Reputable accreditation bodies of higher education focus on the quality of teaching and research in rating and ranking of universities at the national or international levels. There are, of course, other such criteria considered as physical infrastructure, student-faculty ratio, library, lab and IT facilities, co-curricular activities, students’ societies, philanthropic work or corporate social responsibility initiatives. However, the highest priority is given to the standard of faculty and originality of research indeed.

Honestly speaking quality enhancement at our universities is reflected from the social and economic conditions of the majority, not of the handful of our population. There are other factors that have a positive or negative bearing on life at large such as leadership, law and order situation, unemployment and inflation etc. But quality enhancement at our universities, especially with pertinent, original and practical research, quietly plays an important role in determining the quality of life of our people.

The essence of higher education and research would be of no help to society if concerned benefits do not reach or are not shared by the common man. Can learned HoDs and faculty members of our universities offer a minute of a thought each on how their lofty higher education and research masterpieces have trickle down public benefits in their respective field of specialization, be it Economics, Human Resource Management, Marketing, Finance, Information Technology, Psychology, Media or the Social Sciences!

It is a challenging, gutsy and thought-provoking question breaking away from the set, standard and stereotype practice of research that stays mainly in the libraries and presented as research papers to be shelved sooner or later or brainstormed in the guest speaker sessions, conferences, seminars and symposia for projection and for reference, generally with no follow up and feedback amid degradation of arts, sports, culture, business, economy, education, law, government, politics, education, health and so on.

Our private and public sector universities have excelled in the set and standard criteria of university rankings as carried out by Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC), such specialized ratings as those pursued by National Business Education Accreditation Council (NBEAC), National Computing Education Accreditation Council (NCEAC) and international rankings as those pertaining to ASSB standards, Ed Universal ranking of business institutions and so on. But seldom do these universities now produce such scientists, researchers, engineers, doctors, economists and heads of institutes who have overall positive bearing on the social, educational, economic and developmental perspective of Pakistan as follows:

Professor Dr. Abdus Salam, Nobel laureate, Physics, Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani, HEC Distinguished National Professor, Dr. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, VC, KU, Dr. Rashid Kausar, Michigan State University Scholar, Prof. Dr. Atta ur Rahman, Organic Chemistry, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, Nuclear Physics, Dr. Ashiq Hussain, Neuroscientist, Munir Ahmad Khan, Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Abdullah Sadiq, Nuclear Physics, Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, Science and Tech., Prof. Dr. Shahid Hussain Bokhari, IT and Aerospace, Dr. Salimuzzaman Siddiqui, Organic Chemistry, Dr. Javaid Laghari, Higher HEC, Datuk Rahman Anwar Syed, Entomologist, Anwar Naseem, Biotechnology, Dr. Ayub K. Ommaya, Neurosurgery, Dr. Hasnat Khan and Dr. Sania Nishtar, Cardiology, Muhammed Suhail Zubairy, Physics and Astronomy, Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, Economist, Professor Matin Ahmed Khan, Marketing and Management, Dr. Nergis Mavalvala, Astrophysics.

Specialized writing is expected of specialists in various fields. While it needs to initiate with all its ingenuity at Master’s level, it’s not required of under-graduate students. Writing flair needs to nurture at school and develop at Intermediate/A-Levels or during Bachelor’s programme towards study and career excellence. Career-focused writing plays a vital role in the development perspective of developed societies be it social, environmental, biological, medical, physical or nuclear sciences or in education and any field of socio-economic development. It is not just the highly advanced status that these countries enjoy as a result of their intelligentsia’s original thinking, research and writing but the individual financial and social worth of the concerned contributor is rejuvenating indeed.

