury of peers and area experts, to zealously pursuing the unilateral product of your own "unconstrained imaginations" that is not subject to any discussions or rational debate and that is rushed into immediate implementation as the next best invention since sliced bread and which is glamorously pitched as such to all an sundry in glossy slides using the credibility of your own distinguished names, is not just abuse of fiduciary trust and responsibility entrusted to you, but criminal negligence of your duties as one endowed with unelected public power and debt financed public money and spending the privilege foolishly.
For the fleeting pleasures of your fantorgasmic indulgences, our children and grandchildren, yours and mine, will now be footing the bill. This must be a crime in some just judges book. Would you perhaps have made the same ad hoc choices had your own expensive homes in Pakistan and elsewhere, including all your material and intangible assets, been put up as collateral for your various hair brained schemes only to be returned to you if your schemes bore sweet fruits, and to revert to the state in compensation if only weeds grew? How much more due diligence might you have done when your own money was at stake?

These are strong words indeed mes amis, but I deploy them to entirely capture my outrage so that you can glimpse, past all the logic and debate, why some of your more informed consumers of your largess actually feel so upset! And it is even more troublesome to me because I know that you are well intentioned and want to do good works, as opposed to past mercenaries and opportunists who have largely been out to loot the treasury for personal gain, and thus I am even more perturbed that you are caught in an Alice in wonderland and don't seem to realize it. The consequence of this is drastic because your distinguished names and other distinctions acquired in science and technology are being used to peddle rotting fish to the nation with your direct and engaging complicity. This should be a matter of grave concern to any conscionable person able to discern fact from fiction, and I hope that what I am pointing out here is helping you see it - someone has to tell the emperors they have no clothes on!

Thus witness as evidence of no clothes on, what your own intransigence has wrought. Your continued failure to positively respond to any suggestions made by many competent and courageous peoples from your own community of peers who have for many years been pointing out your follies and foibles quite patiently, has not only let down your own nation's peoples' enormous expectations of you, but also caused a national disgrace by having the lack of substance in your policies now highlighted in the prestigious American Journal the "Chronicle of Higher Education" - making Pakistan look even more foolish and incompetent despite having such pedigreed people at the helm of affairs with blank signed checks in their pockets! It is true that the article is presented in a typical modern journalistic style of merely quoting different sides of the issues and allowing the readers to make up their own minds without editorializing too much - guess what minds the half a million or so educators and other learned readers of the Chronicle across the world are making? Did this article even bother you guys?

While we certainly must not take our cues from foreign journals with their respective unexpressed biases and agendas, and ought to have the foresight and self-assurance to listen to the feedback of our own peoples first without needlessly getting defensive and preventing Affective Listening from becoming our friend and mentor, the fact that what a distinguished physicist has been consistently and courageously echoing the past several years is now finding further independent echoes in the august ivory halls of a prestigious international education journal by a credentialed writer
(and I made it a point to examine the writer's impressive resume), vindicates all the many low key courageous critics over the years as well as the cited high profile Pakistani gadfly physicists and prolific writers. With such distinguished names as yourselves as the gatekeepers preventing any proper system design of our higher educational system that makes any sense, your further ineptitude and inability to receive and react constructively to feedback, have brought us national disgrace and wasted opportunities.

Perhaps I am overreacting? It's only a bloody article or two? Who reads them anyways! If that's what is going through your minds, please allow me to assure you that it's not the articles in the press that I am reacting to, it's your uncanny ability to snatch failure from the jaws of success that I am lamenting; when you are so empowered to make an amazing long term impact that few get the opportunity for, and that capital is being squandered through obduracy making matters worse for the long term rather than better.

Hence, as someone concerned for his peoples and its youth, for which, since 2005, I have been working without pay or compensation in Pakistan from my own meager earned savings to benefit my few humble skills any way I could for progressive causes, I must very rationally suggest that you now open up your authoritarian style. You must consider the following recommendations for structural reorganization seriously for the greater common good of our peoples for whom there is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that you immensely care about. You are indeed fortunate that your superiors have trusted you with the nation's most important future reins by giving you so much power. Please use it wisely, for there is surely a just judge taking notes, somewhere, the foremost one being our own conscience, if only one will allow it to sight for one.

So please permit me to offer some concrete suggestions now to fix the operational problems as I have perceived them.

These operational problems, apart from your authoritarian rule, are largely the reason for HEC's remarkable failure to produce sweet fruits despite the carte blanche powers enjoyed by you. In order to rectify this failure comprehensively, the root cause must be attacked. Merely replacing the existing "you" for instance, with the new "perfect you" - Mr. congenialities - will still not achieve the overall education transformation we desire as a nation. The core problems are inherently systemic in the very structure of the institutional framework in Pakistan in which the two of you have operated, or found yourselves inheriting. While you and others in the Government of Pakistan quite appreciated the enormity of the problem space, the correct solution space was not appreciated, nor developed, nor even visualized, due to the short term short sighted immediate gratification mode of everyone who has ever come to power in our nation. Plans and noble thoughts look wonderful on paper, the devil however is in the details of its execution over the long term, and in producing sweet fruits that can be harvested over and over again for the continuing benefit of our peoples, which is where we always get bitten and smitten to dust. So let's fix it at the core. And let's put aside for the moment, all cynicisms related to realpolitik.

In additions to the recommendations below, I have also already before you two proposals, TFI-21 and TFI-MIT, emailed to you on January 17, 2007, which you (Sohail) acknowledged on January 19, 2007 asking me to hold on to my horses, which I have been holding since. I will not repeat what is in TFI-21, but will incorporate it here by reference. I am including below two appendices
for your benefit since you haven't seen either one before, an email letter I wrote to a Stanford University faculty member who I was informed is joining LUMS' new School of Science and Engineering and is interested in initiating a Faculty training program; and my first order comments on Government of Pakistan Ministry of Education's interesting new White Paper. Please do review these before continuing further in order to understand the underlying contexts for these recommendations. Some of the relevant cited references also provide a broader general context.

After observing the dismal performance of the entire education system, the culture of subordination and yes-men that has been fostered in HEC as your autocratic largess, and the immense complexity of the problem space that not just you but the entire country keenly recognizes, it appears that an organizational restructuring is highly necessary. There must be made a manifest separation of education systems architecture, design, policymaking, and implementation-planning, from its execution, and ongoing operational sustainment and administration. Further, monitoring must be entirely split off into its own space. Let's take each of these points one by one.

