I just spent around four hours going through more than 150 comments in a discussion thread in which a colleague and his current and former students, over a period of three days, have done their best to malign the character, academic credentials, professional judgement and intellectual integrity of one of the giants of theoretical computer science and of science education of Pakistan.
The target of their ire, Dr Ashraf Iqbal, is the Dean of the Faulty of Information Technology at the University of Central Punjab. He is also a poet and short story writer.
- Almost 30 years of teaching electrical engineering at UET Lahore
- Research work at NASA Research Centre, Langley and the University of South California
- Overhauling the CS department at LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences), transforming it from a small department struggling with severe retention issues in 1999 to a dynamic powerhouse, active in research in both advanced theoretical topics as well as innovative applications of information and communication technologies. It was here that the major axes of his academic contributions of the years since were first elaborated: investigating common learning difficulties and obstacles in science and engineering in order to develop better pedagogical techniques, and, closely related, finding novel ways to apply ICT to solve some of Pakistan’s most pressing problems – lack of basic education, absence from the global research endeavour in the sciences (and hence our perpetual, dangerous, debilitating technological dependence), lack of innovation in terms of the new technology-enabled economy.
- Developing a unique, research-oriented MS in Innovation, Technology and Education at NUST (National University of Science and Technology, Rawalpindi) – the first graduate program with an explicit focus on novel pedagogical approaches with the mandate to explore effective ways of blending instruction design, assessment and technology to deliver immersive learning experiences. The graduates of this program have an entrepreneurial mindset – self-starters with a deep passion for their field – who are making significant contributions to the goal of affordable, quality education for everyone, any where, any time.
- Writing a textbook for use in introductory courses in graph theory – a core area in computer science – that gives preference to developing intuitive appreciation of the phenomena studied, rather than process drills or pattern-matching for “solving numericals”.
And he still believes that he hasn’t done enough for Pakistan, for the Muslim world, for science and education in Pakistan.
Coming back to the accusations and innuendo, the veiled and not-so-veiled threats, the attempts at character assassination – what was heartening and really encouraging were some of the responses of UCP students who methodically de-constructed the “case” this colleague has tried to build, pointing out the various logical fallacies, bringing to light the vested interest – vengeance – of this colleague and questioning his blatant manipulation of the religious feelings of his former students, who are, it seems, entirely unaware of the actual causes of his dispute with Professor Ashraf Iqbal.
I want to make this clear: no more. No more evil disguised as religiosity, no more abuse of religion for personal gain or revenge – na cchayR malangaan nooun.