A specialized writer is one who writes, in a newspaper, journal or magazine or as a workshop or seminar paper or for research and reference, in a potential field. It’s when a doctor writes on medicine, an IT person writes on computers, a physicist writes on physics, a teacher writes on education, an economist writes on economy, a politician writes on politics, a philanthropist writes on social work and so on. A pre-requisite in specialized writing is sound language ability with vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and presentation. What counts is the concerned knowledge through books, journals, media, travel and field trips and through social and career-oriented interaction. Aptitude and inquisitiveness, knack for intensive reading, flair for reading beyond textbooks and devotion to reference and research remain important. Reputation enhances through writing for and contributing to specialized media sections and self-initiated or officially sponsored papers and publications. What matters in professional credibility is marketing research at concerned outlets and looking for continuous ingenuity, excellence and feedback.

As such, the whole gamut of developmental activity flourishes with ingenuity and inspiration stabilizing the subsistence levels and raising the living standards of the concerned society where sky is the limit in innovation, enlightenment and rewards in contemporary living. All fields blossom whether arts and culture, education and research, health and recreation, business and industry, banking and insurance, trade and commerce, shipping and aviation, science and technology etc. The urge to write in one’s own field makes one more research-oriented and more investigative as fresh ideas, insights, information and initiatives abound in human breakthroughs in arts, humanities and commerce and in natural, biological, environmental and physical sciences. As the concerned society benefits through inspiring and rewarding lifestyles and standards, the initiators of creative writing deserve that well-earned financial and social credibility. Rewards are aplenty for specialized writers who sure have an edge over stereotypes whether in teaching, journalism, law or public affairs or for those pursuing careers in medicine, engineering, management, information technology or in any profession.

Meanwhile, the concept of experiential learning, sharing and applying becomes indispensable amid advancement in wide and varied fields of education. Geared up to experiential learning and sharing are universities the world over: those linked to Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), Erasmus Mundus Consortium of European Universities, Association of American Universities, Association of Australian Universities, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Universities of the “underdeveloped world” fostered by the Organization of American States (OAS) and Organization of African Unity (OAU), universities fast endeavoring for educational and research excellence in India and Pakistan, individually speaking Global and Communication Studies at Helsinki University, Institute of Social Studies at The Hague in the Netherlands, Institute for English Speaking Students, University of Stockholm, Experiment in International Living, Brattleboro, Vermont and emerging universities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai etc.

What remains of importance for the least developed, under-developed and developing countries are endeavoring for such a model of survival, sustenance and development which is in consonance with their objective conditions. It is seldom realized consciously or subconsciously the intelligentsia, men at the helm of affairs or the policy-makers of such countries are mostly bewitched and bewildered by such imported or alien concepts in planning and development which have nothing to do with their sorely, objectively and indigenously needed socio-economic development planning and practice.

Analysing IS in Pak-Afghan region

On April 18, 2015, while General Sher Mohammad Karimi, Afghan Chief of General Staff, was presiding over the 132nd passing-out parade at the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul, the Islamic State (IS) field operators were carrying out its first deadly attack on Afghan soil in Jalalabad. The suicide attack at a bank was so powerful that 33 persons died on spot, and more than 100 were injured. Later, Shahid Ullah Shahid, posing as a spokesperson of the Islamic State, claimed the responsibility of the attack. Since then a spate of IS-linked or IS-inspired incidents have occurred including one on July 22, 2016 in which more than 80 members of the Hazara community were killed when they were protesting over a development project in the capital.

These strikes echo a number of significant security concerns for the Pak-Afghan region. We shall also evaluate the imprint of such attacks on other insurgent groups and tactics of US-Afghan security forces in the region. There are three important areas where the likely prominence of IS in Afghanistan can cause security restructuring and national safety recalibration.

First, Taliban on both sides of the Durand Line could find a competitor among them for future power-sharing set-up in Kabul. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) already in search of a consensus leadership for structural compactness may embrace the emergence of IS as an opportunity to revive its position in the area. Since the beginning of the last year, there has been signs of IS presence in Pak-Afghan region though in Pakistan its presence remains low and ambiguous. However, these attacks have removed any apprehensions about footprints of IS in Afghanistan. It shall be matter of months if not days before these incidents translate into bolstering IS position in the Pak-Afghan region.

