Pakistani University Vice-Chancellors Visit UC Davis
By Ras H. Siddiqui
Pictures above were taken during the visit of a group of Pakistani Vice-Chancellors to UC Davis
A dinner reception was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sacramento, California on Tuesday, November 17th where the need for educational exchanges between Pakistan and the United States was highlighted, especially in the realm of agriculture as a delegation of four university Vice-Chancellors from Pakistan along with representatives from the Higher Education Commission in Islamabad and Hiba Rahim from the Academy of Educational Development in Washington DC visited the University of California at Davis and interacted with representatives of the community here.
This delegation of heads of top agricultural universities visited the university campuses in America and USDA offices recently. The University of California, Davis hosted them on Nov. 16 and 17. A concluding Agreement of Cooperation between the American and Pakistan universities, with the Davis campus being projected as a major partner in this international relationship, was the desired goal here.
The evening started off with a samosa and kabab social and an hour later some very fine Pakistani food from East-West was served.
The diversity of the participants was immediately noticed with members of the local media and academia dispersed widely within the Pakistani and local Muslim community.
The Middle East/South Asia Studies Center, UC Davis was also well represented along with a surprise appearance of Hon. Syed Ibne Abbas, Consul General of Pakistan in Los Angeles.
The four Vice-Chancellors from Pakistan present were Said Khan Khalil, VC of NWFP Agricultural University in Peshawar; Iqrar Ahmad Khan, VC of the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad; Abdul Quadir Mughal, VC, Sindh Agricultural University in Tandojam; and last but not the least, Khalid Mahmood Khan, VC, Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agricultural University in Rawalpindi. The Higher Education Commission was represented by Syed Mahmood Raza, Advisor HRD & Scholarships, and Nasir Sohail Kazmi, DCop HEC -FAD Islamabad.
Local luminary Rashid Ahmad began the formal after-dinner program with a recitation from our holy book and then proceeded to give a brief background for this event. He called it "a dream come true event" and invited Dr. Larry N.
Vanderhoef, Chancellor Emeritus, UC Davis, to say a few words. The Chancellor who had lead UC Davis UC Davis till June of this year said that he was looking forward to what happens after this visit. He said that unfortunately he had never been to Pakistan and would like to see it get out from under the shadow of the headlines. He said that there were lots of opportunities for AmericanPakistani cooperation.
The Hon. Mariko Yamada, Member, California State Assembly from California's 8th District, who is always inclined to lend her support for a worthy cause as this one, said that the global voice of reason prevailed here. She added that the cause of education (in Pakistan) is more important today than it ever had been and that she was very pleased to join the group that night.
Consul General Syed Ibne Abbas has to be one of the most popular people to hold that position in Los Angeles for quite some time. He expressed his gratitude to individuals in the local Pakistani community for this event and invited Chancellor Vanderhoef to visit Pakistan. He said that Pakistan's strategic location and its 170 million people in a region of 3 billion certainly made it crucial. "We have had an excellent relationship with the United States," he said. Reminding the audience of the extraordinary efforts by the US after the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan in which over 75000 people perished, the Consul General said that the US Military flew missions around the clock to bring relief. He said that the hope was that through such people-to-people contact, the Pak-US relationship would remain on a firm footing. He added that Pakistan had been the most "Allied Ally" and also unfortunately the "Most Sanctioned Ally" and recently a "Non-NATO Ally" of the United States. He said that in spite of challenges this relationship was ready to move forward.
The next speaker was Dr. James E. Hill, Associate Dean, College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences, UC Davis, and the Principal Contact for this UCD-Pakistani Universities Cooperation. Dr. Hill spoke of his own trip to Pakistan, the hospitality of its people and the similarities between Pakistan and California. He also thanked the Pakistani community for supporting UC Davis.
Nasir Sohail Kazmi associated with the Higher Education Commission spoke next about his NGO.
He spoke of USAID funding various candidates within partner universities and that 60 people from 11 universities will undergo training.
He expressed his happiness that the hospitality shown in Sacramento is as good as Lahore and Pashtun hospitality. He added that this delegation was going back with a lot of ideas on how to enhance this relationship.
Vice-Chancellor Iqrar Ahmad Khan who is no stranger to California called the visit a homecoming of sorts. He said that there were opportunities opening up under the KL Bill and that award of scholarships to students from extremely impacted segments of Pakistani society, who have both an access and affordability problem, could help immensely.
"I hope that this evening's event will create more support," he said.
Vice-Chancellor Said Khan Khalil expressed high hopes after meeting with the UC Davis community. "Our problems are very severe," he said and that access was very low in higher education in his area (NWFP) and the quality of education could also improve with UC Davis helping out. He also thanked the organizers for such a wonderful evening.
Vice-Chancellor Khalid Mahmood Khan next spoke of the focus and mission of the group, which was education. He said that universities in Pakistan were coming up and going global. He thanked Dr. Hill for arranging this interaction. He added that with the determination of the people and leaders, Pakistan will come out of this current problem.
"If we educate the people, all these problems will go away," he said. He said that he appreciated the patience of the audience. "In Pakistan, nobody stays after dinner," he said (to add a little humor).
Vice-Chancellor Abdul Quadir Mughal spoke of the encouragement provided by the cooperation with UC Davis. He said that some invitations to Pakistan had been accepted.
"We need your help in technology, faculty development and curriculum," he said. He added that funding was a separate issue. He also joked about getting an American visa and thanked everyone for their participation in this event.
Syed Mahmood Raza also addressed the gathering. He spoke of his difficulty in speaking after three Khans and one Mughal but he still did a fine job. He said that the HEC had developed a comprehensive program to bring up the universities in Pakistan. He added that in the past six years there had been quite a change in higher education efforts with several new universities opening up and a "sea change" in the thinking process. He also elaborated on the purpose of the visit.
Hiba Rahim, Rashid Ahmad, Dr. Imran Khan and Prof. Sudipta Sen also spoke and added their South-Asian perspective (not always an easy task). Hiba spoke on building bridges through education while Rashid took everyone on a trip through memory lane focused on the Pakistani community in Sacramento and Imran spoke on the history of collaboration between UC Davis and Pakistan. Sen had spoken earlier about holding an Urdu poetry event at UC Davis focused on his his favorite poet, Faiz.
Words of thanks are also in order for Bashir Choudry, Dr. Athar Tariq and Dr. Sajid Hussain for their assistance here.
In conclusion this UC Davis International Agricultural Visitors Program could produce great benefit for the people of any developing country. Agriculture and water issues are very important for Pakistan and the hope is that more students from that country will be able to pursue higher education at UC Davis and that scholar and faculty exchanges and even joint research programs are on the cards in future.