HEC must be rechartered by the Government of Pakistan to only become the implementation and sustaining arm of higher education, not the design, new ideas, and new solutions arm. There needs to be a similar implementation, and sustaining arm for K-12 grades of the public and private school systems. For the purpose of this document, allow me to refer to it simply as EHS - Elementary-Highschool System.

Monitoring must be entirely split off into a watchdog agency outside of those chartered for managing the ongoing operations and sustainment in order to create a more rational and efficacious system of checks and balance, and also to offload the departments chartered to do the implementations and ongoing administration of the education system from being burdened by the monitoring process which in itself is an all encompassing huge task requiring a separate budget of its own.

For the purpose of this document, please allow me to refer to the monitoring agency as NAMS - National Academic Monitoring System. Its charter with commensurate powers to make it effective, would be an all encompassing one, from monitoring schools and university performance, to adjudicating cases of plagiarism and fake degrees which have now become the most common problem plaguing the academe worldwide. NAMS would have regional cells in each major city with additional sub-cells as required for on the ground effective monitoring. This effective split from the governance has the potential of making this checks and balance work. But without real sharp teeth in NAMS through being empowered to award exemplary punishments where the major underlying principle is future deterrence for the types of crimes brought before it for adjudication, it will end up being as much an eyewash as any other accountability measure has been in the nation. Thus in its crafting and construction, remaining cognizant of political realities and cronyism as well as selective political victimizations and abuse, would require much due diligence in architecting its structures and mechanisms such that it can have self-balancing forces within it to make it self-policing. If this can be executed efficaciously, then your major angst mes amis, "...But how can we do anything by issuing statements from Islamabad?" is automatically resolved in many different contexts, not just the one in which you (Atta) uttered it to the Chronicle reporter.

Both of the aforementioned new implementation arms, HEC and EHS, as well as the new watchdog agency, NAMS, must be coordinated by a new overarching education "systems" organization that has the charter for the overall education system architecture, design, and implementation-planning for K-18, under perhaps the Federal Ministry of Education, or another federally administered independent structure, arbitrarily referred to here as NESC - National Education Systems Council.

NESC must be staffed with professional educators. Not people with PhD degrees in science or specialized obscure fields as their only primary qualification to work in defining the education process, not bureaucrats who follow orders, not sycophants out for a pecuniary gain, but professional educators from the arts, sciences, and humanities, men and women of letters who are in the business of education and understand and comprehend the education process itself as opposed to merely in possession of a PhD and teaching in a university or school, are experienced in defining organizational structures to bring to bear their expertise on designing a proper delivery system and services for education, are capable of independent thought, and unafraid to express them in a collaborative, problem solving oriented, egoless teams setting. The former types of people now seem to occupy the rank and file of HEC, which makes it an eminently suitable organization for being the timely execution agents of well thought out plans made elsewhere, with a bit of restructuring, appointment of suitably experienced and congenial administrators from the professional bureaucracy, and the removal of lofty charters from its undeserving plate. The need for defining an education system that makes rational and practical sense, and which caters to the needs of the vast majority of peoples in Pakistan and not just its ruling minority English enabled elite, is indeed the task of the latter types of peoples. One does not need many of them, and they are actually to be found right here in Pakistan if one has the eyes and imagination to recognize them.

In order for the education systems transformation to be genuine and not merely lip service, unless we can develop and nurture interests in reading, inquisitiveness, and pursuit of passionate interests and hobbies among the general public starting from when they are young children, no amount of restructuring is going to transform the input to the educational system - the kids, youngsters, young men and women, who must be weaned from rote learning, mindless street gawking, and all shades of fundamentalist fanaticism and mind numbing television, into new realms of imagination, inquiry, talent development, and reading! In order to do so, public libraries are a must in every locality and city, much like hospitals, and other essential services. Since we are so far behind on this, a federal initiative is now mandatory to make up for it, which I arbitrarily refer to here as PLCC - Public Libraries and Community Centers. It would include, apart from a modern general library, apart from specialized technical and historical general interest wings located in select libraries, many aspects of community center activities that we regularly see in the West in every small city and community, to nurture talent in the arts, humanities, performing arts, and indeed, the sciences, by bringing kids and youth off the streets and into the library buildings where they can learn and grow their interests and their talents. That's how we create good engineers and scientists and scholars and artists and an educated work force for the 21st century! Possession of mere paper degrees does not make it so. If the West does it that way through its substantial investment in its children and in its own future with libraries and community centers up the wazoo in every nook and cranny in their cities and towns, why should we feel we have a shortcut path shown to us by the Almighty? It's elevation in priority to the same level as Higher Education is of utmost urgency, and an imperative for a nation that has no modern public libraries and which aspires to transform its peoples along with its education systems. One without the other is quite meaningless.

This bit of wisdom expressed above for restructuring an organization that is inherently malformed for the task at hand, and creating new structures more appropriate to what really needs to get done, is but common sense gleaned from years in the corporate world where results, not good intentions, is the pragmatic yardstick of performance. Broken or ineffective organizations and ineffective leaderships are continually reorganized and restructured, sometimes disbanded and replaced, to get the job done. When we are borrowing so much blindly from the West, there is no reason not to also borrow some good horse sense.

However such gestalt shifts in thinking and its execution will take some time, whereas the needs are immediate. Thus in the near term, in order to mitigate the impact of all powers vested in a bunch of oligarchs and subject to ad hoc decision making, you may consider devoluting your powers into well defined and publicly documented processes within HEC for project proposal, adjudication, and approval cycle. Within those processes, constitute committees whose membership is drawn through another well defined process. The deliberation process of the committees is also well defined, including appropriate appeals process. All decisions and approvals at HEC are then taken only through these well defined processes. And if you tried to make participation in these committees inclusive, rather than exclusive, seeking out a diversity of experts rather than incestuous self-reinforcement, you have a winning formula in the immediate near term that can carry over to the new organization structural rearrangements when they transpire.

