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We can become the richest nation on earth

This Wednesday’s meeting of the Eilaf Club was heavily attended by scholars, important journalists, educationists, and technocrats. The guest speaker was Dr. Shahid Munir, Chairman of the Higher Education Commission, Punjab. His speech was quite inspiring and a beam of hope for the Pakistani nation. The participants were Munawar Chaudhry, Rector, Imperial University, Ali Sajjad, Editor in Chief Minute Mirror, Dr. Mujahid Mansoori, Mian Shahzada Ahmed Ali (Oklahoma), Bahramand Durrani (Peshawar), Dr. Shabbir Sarwar, Editor Educationist, Dr. Khurram Shehzad, School of Media and Communication, Punjab University, Mr. Naseer Hashmi, Daily Pakistan, Dr. Waqar Malik, PU, Rana Ameer Ahmed Khan, Eng. Majeed Ghani, Eng. Azeem Ashraf, Dr. Muhammad Sharif, Dr. Bashir Jaffery (New York ), and Toqeer Khan.

Dr. Shahid Munir worked at the University of Punjab as a teacher and was selected as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jhang. He earned international fame after establishing the Coal Centre of Excellence at the University of Punjab. He has ten years of industrial experience and has also worked as the Controller of Examinations at PU. Before coming to the topic of higher education in Pakistan, he talked a bit about the coal and other mineral deposits of Pakistan. He said that there is around $30 trillion worth of coal deposits in different areas of Pakistan. Along with it, there are gold and copper mines, gypsum, zinc, uranium, and iron ore also. But unfortunately, we lack trained human resources. There are no mine designers or planners for exploiting all of these mineral resources. If we get the capability to extract these minerals and enrich them, Pakistan can become the richest country in the world.

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All countries have mineral data on their lands and they use it in their planning to make the maximum use of their minerals. If we can train people for this purpose, and all sorts of planning regarding mining are done by technocrats, not by bureaucrats, then we will be able to provide all types of jobs to the millions of our people in our own country. The lease of mines must be given only after the proper testing of the minerals and evaluation of their worth by genuine experts. He said that any serious government can, after due planning, provide jobs to at least 15 million people for many centuries only in coal mining areas. There are many blatant examples of wrongdoing and bad planning in the mineral areas of Dr. Samar Mubarik Mund’s model for exploiting Thar coal mines was one of these.

We challenged his model and wrote many articles against it in the national press, but no one paid heed to that matter, and the result is that the nation lost so much money and time on it. For this work, we suggested open pit technology, which was the only suitable model. Many companies are now coming to invest and work with our model. With the help of Almighty Allah, we have established a state-of-the-art Centre for Excellence in Coal Technology at Punjab University. Establishing thermal power stations was more appropriate and feasible at that time when investors were hesitant to go ahead with that. England is producing four hundred thousand watts of electricity from thermal power stations established in green areas. India is also getting four hundred thousand watts of electricity from coal.  Overall, forty percent of the world’s electricity is produced from coal.

Now, there is pressure from developed countries on developing countries like ours to not produce electricity from coal. But if we look at the carbon emissions of the globe, they are produced mainly by the USA and China. If they want us to not use coal for electricity purposes, they should at least wait till we are developed enough and our people are supplied with jobs in their own country. The United States of America is the most anxious to get the other countries to sign pacts to avoid using coal, but they themselves have not signed any pacts in this regard. China has helped us in establishing the coal power plants for which we have provided only land. After thirty years, these plants will become Pakistan’s property.

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Dr. Shahid Munir said that in this era of tough competition between countries and corporations, one can’t think of studying as a hobby. Setting one’s objectives in life and planning for the country, we must smartly plan to exploit all our resources, in which human resources are of prime importance. The present world relies on economic-based education. Our knowledge is doubled every ten years. Better medicine and treatments have enhanced human lives. We need data to plan our education. Only then will we be in a position to assess our real needs for training and education. We have now started gathering all the necessary data at the HEC level. We have designed and started many modern courses, especially in the field of energy. If we look around the world, we find that all other countries are allocating a much higher percentage of their national income for education.

On the other hand, we, who are famous for wasting our resources, are not taking care of our future, and education is our most neglected area. We also include our colleges in higher education. Their number in the province is approximately three hundred. We have started a program of training for their teachers. If our teachers were competent and devoted, then we could compete with MIT and Harvard Universities. One bitter fact about our teachers is that they are not hired after enough practical experience in the related field. The result is that they keep on telling only stories in the form of western theories. When students go into the field, they find no reality in these stories and are desperate. Our universities are not creating any new knowledge. Their research remained shelved without any use. We are teaching the west’s old knowledge to our youth, most of which has become obsolete.

When our brilliant students go to developed countries to do their PhD, they work for their needs and don’t understand how they are being used in their research for their needs. Our national needs must be kept in mind, and geology and mining techniques must be part of our syllabi at all levels. Mining must be given the status of an industry. In engineering universities, our teachers must go after sufficient experience in the industry. If they continue to tell stories only, the nation will get nothing out of our higher education. We lack the applied side of education. There is an abundance of medicinally valuable herbs in our country, but there is no applied research on them. We write research papers on the properties of the herbs but don’t take them to labs for some formulation. Don’t start making medicines until you’ve determined the necessary ingredients and their properties. No medicines have been patented by these researchers. Without practical use, no research is of any use. Similarly, we can look at our agriculture. India is producing around 600 kilograms of wheat per acre and we are still in the aggregate of 300 or 400 kilograms.

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