First International Social Sciences Conference in history of Balochistan was held in Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University (SBKWU) Quetta on 26th and 27th of April.
This conference should have been a new beginning in the academic landscape of Balochistan but instead it set a real bad example that needs not to be repeated in future.
It was supposed to be an international conference but there was not a single international presenter or speaker present in the conference, in person. An incomplete recorded video of an international speaker was played in the conference and that’s it.
VIP culture of the conference was also topic of severe criticism by the researchers.
The conference was more like a political event rather than an academic conference. Researchers who had come to the conference found it unfathomable as to why Governor Balochistan on the first day and provincial ministers on the second day chaired plenary sessions in the conference.
Mehwish Qudoos Alizai who is an Assistant Professor of Sociology in BUITEMS Quetta said that “clear social stratification in terms of the promoting VIP and VVIP culture was quite visible. Sometimes the conference seemed more like a political event rather than an academic and research one.”
She further added, “M-Phil students and research scholars were also not found so enthusiastic to attend the conference because of some mismanagement at part of university. I found nobody taking notes regarding the conference proceedings so I am not sure if the proceedings will be published and made accessible to academia or not, sometime in the near or far future.”
Likewise, one of the major shortcomings of this conference was lack of representation of Balochistan among the keynote speakers and presenters. There was not a single keynote academic speaker form Balochistan in the conference. None of the universities of Balochistan were taken on board by the management of SBKWU for this conference.
Out of more than 170 presenters in the conference only 50 to 60 were from Balochistan.
“Academic scholars only from Punjab were invited in the conference which is against the spirit of equal opportunity,” a senior academic told this scribe on condition of anonymity.
He claimed that there must not be intellectual monopoly of one province and there are good social scientists in Balochistan as well who should have been invited as keynote speakers.
The senior academic lamented that “Organizers of this conference deprived the scholars of Balochistan from academic learning due to their favoritism driven approach.”
“Prominent social science scholars from Balochistan were not invited in the conference which was not fair,” said Siraj Bashir Rind, a PhD scholar from University of Karachi.
He further added that there was no discussion and criticism on the research papers of the researchers which is mandatory for any academic conference. “In all academic conferences recommendations are generated and published and this element was clearly missing from this conference,” added Mr. Rind.
Renowned anchorperson Hamid Mir was a keynote speaker in the final plenary session of the seminar. During his speech Mr. Mir highlighted the fact that there are 21 universities in Islamabad city alone and just 7 universities in entire Balochistan province.
The major portion of the speech of Mr. Mir and the following question answer session was all about the role of media in Balochistan which was totally beyond the mandate and scope of this conference.
Higher Education Commission (HEC) was supposed to fully fund the conference but in the end they only paid a portion of the expenditures and other sponsors were engaged at last minute to make the conference possible.
HEC that is already accused of cheating out Balochistan from its due share did not bother to send their representative to the conference. Probably they did not want to answer the tough questions which students of Balochistan would have asked them.
Moreover, there were serious management issues in the conference. University staff was clearly not prepared to undertake such huge arrangements without any training. Presenters coming from out of the university found it hard to locate the rooms where they had to read their research papers.
Some presenters even complained that environment in the rooms, where presentation of the research papers were made, was not conducive for scholarly activity.
More than one participant told this scribe that security guards of the university misbehaved with them.
SBKWU took the initiative of holding this conference which is an appreciable step. However it was marred by poor management on multiple counts and therefore its must to highlight those issues and criticize them so that they do not become a habit.
Hopefully, when SBKWU or any other university of Balochistan for that matter organizes an international academic conference in future, it will avoid the blunders committed in this conference.