And the first thing you ought to do with these new processes at HEC, is send your already approved existing programs through them for re-validation, rejection-in-retrospect, or amendment, as appropriate! If you keep the system transparent and can courageously push back on vested and political interests that will surely be annoyed at this and will fight you every step of the way, you may yet be able to redeem some of your efforts. If this process, comprising a diversity of views and seeing a vigorous debate in public conducted without undue influence from political quarters,
adjudicates favorably upon your new university projects, then so be it. I also look forward to learning what is so damn incredible about these projects beyond what I already know from their PC-1s that would enable them to pass a properly designed and debated vetting process!

I also feel compelled to draw your kind attention to the cynical ground reality around us. The cited references amply demonstrate the complexity of the global stage we live on, the agendas of different developed nations when they offer us gratuitous help (often reminiscent of Greeks bearing gifts), and our uncanny inability to progress due to our own follies of consistently accepting or acquiescing to leadership who cannot lead. If by some Machiavellian outlook, the unstated goals of our education system however have all along been to merely perpetuate a subservient client state by deliberately creating generations of students incapable of taking over the reins of their own destiny; to merely keep the nation perpetually engaged in providing frontline proxy services to the ever evolving imperatives of global superpowers on the Grand Chessboard - one day "noble jihadis carefully nurtured in the madrassahs invited up to the White House to win World War III", the next day "Islamofacist terrorists and suicide bombers against whom a lifetime of World War IV is to be waged"; to merely make us perpetual consumers of greedy multinationals where our factory churned, college educated, English enabled elite may find easy employment for sales and tech-support, and our lower strata of marginally educated society - educated enough however to follow directions of their task master supervisors - conveniently harvested as "slaves" through economic conscription where none of the labor laws that apply in the "civilized" developed nations, apply in the name of globalization and trade treaties that developing nations are left with no choice but to sign due to their heavy debt burden; then for all these subterfuges, the present policies and actors, well intentioned though some of them may arguably be, are absolutely the perfect choices.

Since I don't believe the aforementioned Machiavellian hypothesis, that these subterfuges have indeed been anyone's deliberate unstated goals, and nor would any conscionable Pakistani, nor any other person of honor and self-respect regardless of national boundaries, be he or she in the West or the East, the North or the South, ever subscribe to these treasonous aspirations against their own peoples, even though many may, and indeed have become unwitting or unwilling participants to it throughout Pakistan's long troubled history, I must rightly conclude that as men of honor and dignity with substantial accomplishments in your own respective technical fields, your ineffective stewardship of HEC up to this point has merely been due to dramatic and substantial incongruence, a mismatch of skill sets to the problem domain and job description.

The nature of the problem space to bring a rational transformation to our education system is indeed too big in the civilian sector to be dealt with in such military style autocratic fashion by a handful of technocrats compartmentalizing the problem with a military mindset arbitrarily into higher education and lower education, when a more holistic and systems approach for the entire education system with a much more open and collaborative style of strategic effort and long term planning and execution, is the job requirement.

Thus while I am absolutely not suggesting that you step down at this time, additional skilled people more suited to the collaborative nature of the tasks at hand must be brought on the job to complement your own single minded passions for doing unilateral good works. The restructuring seeded above, with appropriate refinements from professionals more astute and experienced than I in the ways of managing very large scale complex programs and projects, while addressing the problem space more efficaciously, also automatically broadens and enlarges the pie, creating plenty of leadership work to go around on everyone's plate. A necessity in order to attract additional competent peoples in pivotal decision making roles, and to introduce a system of checks and balances that is sorely missing today.

Noam Chomsky, my erstwhile and distinguished college professor, once wrote an interesting article on "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" in 1967. Fortunately, not being from among them, and thus not being burdened by their cross, I merely wrote a simple question to one of the most distinguished scientists in Pakistan today on "dilemma of power to influence". ... I am taking the liberty of including [it] at the end as an appendix question for you as well. Both of you being far more educated and learned than I, can perhaps genuinely shed some light on it.

The questions, what are you doing wrong, or what is it that you should be doing and are not, have now been answered to the best of my limited abilities.

Finally, in conclusion, please permit me to once again remind you that prima donnas taking on public roles to solve the nation's problems must be held accountable commensurate with their positions. Good intent alone, or specialized primary expertise and/or distinction acquired in unrelated fields, are not an excuse to acquire public power and to hold on to it come what may. And as the purpose of this whole education system transformation is so that we can move our poor beleaguered and often sold out nation to a civil, participatory, and actively engaged vibrant and progressive society, we must begin by setting the expectations of its very designers.

And also kindly allow me to leave you with this question to ponder:
Cross pollination of anything, from DNA to pollen, and including ideas, is the primary source for the continuation of life, its vibrancy, its creativity, and its remarkable breadth of diversity and concomitant beauty. I am sure you enjoy the pleasures of this beauty as much as anyone else. Are you going to encourage and nurture the secret sauce to the recipe so to speak, for the beauty of the Renaissance that you seek?

And to end with this last significant request. I would like to ask your permission to make this personal letter to you public on the Internet, and also to forward it to the Minister(y) of Education, the Planning Commission, the President of Pakistan, and the Prime Minister. I seek this permission because of several reasons. Firstly, I have reproduced here several conversations that were private, and essentially among friends. Thus without your permission, I couldn't make them public. If you don't feel that I should make our private speak public but are okay with the letter in general being made public, kindly redact the portions of the conversations that concern you, and mail the pdf back to me for review. Secondly, I feel that the purpose of this letter is to really provide you a sanity check for 'on the ground realities' and to compel you to examine your own performance. The best and lasting changes can only come about through internal changes within ourselves with judicious introspection and soul searching, as indeed the wisdom of the sages and all prophets of antiquity have empirically demonstrated. As such, you will surely benefit from other concerned Pakistani citizens also commenting on this letter for your benefit - and hopefully in the same constructive spirit as this. Thirdly, the analysis and recommendations provided here can be subjected to public debate for my own sanity checking - just in case I have been living in some altered reality and my empirical comprehension of the world is based on fiction and a product of my own "unconstrained imagination", and that indeed your accomplishments are as glorious as depicted on your website and thus this letter is entirely esoteric - as well as seed useful problem solving oriented discussions among a wider public audience, policy makers, educators, and your millions of young eager customers and their worthy parents. Such debates in a civil society is the norm and can only bring about a change for the better in the national interest.

