Educational institutions serve as the epicenter of intellectual progress, with nations striving to cultivate erudite individuals. In Pakistan’s universities, the manifestation of intellectualism among the youth takes diverse forms. However, an examination of the intellectual state of affairs among local academics raises significant inquiries. Book reading, intellectual gatherings, study circles, book clubs, and conferences have become part of a daily routine on university campuses. Nevertheless, the central question remains whether the intellectual capacity of scholars, intellectuals, and students revolves around a specific circle.
Within this intellectual intelligentsia, key problems exist i.e. intellectual irrelevancy, superficial intellectualism, psychology of intellectual dreams, social alienation, an excessive focus on impressing intellectual capacity, and pernicious influence of Western ideologies and alienation from indigenous intellectualism. These challenges have given rise to different factions, such as conservatives (fondos), modernists (Mondos), postmodernists (post-Mondos), feminists (femos), liberals (libros), and there is a long list, each displaying self-centered mindsets. While personal ideologies are not inherently problematic as they represent individual identities, issues arise when individuals view their ideologies as the sole solution to all problems.
‘Our universities unintentionally foster a class of intellectual individuals who ponder societal and campus issues without a framework rooted in their context’
My involvement in various intellectual circles has revealed a recent trend among youth and literary circles, which revolves around a singular focus: history. While commendable that people engage in book reading and literary activities, it has resulted in a monopolization of ideas by a select few experts in specific fields. Consequently, discussions within literary circles become redundant. During the past few months, I have noticed that intellectuals from diverse fields discuss current issues without adequately contextualizing their causes. In the fake version of history, it is not so much a reliable historical account but rather a circus, with intellectuals playing the role of carnival performers.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that literary circles related to social change against the capitalistic system are to some extent funded by capitalist companies, raising questions about the integrity and independence of intellectual pursuits. When it comes to university students, a concerning trend emerges as they tend to emulate a certain pseudo-class. The majority of students who engage in reading books gravitate towards works that reinforce their existing ideologies. However, this approach often leads to confusion, as every book has its context. Consequently, readers fall prey to the authorized viewpoints presented in the books without critically examining their contextualization. As a result, most students on university campuses form social circles that, while beneficial to them, can pose problems for others.
In our universities, a significant number of books are sourced from European scholars, and students consume ‘new’ ideas from these texts. Nevertheless, these books carry the context of their origins, which often diverges from demands of our societal structure. When students compare their society to that depicted in European literature, a discrepancy arises, leaving them yearning for an idealistic framework incompatible with their existing reality. Consequently, the universities unintentionally foster a class of intellectual individuals who ponder societal and campus issues without a framework rooted in their context.
Furthermore, the most eminent problem of intellectuals in our academia is the negation of indigenous intelligentsia, this process as I have described in previous arguments starts from universities as young readers only know about foreign scholars and consider that in our intelligentsia, we do not have any available scholars as compare to foreign scholars. When our intellectuals without considering local specialists quote only foreign experts in their speeches and writings and ignore locals, it creates an inferiority complex among them and a sense of nothingness among the young intellectuals. Building on these observations, it becomes evident that the intellectual landscape in Pakistan faces challenges that hinder holistic growth and critical thinking.
Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort to encourage intellectual diversity, contextual understanding, and independent pursuit of knowledge that transcends confines of existing ideologies and external influences. Only through such endeavors, academia can cultivate a vibrant intellectual community capable of addressing the complex issues facing our society. In addition to the aforementioned challenges, another significant aspect that contributes to the intellectual state of affairs in Pakistan is the influence of political and ideological biases.
In Pakistan, the intellectual circles often become polarized due to political affiliations and ideological leanings, which hinder the free exchange of ideas and foster an environment of intellectual conformity. Scholars and students may feel compelled to align their thoughts and opinions with a particular group or ideology, limiting their ability to engage in critical analysis and independent thinking. The lack of emphasis on research and innovation within the academic sphere poses a hindrance to intellectual progress. Our universities often prioritize rote learning and examination-oriented approaches over research and creative thinking. This can stifle intellectual curiosity and discourage students and scholars from exploring new ideas or challenging existing paradigms.
‘Pakistan’s universities often prioritize rote learning and exam-oriented approaches over research and creative thinking’
The absence of a robust research culture limits the intellectual contributions of our academia on both national and international platforms. The dominance of certain disciplines or fields of study within the intellectual landscape poses a challenge to intellectual diversity. While the focus on history and literature is commendable, it is equally important to promote engagement with other disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), social sciences, and interdisciplinary studies. Encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations and exploring a wide range of subjects can foster a comprehensive intellectual environment and contribute to holistic development.
Additionally, the issue of access and inclusivity in education plays a crucial role in shaping the intellectual landscape. Socioeconomic disparities and gender inequalities often limit opportunities for individuals from marginalized backgrounds to pursue higher education. The exclusion of diverse voices and perspectives hampers intellectual growth and perpetuates a narrow and homogenous intellectual discourse. Efforts should be made to address these disparities and create an inclusive educational system that fosters intellectual diversity and equal opportunities for all. To overcome these challenges, it is crucial to promote critical thinking, independent inquiry, and a culture of intellectual curiosity within educational institutions.
Encouraging interdisciplinary approaches, research-driven learning, and platforms for open dialogue can facilitate a more vibrant intellectual ecosystem. Additionally, fostering collaborations with foreign institutions and promoting global exposure can broaden perspectives and enable Pakistani academics to contribute to the global intellectual discourse. Addressing issues within the intellectual intelligentsia requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including educators, policymakers, students, and society at large. By nurturing a culture of intellectual openness, critical analysis, and inclusivity, Pakistan can cultivate a vibrant intellectual community that contributes meaningfully to national development and global knowledge exchange.