Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy’s email to former Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairperson Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, in which he holds the latter responsible for ‘single-handedly engineering the destruction’ of Pakistan’s higher education system, has gone viral on social media. Dr. Atta has been accused of excessive funding for educational projects that don’t yield much result, and was at the helm of former prime minister Imran Khan’s PM House university project.
Dr. Atta, who had been serving on the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Science and Technology during the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, also serves as the supervisor of three research centers former prime minister Imran Khan exempted from the submission of progress reports and financial utilization plans.
Screenshots of the email exchange between Dr. Atta and Pervez Hoodbhoy went viral online. Dr Atta reached out to Hoodbhoy in an apparent move to make amends.
The septuagenarian reached out to Hoodbhoy saying that as he was almost 80-years-old and in failing health, he would like to ‘mend all bridges before he goes’. “I would like to express my sincere regrets if I have hurt you in any manner through our exchanges and hope that we can let bygones be bygones,” he said in his email.
This email received a lengthy response from Hoodbhoy, who said that while there had been no personal quarrel between the two, he nevertheless bears no personal grudge against Atta-ur-Rahman, and wishes him no ill for any action he might possibly have taken to harm Hoodbhoy and his personal interests.
However, he continued by saying that he holds Dr. Atta solely responsible for the destruction of Pakistan’s higher education system. “In ruthless pursuit of your desire to gain power, influence, and money, you used every possible device to cheat, lie, deceive, and commit fraud – both academic and financial,” the email read.
Hoodbhoy said that following Imran Khan’s ouster, the incumbent government had decided to get rid of Dr. Atta’s projects (like the PM House university proposal), saying that this should be a cause of concern for Atta.
The physicist then listed down his criticisms of the HEC official, mentioning his reinforcement of a system of corruption in universities by giving preference to quantity over quality when it came to academic publications, especially through the possible predatory publisher ‘Bentham Science Publishers’.
Other criticisms included seeking an increase in PhD’s which led to unemployable graduates, creating new universities instead of funding pre-existing ones, buying expensive and underutilized scientific equipment, and peddling ‘pseudo science’.
Towards the end of his email, Hoodbhoy said “Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman, you have much to answer for, but not to me alone”, suggesting that the scientist should ‘beg for forgiveness’ on national TV.