Your forthright agreement to this request for public dissemination of this letter, with our conversations intact if possible, and perhaps even your active support in propagating this letter on your own website by creating a discussion blog for feedback to HEC with this letter seeding it, will also demonstrate to the entire nation and to the world, your new and genuine openness and willingness to listen to constructive criticism, and to work collaboratively with others of diverse viewpoints in order to serve the public interest in the most efficacious way possible. Even the CEOs of major American corporations, presidents of nations, many prominent lawyers and statesmen, and very influential and powerful people world wide are now blogging to get closer to the people whom they purport to serve. Why don't you too? Your first blog entry can be a cogent response to this letter. It will be a tremendous positive step in repairing and healing the national front on their frustration with the education system and legitimate perceptions of a non-responsive imperial HEC. Any one can dispatch orders from a perch given a megaphone. It takes genuine statesmanship to actually lead with honesty and openness. About time, don't you think?

A mea culpa is both human, and forgivable. And can be endearing as well. I know, I am constantly having to do it with the people I love and care about!

I eagerly await your considered response. Permit me to suggest that if you don't respond in a reasonable period of time, I will construe it as it being okay with you to make this letter public and to forward it to concerned members and departments in the Pakistan Government so that they may also think twice and thrice before blindly approving anymore PC-1s from HEC, and to put what has already been approved into reevaluation mode as they too hold fiduciary responsibilities and positions of trust on behalf of the peoples of this nation. I am compelled to give you this courtesy of first right to disapprove and/or suggest amendments because of my deep personal respect for both of you as men of personal integrity, while at the same time attempting to do what is right and following the diktats of my own humble conscience.

And I remain your friend and well wisher,

With warm regards,

Super IratePakistani

(after several false starts and much angst, finished writing on Feb 15, 2007)

Referenced Documents:

'Alice in wonderland'

01: Article in today's Dawn: HEC's Unconvincing Mega Projects -

02: Article in today's Dawn: Another plagiarising professor -

03: Article: Engineering education prepares for 2020 - Keynote Leah Jameison, IEEE 2007 President, Feb 1, 2007

04: Article: In Pakistan, the Problems That Money Can Bring - S. Neelakantan,
Chronicle, Jan 19, 2007

05: Article: The great giveaway - Education Guardian, Jan 17, 2007

06: Article: The Height of Higher Education - Q. Isa Daudpota, May 31, 2006

07: Article: Assessing Pakistani Science - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy Feb 21, 2006

08: Magazine: News and Views - Monthly magazine of HEC, Jan 2006.

09: Article: Reforms! What Reforms?
- Pervaiz Hoodbhoy July 8, 2005

10: Article:
Reforming Pakistan’s Universities -- I & II - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy Jan 4, 2005

'Uncourageous inaction'

11: Article: Plagiarism and Academia: Personal Experience - Bruce Schneier Aug 1, 2005

12: Article: Chairman HEC Takes Serious Note of Plagiarism - Online

13: Website: Permanent Faculty Urdu university, snapshot Feb, 2007

14: Article: Fake Degrees for the Big Boys in Pakistan - Q. Isa Daudpota, Nov 28, 2004

15: Article: Dubious Universities - Q. Isa Daudpota, Nov 4, 2004

16: Article: The Scandal of Fake and Madrassa Degrees - Q. Isa Daudpota, Jun 15, 2003

'Begging bowl and national consequences for our children and grandchildren'

17: Article: US offers $100m for education reforms - Dawn Dec 1, 2006

18: Slides: Institutional Uplift and Quality Enhancement of Higher Education - Session-V-Atta-Ur-Rehman.pdf, April 26, 2005 (
one billion Dollars in debt to the World Bank?)

19: Article: Cloak and Classroom
- David Glenn, Chronicle, Mar 25, 2005

20: Book: A Game As Old As Empire Feb 2007

21: Book: Confessions of an Economic Hitman, 2005, John Perkins

'state of affairs prior to HEC'

22: Article:
How Not to Reform Universities - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy July 9, 2002

23: Article:
Defending the Indefensible - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy Jan 7, 2001

24: Article:
Education Reforms: Yet Another Sham - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy Jan 7, 2001

25: Article:
The Menace of Education - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy July 9, 2000

26: Article:
What are they Teaching in Pakistani Schools Today? - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy April 15, 2000

27: Article:
Why The War On Ghosts Was Lost - Pervaiz Hoodbhoy Mar 8, 1999

Appendix A: Letter to Stanford professor on Faculty training in Pakistan and MIT OCW

Date: Mon, 5 Feb 2007 23:33:15 -0500 (EST)
From: "Super IratePakistani"
To: Professor []
Subject: Faculty training in Pakistan and MIT OCW

Dear Professor []

I am pleased to hear from [..] that you have these aspirations. As [..] has noted, and I concur with him to some extent, that this is an important need.

I don't wish to jump straight into the point solutions however.

Many such point solutions have been proposed here and there. And I believe that this is not sufficient as an overarching approach, to willy nilly identify this and that components missing, and zealously going after them in overdrive. These "greedy optimizations" often don't work from a systems design perspective, and can often work to degrade the system. More likely, they end up being red herrings, or worse, white elephants.

I would like to do a proper systems design of the education system, K-16, perhaps K-18 now that masters degrees are becoming essential for professional opportunities, for which I too have some point technologies and point ideas to bring to bear. But not the entire system architecture which needs proper rethinking through a proper exploration of the solutions space in conjunction with local educators, teachers, and other local persons from the letters and the arts. By local, I mean Pakistani. I have been trying to get these guys in Pakistan to create a forum where such matters can be discussed properly, a coherent system architected, and issues worked out in depth, rather than through these superficial one of a kind seminars that are being held across the country where some really intelligent peoples present their wonderful ideas as papers and move on. As a systems person myself, no system can be designed that way. Although it's a great way of sharing ideas, but it's terrible for debating or discussing them, and evolving them into the "right thing to do" space through analysis, culling, and refinement.

The problems domain in Pakistan have been well fleshed out, by many visionaries, including []'s own many insightful critiques, as well as []'s who is also Cc'ed on this email.

