New Age Islam
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Current Affairs ( 25 Dec 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Not many in Pakistan are happy at Dr Hoodbhoy’s elevation to UN’s Advisory Board


By Sohail Arshad, New Age Islam

December 26, 2012

Pakistan’s renowned scientist and a former professor at Quaid i- Azam University, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy has been appointed as a member of the advisory board on dis-armament matters at the United Nations. He is one of the nine members of the board which includes representatives from Jordan, South Korea, Ghana, Philippines and Egypt. His appointment becomes all the more significant because the membership is based on the personal profile of the elected members and they do not represent their respective governments.

He is one of the best scientists Pakistan has produced. Apart from being a scientist and an academician, Hoodbhoy is an environmentalist and social activist and regularly writes on social, cultural and environmental issues. He is seen in Pakistan as a crusader for the cause of scientific rationality in a society beleaguered by religious obscurantism, fundamentalism and orthodox religious thought.

In his remarkable book Islam and Science: Religious orthodoxy and Battle for Rationality whose foreword was written by Pakistani Nobel Laureate Dr Abdus Salam, he criticized this irrational and orthodox thought of the Muslims saying that science in Muslims countries  including Pakistan today was in an appalling state, and that religious orthodoxy and the rise of fundamentalism were responsible for this.

In Pakistan he has continuously been fighting for the cause of rationality and has been striving to bring about a radical change in the collective thought of the Pakistani people.

He has also been conferred the American Physical Society's 2010 Joseph A. Burton Forum Award, which is given for outstanding contributions to the understanding of physics.

These are some of the achievements which have earned him the coveted position in the UN’s advisory board on dis-armament matters.

But not many seem to be happy with it in Pakistan as the national media chose to downplay the event. Urdu dailies of Pakistan which give undue importance to religious issues and anti-India and anti-America rants of their columnists do not find any substance or sensational element in the news of his appointment as Ban ki Moon’s advisor. Another reason is his Ismaili Shia background. Pakistan’s lone Nobel Laureate Dr Abdus Salam was also dishonoured in Pakistan because he was an Ahmadiyya, a sect which was declared non-Muslim by the Pakistani law.

Last month, his three year contract with Lahore University of Management Sciences was not renewed on flimsy excuses. Though he cited the separation as the ideological differences, insiders say that he had to exit because of the army pressure on the college management. It should be noted that he has always been  at loggerheads with the army. Moreover, his bold opposition to the right-wing pseudo secular elements in Pakistani establishment and the Talibani elements in the army has earned him the wrath of the apologists of Taliban.

His exit from the LUMS was also because of his criticism of the policies of the army as the founder of the college Babar Ali, a scion of Pakistan’s one of 22 powerful business conglomerates  Ali Group is said to be close to the army. Foqia Sadiq Khan has rightly commented in Friday Times, “He has taken on the military and nuclear establishments on the one hand and debunks religious obscurantism on the other, while putting his personal interests and life in danger.” He believes that Pakistan’s nuclear program, that has not only put the country on the wrong path of heavy nuclearisation but has also led it into the business of international nuclear trade, is not only detrimental to its own security but also the security of the whole region.

However, the scientific, liberal and secular circles of the whole region have welcomed his appointment to the UN’s advisory board and hope that in this capacity too Prof. Pervez Hoodbhoy will make remarkable contributions to the promotion of international peace and a scientific and rational approach among the masses of his country that in his own words has become a failed and terrorist state.

Sohail Arshad is a regular columnist for New