The power structure in Afghanistan is based on three important elements: tribe, territory and terror. Whosoever controls the most powerful tribes or exerts appreciable influence over tribal leaders, regulates territorial transportation lines, and maintains a spell of terror over population can rule with longevity and persistence in Afghanistan. Imagine if IS manages to control the three T’s the whole security threat paradigm would shift in the region. The strategic calculations about Taliban actions against Kabul can be reviewed through IS, which is traditionally anti-Taliban with a larger global agenda. The importance of outside players, currently enjoying considerable influence with Taliban, may also dwindle with the emergence of IS. A deadly conflict for power struggle between IS and Taliban may result into weakening of the latter and strengthening of the former.

Second, a new terror organisation like IS could operate in the region with different organisational structure and foot operators. Like private contractors working in major conflict zones, and carrying out difficult jobs that are unimaginable for formal security forces, troopers of terror may be paid workers without any strong religious and ideological affiliation with organisational aims and objectives. The higher IS echelon in Afghanistan may be galvanised through handsome finances from foreign countries. No extra effort for human resource recruitment is required as defection from current insurgent groups can inflate IS numbers from 7,000 to 13,000 according to a latest estimate. Such an organisation can then become a major tool for changing inner security dynamics of Pak-Afghan region.

The more the numbers of the Islamic State grow in Afghanistan, the more projection it receives worldwide. The high propaganda warfare may be coupled with management of savagery in war zone, an important tactic for getting attention through breaking news and leading captions on the front pages of international and regional newspapers. Traditionally, tactical operators in Taliban ranks consist of religiously motivated youth drawn from different areas having similar sectarian, ethnic or tribal base. IS, on the other hand, may have more tribal-cum-sectarian groupings hemmed in with heavy financial support. All anti-Taliban forces can now assemble under the banner of IS to put paid to the reign of terror in the region with another period of brutal suppression.

The United States could exploit the regional emergence of IS, and use them as a tool against the Taliban. Since the organisation would contain local tribal elements, therefore, important information on Taliban movement and its members could be obtained with relative ease. The Afghan National Army (ANA) could also maintain a tacit contact with IS for making inroads in central and southern parts of Afghanistan. IS militants could also goad the members of the TTP to join its ranks for proper operational activities within Pakistan.

Third, the resurgence of IS poses a number of challenges for Pakistan. A lot of questions could be raised on the efficacy of the Zarb-e-Azb if IS holds its foot in FATA or other settled areas in Balochistan. It might be possible that IS inspires urbanised youth for possible killing operations. Hiring foot soldiers for IS on the basis of financial assistance rather than on religious affinity poses an even greater threat for Pakistani intelligence agencies. If the TTP dissolves and joins IS it would get better logistical and technical support from Afghanistan. Different Punjab-based splinter groups that are currently associated with the TTP may also decide to embrace IS, which would present a different level of strategic insecurity for the state of Pakistan.

The IS may also be controlled completely through foreign handling and assistance, which can dent the current intermediary efforts of China and Pakistan with Afghan government for a possible settlement with Taliban. The nuclear deal between Iran and the West inked in the start of current year has further lowered the strategic relevance of Pakistan. Pakistan would also lose its strategic geographic edge once the United States attains a better regional penetration through Iranian engagement. Therefore, top Pak civil-military authorities see China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor as a strategic equaliser that restores country’s relevance on international calculus.

In today’s environment terror organisations operate with flexibility on the basis of financial resources and logistical needs. There seems to be a clear departure from erstwhile unambiguous functionality to a state-of-flux capability, and these organisations search for better options for their survival and existence. The spectacular rise of IS in Iraq is the direct consequence of foreign finances, localised energy resources and high availability of weapons in the conflict zone. If IS secures the opium export routes, and regulates trade transmission centres along with maintaining free flow of weapons there is strong possibility of its evolution and sustenance in the Pak-Afghan region.