The solution space however has been the least explored, and always with a priori assumptions of a particular solution, and allowing micro options thereof.

An excellent example of this is the White Paper from the Government of Pakistan's Ministry of Education in which they outlined their "formula" for how to fix things. You can take a look at this white paper yourself if you haven't already, and form your own impressions. Mine are quite different from others' reactions, including []'s who is impressed.

Similarly, I was forwarded a faculty training strawman proposal developed a few years ago that postulated a central large training center in Islamabad - big numbers everywhere in it. I don't believe a one of kind center in the middle of Islamabad, or Lahore, or Karachi makes any sense at all. It's an elitist luxury we can ill afford. Adult education is an ongoing process. Not a one of thing. We encounter it in the West regularly. In a systems perspective, it would make more sense to have many small adult teacher-learning and training centers spread out throughout Pakistan, where teachers, faculty, and educators can go locally for further training on an on-going basis throughout their teaching careers. They can take classes in the evenings, and learn as they teach during the day. Sometimes they may attend week long workshops for specialty training. The teacher-teachers who might teach in these training/community centers can be brought to a central location for training however as needed. The country is too poor to have all its teachers and educators take a year off, or have them pay a year's worth of tuition with no income coming in and come to an expensive city to live. And the level of training or rather re-training that is required is likely to the extent - from all the pessimistic accounts I have heard - that it must be a life-long or at least a multi-year learning process in order to create effective teachers and educators. Not a one shot deal. The economics of these things from the teachers/faculty perspective, makes it infeasible for them to come to Lahore or Islamabad or Karachi and stay in these expensive cities for a year. The scaling factor makes a central center an infeasible and ineffective option in my humble view. But it can still be examined properly, only when the big system architecture is in front of us.

And this is what I mean by point solutions. If a complete system is thought out, such weaknesses become immediately obvious. But they don't seem to get noticed in isolation at all as in all these point solutions. I won't even delve here into the Foreign Faculty Hiring programs or some of the bandaids that are being put on systemic cancerous maladies in the hope that the patients will miraculously recover. And the prime reason for these is that there is no process whereby a system can be designed/discussed. Indeed, wherein even point proposals can be discussed, dissected, debated, improved, or discarded as appropriate. Today anyone with power just gets whatever they dream up, implemented.

Thus I am now very point-solutions averse!

With all this aforementioned as background, I am attaching a strawman proposal for a task force I had made to HEC. It's intent was to actually explore the solution space and define an education system that will meet the goals stated therein. I am still awaiting a response from them.

In addition to this big picture stuff, I am also very interested in implementing MIT's opencourseware in Pakistan. An initial strawman proposal for a task force that I has sent HEC is also attached for your reference. I am once again, still awaiting a response from them. Since that time however, I have been in touch with MIT OCW, and evolved the idea considerably. I don't have a writeup for it completed yet - but it is to create a degree granting program that uses mit opencourseware, but more importantly, adopts/adapts MIT's entire philosophy of education - the secret sauce to the recipe, so to speak. And for this program, we would need to train the existing faculty, culled for the program from Pakistani public universities, in the ways of MIT. An enormous challenge. But this is only intended to be a pilot program and the scale is rather small.

Do let me know if any of this interests you. However I would be delighted to discuss with you any matter at any level of abstraction you wish, and be happy to lend you any assistance I can.

Kind Regards,
Super IratePakistani.

Appendix B: First order comments on Ministry of Education's new White Paper

Date: Sun, 28 Jan 2007 23:34:22 -0500 (EST)
From: "Super IratePakistani"
To: Professor Pervaiz Hoodhboy @QAU Islamabad
Subject: Re: THE WHITE PAPER on Education Policy (fwd)

Dear Pervaiz,

I read the Education Ministry's white paper last night, not very carefully, and am starting a second more careful analytical read now. But I have to confide in you my initial misgivings, so that if warranted, you may guide me to perhaps focus on specific things as I do my second more detailed read.

The last 10 pages of this document are simply fantastic. I learnt a lot staring at it. Kudos to them for presenting the history of education policy over the last 60 years in this succinct form.

Please observe the following in the last column National Education Policy 1998-2010 -

"Continuing on the 1979 & 1992 policies, this policy makes several leaps. First, in 21st century it visualizes Pakistan as an ideological state ... the country cannot survive and advance without putting the entire system of education on Islamic foundations....the only justification for our existence is our total commitment to Islam as out sole identity. Second, education is perceived as an instrument to 'build the sound Islamic society'. Third, Islam and Islamic values should not be part of Islamic studies alone but also all other disciplines."

Unless I missed it, this white paper no where unequivocally states that this education policy should be reconsidered for the 21st century. How do you make consistent the above statements and the goal that an education system must not be based on a national ideology so that is is not used for indoctrination of the values of the state? How do you reconcile the above policy with the articulated desire to create critical thinkers who are allowed to explore and question and argue and add to the intellectual life of a nation and yet accept the above indoctrination without question?

It does not state anywhere (unless I missed it again) that teaching of ethics from the earliest grades is necessary to make decent, civic minded, and moral humanbeingsfirst out of the kids, and that this is far more essential than making them Muslims first. This point was very forcefully made by Dr. Ghammadi, himself a religious scholar, in the May 2006 education conference, where he argued that Islamic teachings should not even be introduced until 5th or 6th grade (when a kid is around 10 years old); but this really enlightened stuff does not seem to have entered this whitepaper.

If the above 1998-2010 policy is the pedestal upon which the education building of the 21st century is to be constructed, then the beautiful description of all the facade, the doors and windows and other architectural details is quite meaningless. And I grant you there are many beautiful words mouthed in this white paper, and much excellent data on the current state presented, what I call the problem-space. The building however, on such a pedestal, will still stand handicapped, and possibly be quite anachronistic. They have talked about Islam and nostalgia, and how we need to overcome all the baggage of history and become progressive and dynamic, etc. etc. No where do they mention the How to do that? The education system is now going to take on the fiqhs and the religious establishment to get them to reform our comprehension of Islam?

The "diversity" model so eloquently outlined in your own speech at Indus valley school is far more easily implementable (as hard a sell as that might be to some conservative elements), than the above. It is far easier to accept differences and agree to disagree, rather than to get everyone to agree on the same thing!! The former does not threaten anyone's faith and belief system and hence can be more palatable if marketed properly; the latter is next to impossible to achieve as it threatens almost everyone!!!

