Convert the recaptured Swat Valley into Research and Learning Corridor for Pakistan


It would be utterly insane to predict how long it will take for the Pakistan military to totally recapture the Swat valley (and other areas) that were lost because of it’s inaction against the Taliban in a timely manner.

The news media, however, keep giving assurances that the military is winning the war. Citing the United States officials, the New York Times says dozens of Al Qaeda fighters and some of their leaders are relocating to Somalia and Yemen.

Nevertheless, the recent incident of terrorism in Pakistan: the bomb explosion at Peshawar’s Pearl Continental Hotel and the killings of the leading Sunni cleric Dr. Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi and five others in Lahore today by a suicide bomber are indicators that Pakistan could likely turn into Algeria of the 1990s or the Iraq of mid 2000s.

The Associated Press survey conducted on three dozen Pakistanis showed the natives are turning against the militants. They cite the video of the woman being flogged by the Taleban, as the reason for the change in people’s attitudes.

One may hope this is so! However, it is doubtful that decades of systematic poisoning of people’s minds in the name of Islam by the rulers, military, and later the Taleban can so swiftly be erased. Also, the views expressed by three dozen people, in a country with a population of over 170,000,000, does not carry much weight.

Anyway, the urgency now is for a solution that could bring about lasting change in people’s thinking and also create an environment for peaceful existence with its neighbors.

Many of Pakistan’s governments have not been generous or perceptive enough to respect its highly educated citizens or expatriates in a manner to reflect their value and education. Nor have they been sensible enough to tap their knowledge and put it to good use. Professor Abdus Salam, the only Pakistani to win Nobel Prize was shunned because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya community (declared non-Muslims* in 1974).

Another Pakistani of eminence was Eqbal Ahmad, a very insightful analyst, who was in Professor Edward Said’s words: perhaps the shrewdest and most original anti-imperialist analyst of Asia and Africa. He tried long and hard to establish his dream project of Khaldunia University in Pakistan. He died trying to realize his dream amidst numerous small successes and reversals. While many educated people expressed their willingness to quit their high paying jobs to work for Khaldunia and finally being granted the land for the University by the Harvard/Oxford educated Benazir Bhutto’s government, the project was killed when the land was seized by her husband Asif Ali Zardari, the current president.

One lesson that has been clearly emerged from the mess in Pakistan is that religion should not be allowed to play any role in politics and the running of the country. The other clear essential observation is the dire need for high quality secular education.

Given this situation, the government should establish two liberal arts universities in the territory recaptured from the militants:

i. Khaldunia University to posthumously acknowledge and realize Eqbal Ahmad’s dream,
ii. South Asia University that would reveal Pakistan’s South Asian roots and common bonds instead of the current touted connection to West Asia (or Middle East as it is commonly known.)

B. R. Gowani can be reached at

*While President General Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) was one of the cruelest ruler in Pakistan’s history, it was the Oxford/Berkeley educated atheist Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (1971-1977), Benazir’s father, who under pressure from Islamists declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims, and not Zia as the Wikipedia entry on Abdus Salam states; it confuses Zia’s Ordinance XX with Bhutto’s declaration.
Zia was also a very sharp diplomat. He honored Professor Salam but did not utilize his expertise. In case of the Ismailis, a Muslim minority, Zia received their Paris-based religious leader, the Aga Khan, very humbly for his greedy motives. His demeanor with their leader impressed many Ismailis, who yet remember Zia fondly. Zia, however, was aware of the tremendous investment by the Aga Khan: his charities, schools, clinics, world class medical university and hospital in Pakistan which benefits many Pakistanis.

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