But while they mention diversity someplace, it's not clear how it is actually reconciled with the policy goals outlined above of Pakistan being an ideological state, Islamic state, and "someone's" version of Islam will be taught to all Muslims.

Why can't a public school system be constructed to be diverse? Why does it all have to be one type? Or have the same one curriculum? Why can't some schools be more liberal arts, some more performing arts, some more science, some more literature-centric, some philosophy centric, and some more parochial by sect as demanded by the local community, etc? They all teach the basics of reading, writing, thinking and communication skills at each grade level, they may also have some rudimentary curriculum requirements for each grade level, but do they all have to have the same complete curriculum? Why can't there be more "functional" schools?

That's my problem with this document - it does not explore the solution space at all. It is all too easy to fill up pages with coherent problem description, we all know them. But instead of exploring the solution options, they provide point solutions and micro options based on their own peculiar comprehension of what the end system must look like a priori. That's not exploring the solution space, that's preconceiving a solution. I haven't seen solution-A vs. solution-B vs. solution-C debated in this paper.

I have to re-study their detailed policy recommendations more carefully, but my initial reaction was (and it was 4 am when I finished so these could be misperceptions) that they really do not solve the problem even in their preconception of a solution. That the goals they have outlined, actually cannot really be met. For instance, the hodge podge of switching of languages, and bringing benefits to all Pakistanis equitably, are all fraught with implementation perils which I don't see how they can solve it in reality even if they give it 20 years!

As far as the problem space description and many statements with respect to the overarching goals and vision are concerned, they are excellent. But it's mostly still motherhood and apple pie. There is really nothing new or revolutionary here. If you stare at the previous policy goals from 1947, you will see similar statements were also made earlier. When I first started reading this paper, I was simply amazed at all the good things they were saying. Fast forward to page 83-92 and you realize it has all been uttered before. Indeed, if you look at the policy progression, it is actually regressive and politically opportunistic, rather than in the best interest of the kids themselves!!!!!!!!!!

I thought it was strange that the Citizens Foundation, which runs hundreds of schools in poor neighborhood from private money, was not mentioned as a model of "functional" organization to examine for public schools.

My question is, can public schools be run in a similar "functional" organizational structure, rather than the governmental structure that runs it today? Why do the two structures have to be the same, i.e. why can we not create a new more functional structure for the delivery of education?

Why can't we look at how school districts are managed in the US public school system? I haven't studied their innerworkings myself. Did anyone from among the participants listed in this document do a careful case study of it and try to identify workable ideas and implementation efficiencies that could be adapted to Pakistan?

The paper uses really sophisticated terminology though!

Have I fundamentally misperceived the white paper? I think they need to spend more time examining solutions for restructuring the delivery system by studying what other nations have done. What are your views on it?


Kind Regards,
Super IratePakistani.

Appendix C: Letter of inquiry to Pakistan's most prominent scientist on "Dilemma of power to influence"

Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2007 20:15:20 -0500 (EST)
From: "Super IratePakistani"
To: Distinguished Professor Riazuddin @National Center for Physics, Islamabad
Subject: dilemma of power to influence

Dear Prof. Riazuddin,

This has been bothering me for a while - please allow me to explain:

Einstein is quoted in a children's biography book on having lamented loudly upon hearing of the first bomb drop on Hiroshima and Nagasaki "it is better to not take any action". We know of Einstein's well publicized role in the letter to Roosevelt that kicked of the Manhattan project to need further elaboration.

For what I am about to inquire, it is irrelevant whether this lament actually occurred or is mythology. The point it highlights is crucial: when important peoples, with immense credibility and visibility, have power to influence many momentous events, how must they conduct themselves?

A silly guy like Nobel Laurette William Shockley argued for the superiority of races - had some role to play in the founding of Cold Springs Harbor research institute where Watson worked after his DNA research, and where David Baltimore got his own start in research. Over there, they may still believe in his ideology. It is rather fortunate that Shockley's ideas on racial superiority of white races did not, or have not become an overt policy guide for the nations of the North. But it could have, and it may yet be their covert thinking vis a vis the Global South. But it does not make it into any overt public policy initiatives which is a good thing!

At the turn of the last century however, similar racial and eugenics programs were in vogue in the US quite openly, all founded and supported by influential thinkers, scholars, and erudite scientists with influence such that when they spoke - ordinary well meaning peoples believed them and caused irreparable harm to countless others. German Nazis when accused of their racial programs against non-white [non]Germanic races actually pointed to the American progenitors in their defense.

Thus persons of influence, when they speak, often carry enormous weight. Not necessarily for the content of their speak, but who they are. This is in the nature of things and cannot, and will not, change.

Recognizing this non-linear impact on others just because of their name, a thoughtful scientist like Carl Sagan, who made Astronomy and the exploration of heavens an accessible pleasure and wonderment for the ordinary peoples around the world, and was likely the most recognized man after Mohammad Ali on the entire planet, always refrained to share his views on the existence of god in public.

In one interview that I saw of Sagan, he explicitly declined to comment stating he did not want to cause undue influence upon others by virtue of his authority on something entirely unrelated - i.e., astronomy vs. personal faith of others. On that day, I liked him as a person. Before that, I had always liked him as a scientist despite his slight arrogance (with Marvin Minsky and Isaac Asimov) which I could often overlook.

Therefore, when a conscionable person of some influence and moral leanings is faced with the prospects of presenting their views in public on pressing matters du jour, what are some of the considerations before them? How do they know they are doing the right thing by taking public positions based on their personal views?

A person of influence can do both immense good, as well as irreparable harm. How must they proceed? Following Einstein's loud missive would be silly. At the same time, not following Sagan's path would be peddling undue and unfair influence. On the other hand, not reacting to pressing and urgent needs intelligently would be foolish when one has the power to affect change for the better.

Not that I will ever be afflicted with this problem of influencing others, but this is bothering me.

Please do share your insights.

Kind Regards,
Super IratePakistani.

Education system for the 21st century Task Force Initiative
A brief strawman at what this task force initiative might do
rev 0.0

This task force initiative (TFI21) is intended to be entirely complementary to, and not competitive with, HEC's pursuit of improving Pakistan's higher education system. While HEC generally operates in a very tactical mode and under many relatively short term directives from the President of Pakistan (such as to create foreign universities to increase the number of engineering graduates pronto) which they are chartered to implement as quickly as possible, TFI21 takes a longer range strategic and generational view starting with a clean slate to come up with a complete "system" of education for K-16+ ab-inito.

TFI21 addresses the question:- what is the right thing to do for a largely backward, and highly socially corrupt developing nation like Pakistan which has no general culture of learning, where the primary and secondary education are largely through rote learning and memorization, where no love of learning for the sake of learning is inculcated, no interests and passionate pursuits of curiosity developed nor rewarded nor any innate talents and skills and extracurricular interests nurtured and fostered, where obedience in thinking and action is demanded both in school and home, and where these very same systems end up feeding our equally anemic colleges and universities transferring along their baggage of "waiting to be spoon fed" and "waiting to be told" what to do next while pursuing an entirely boring and outdated college and university curriculum taught by equally lack-luster and anemic staff who themselves generally came up through the same system and show an equal contempt to the concept of love of learning, inquisitiveness, independent thinking, and extended reach. In this rather optimistic appraisal of how the Pakistani system is today, because in reality it is even worse whereby cheating, deceit, intolerance, and rampant hypocrisy has made the society largely morally bankrupt, one cannot expect to produce innovative scientist, independent thinkers, creative engineers, wise scholars, moral statesman and leaders, imaginative social scientists, erudite historians, expert linguists, amazing artists, and in general, an actively engaged moral citizenry that is capable of participating productively and proactively in a civil society with a developed sense of social responsibility and ethics. The seeds of attitude towards education and learning start in the home, is carried on into the classroom in Kindergarten, and by the time one is 18 and ready to enter a university, the die is pretty much cast. We are today at "either fuck someone first or be fucked by them" and "jis ki lathi us ki bhais", and from here we want to get to a modern progressive non-oppressive egalitarian industrialized Muslim society that is intent on learning, activism, and social justice while fully engaged in the pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness. So what system of education do we need to accomplish that? Let's define it.

TFI21 further addresses the question: what is the right thing to do in a largely agrarian population that lives in rural areas, and where the soon to be 200 million population distribution ranges from 5% incredibly wealthy ruling elite, to almost 30-40% living in over-crowded cities with increasing urbanization due to ongoing migration from rural to city, to more than 50% still living in rural areas and villages, and more than half of all students in the nation from K-12 only being exposed to sub-standard "urdu-medium" public elementary and secondary schools. TFI21 addresses the question:- is quality K-16 education supposed to be only the right of the ruling elite and those who can afford expensive private schools, - or is it the right for all the peoples of the nation? How can we bring quality K-16 education to all the masses so that anyone with interest, inclination, and opportunity can attend post-graduate education? What sort of system do we need to replace the almost apartheid like system of private "English-medium" vs. public "Urdu-medium" system we have today such that any child in the nation, not just the privileged rich, can grow up to compete competitively at the university level and for employment and career opportunities with anyone?

TFI21 also addresses the question: what is the best way to increase the educated talent pool of the nation, and how to produce more technically adept and proficient engineers and scientists at the world class level, and at least at the levels of neighboring nations like China and India. How can we improve the substance and level of research in our universities for the generation that will emerge from the new K-16+ program after its-overhaul. TFI21 addresses the issues of diversity of educational institutions types catering to different needs, from community colleges to social science and liberal arts universities to science and engineering institutions.

TFI21 finally addresses the question: what sort of educational programs need to be instituted at the national level, and what sort of budgets need to be allocated to implement such programs.

These questions are obviously too broad based, but capture the essence of why such a strategic task force is needed to design the architecture of a new educational system, suggest implementation plans, and identify the levels of resources over the next generational period that will be needed to be invested before we will begin to see world class scholars, thinkers, scientists, and engineers emerge from our universities and out compete the IIT, and other highly progressive and rapidly developing Chinese and South Korean educational systems (of which we need to undertake a study of what they are doing and how they have been able to bootstrap themselves so effectively). Despite the seeking of immediate gratification culture that the Americans have taught us, we continually need to remind ourselves that "Rome wasn't built in a day" and instead seek a page out of our oriental neighbors books. We need to adopt long range views and long range plans, and then sustain our pursuit of them in the long haul - somehow (n
ot clear how this long-haul thing is realizable in a nation where you go to bed at night not knowing who will be in charge the next day). These things are not impossible to achieve at all. Most industrialized nations have it. If we want to get there, well this is the road to it.

TFI21 task force will comprise social scientist, educators, teachers, scholars, area and experts. It would be structured into smaller working groups reporting into TFI21 with specific responsibilities and deliverables. It must be headed by some distinguished and energetic academic luminary who can command respect even under disagreements and skilled enough to be able to lead and guide the task force towards its goal amicably.

Okay this is only a raw first cut to seed the discussion. Please help refine and prune it.

Please also provide points on why this is not a good idea, why it should not be constituted - so that we can preemptively address objections (perhaps from our own minds initially) and record them as a faq for others who will join us in the task force and will likely wonder on similar points. It will also help crystallize the proposals better.

My own first objection is "why bother, who cares, it's a freaking thankless job, it's a dictatorship, how can you impact policy, who the hell do you think you are to dream this big". I would welcome your erudite response to this first set of objections. I am already stumped!

Task Force Initiative to examine adaptation of MIT OCW educational framework
for Pakistani engineering and science undergraduate education

A brief strawman at what this task force initiative might do
rev 0.0

This task force initiative (TFIMIT) is intended to develop an adaptation plan for MIT open courseware web based instruction program for undergraduate and science degree programs in Pakistani universities.

There are many hurdles to this and this task force will flesh out the issues and solve them. It will lay out implementation plans for a pilot program to implement a few selected degree options in a few selected universities and oversee their first implementation.

The mission of the TFIMIT would be to create a practical framework to facilitate the adoption of other degree programs beyond the pilot in a distributive self-administered fashion throughout Pakistan. The task force will create guidelines on how to asses student body skill level, how to appropriately create prerequisites so that the students can engage and learn productively based on their academic preparation and not have to expect all students to be MIT level prepared or caliber in order to benefit from the education, and how to tailor the courses to adapt to the student needs. TFIMIT will also layout the requirements for lab work to support the courses, and outline the new labs and new experiments that would need to be created in Pakistani universities to support the MIT coursework. The task force will also layout the requirements for budget and faculty training to administer the program.

An interesting leverage point for the MIT OCW program that makes it eminently suitable for implementation in poor developing nations that do not have the benefit of seasoned and experienced professors and abundance of teaching staff, is that the courses are already fleshed out in sufficient depth and breadth that an effective program of teaching can be created that significantly utilizes graduate teaching assistants and existing professors. All they need to do to teach the course effectively is to take it first themselves using MITOCW material. How beautiful!!

Thus this task force will be both the architecture, and the implementation arm for running the pilot program and creating all the collateral material to make the pilot program successful. Based on the outcome, the distributed nature of the process will enable other universities to adopt MIT educational framework on their own without further involvement from the task force.

Thus the life of the task force is the duration of the pilot program and seeing it being successful.

Initially, based on the interests of the participants, it may be that physics (MIT course 8), math (course 18) and electrical engineering and computer science (course 6) might be good candidates for the pilot. Other disciplines may also be candidate if we can find champions for them. A few selected areas of concentration within these disciplines may be further selected to tailor the program to local resources, interest, and skill level. Furthermore, MIT Institute requirements for science and humanities as well as extensive communication and writing requirements all have to be figured out - such that a course 6 major can actually get almost the entire breadth of multi-disciplinary coursework as an actual MIT student does. There are limits of course, but that is the intent of the task force to figure these things out and create the teaching base for it in the pilot project. The thesis requirement also has to be figured out.

The TFIMIT task force isn't operating in the dark, nor would it be the first one, as there are several other adaptations in the world, and we can collaborate and exchange experience with them. Singapore has close program running with MIT and we can look at their collaboration. I don't know however if a complete university system as adapted MITOCW. I can inquire from MIT. A further step would be to create an international accreditation body to sort of accredit the implementation of MIT OCW in various instances of its implementation worldwide. The impact of such an accreditation would be that an MITOCW graduate from such a university will have some substantial recognition as having graduated from the same coursework as taught at MIT. Such a local MITOCW graduate from a properly implemented local program can beat any local engineering university graduate in skill and education level hands down. The pilot program should further be able to demonstrate this (how, what metric to use)? This would be another criteria to determine whether national adoption makes sense or not.

The TFIMIT task force must be lead by a distinguished academic who commands substantial respect and is skilled in the art of selling ideas and motivating senior people to operate on short but realizable deadlines in order to not loose steam in the project. The selling job will have to be done at the highest university levels to garner interest from the university management in adopting the pilot project.

Okay guys, this is my first cut. Please chip in with your views and help refine it.

I would also very much appreciate some contrarian views of why we should not do this as a formal adoption into a Pakistani university. Why is it a bad or infeasible idea. Then we will try to address those questions and compose a faq and put all the objections with answers in it.

My own first objection is this: are the ordinary Pakistani university students, coming up through the lousy Pakistani secondary education system, capable of handing an MIT curriculum? How much would it have to be broken up into smaller chunks, or reduced and water-downed, in order to be successfully administered in the 8 semesters (4 years). Please provide your input to this question as I am once again stumped. My gut feel is why the hell not. And it is the purpose of the pilot program to come up with a framework where it is worthwhile.


For more information on the intellectual capital upon which TFIMIT proposal is based, please see the news stories cited below. Do note that this proposal is singularly unique in that it proposes creating a degree granting university program based on the free intellectual capital of MIT opencourseware, as well as utilizing MIT's rich philosophy of education - the secret sauce to the recipe so to speak. It is this "secret sauce" that is the cornerstone of TFIMIT and which distinguishes it from other deployment proposals of opencourseware. This "secret sauce" is not offered or elaborated upon explicitly by MIT in its opencourseware gift to the world and is indeed its 'family jewels'. Only an Alum who has gone through the grind can appreciate what it is - "the hell" for which the lucky parents still willingly dole out $50,000 per year - and this is what I wish to bring to bear on Pakistan's higher education transformation for science and engineering, for a mere song.

The kind of skilled, inventive, and imaginative technical peoples we must endeavor to create in the 21st century to advance as a self-reliant and progressive peoples - rather than just stay minions and fodder for foreign corporations as cheap off-shored technical labor force in these times of globalization - we cannot produce by investing in antiquated instruction methods and outdated education philosophies of the previous centuries in the name of progress as we seem to be doing today. We must strive to intelligently understand and nurturingly adopt - rather than blindly transplant what is foreign to the native soil - what the West itself sees as the new challenges that they must overcome by introducing newer teaching methods and dynamic education focus that endeavor to create a more resilient and adaptable peoples. The Dean of Engineering of Purdue University, and President of IEEE, Prof. Leah Jameison, in her February 1, 2007 Keynote speech
Engineering education prepares for 2020, also emphatically noted some of these challenges facing the West today: 'In many ways, the world is changing, ... Are our graduates going to have the skills they need over the next 40 years? ... The "half life" of an engineer's knowledge — the point at which half of what the engineer knows is obsolete — may now be as little as five years'!

There is little sense today in building a dozen new antiquated universities in our nation. The decision makers least understand the modern education challenges, and nor do they agree to empower those who do. Let's change that by capturing the initiative with this tremendous opportunity. Please review the following for additional information:

MIT to put its entire curriculum online free of charge, EE Times, March 13, 2007

MIT's OpenCourseWare Project Nears Completion, The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 12, 2007

MIT to offer courses free on Internet
, The Gulf Times, March 12, 2007

Polytechnic (Namibia) Teams Up with American Institute, New Era, March 09, 2007

How open source changes education: 10 success stories, InfoWorld, March 04, 2007

OCW Consortium -- Site of the Week, eSchool News Online, February 21, 2007

An MIT education - no charge, NPR Marketplace, February 21, 2007

The great giveaway - Education Guardian, Jan 17, 2007

How to go to M.I.T. for free, Christian Science Monitor, January 04, 2007

Yale on $0 a Day, Wall Street Journal

Read more current news on OpenCourseware Consortium News page

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