Imran Khan, How Will You Convert Spirituality Into Super Science?
Artistic impression of Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Image used for representational purposes.
Artistic impression of Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Image used for representational purposes.(GIF: Aroop Mishra / The Quint)

Imran Khan, How Will You Convert Spirituality Into Super Science?

Dear Mr Khan,

On 5 May 2019, you laid the foundation stone of Al-Qadir University in Sohawa near Jhelum in the Punjab province. You emphatically, albeit with some difficulty, announced that “we will convert spirituality into a super science”. The government of Pakistan’s Twitter account wrote, “Al-Qadir University would provide both Islamic and scientific education to the students and help them become morally, intellectually and spiritually accomplished persons”.

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Your government’s Information Minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, was quoted as saying that “the credit for the unique and creative idea of Al-Qadir University goes to PM Imran Khan and the First Lady. To make the idea practical, the PM and First Lady played a personal role”.

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No Such Thing As ‘Super Science’; Theology & Science Are Different Domains

Mr Khan, your statements are baffling, to say the least. There is no such thing as ‘super science’, and no one has ever claimed to convert ‘spirituality’ into super science. Science is based on logical questioning, critical thinking, experiments, and drawing conclusions from testable hypotheses. Spirit comes from the Latin word ‘to breathe’ and ‘spirituality’ is based on the inner workings of a human soul.

Consequently, theology and science serve two different domains, and confusing one with the other can be an explosive mix. Both science and spirituality can have some overlap, but no one has ever proposed to fuse the two. It appears like you are conflicted about both science and spirituality.

Spirituality (and meditation) is practiced all over the world, and it appeals to the internal mechanisms of a human body. Paradoxically, yoga, which is a form of spirituality, is looked down upon in Pakistan. Spirituality has been reduced to a dogma – a ‘voodoo’ – where tombs are worshiped, and ‘Najoomi professors’ bring ‘Mehboob’ to your front door after reading your palm.

By providing easy answers and ‘awe moments’, superstition and pseudoscience has hindered Pakistan’s progress since its inception in 1947, and you and your government are adding to it, and abetting it.

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What Scientific Progress Has Pakistan Made?

The world of science has made incredible progress – there are at least three new experimental frontiers that are being investigated for integration, to gain perspectives into mind-body interactions:

  1. lab experiments on the origins of life
  2. search for extra-terrestrial intelligence
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning

Mr Imran Khan, how much is your country contributing to these highly scientific endeavors? The answer is zilch.

Let’s assume, Mr Khan, that we have taken your proposition of converting spirituality into ‘super science’ at face value. But how are you going to achieve it? Pakistan is 117th out of 180 countries in corruption; 150th out of 189 countries in Human Development Index; 800th out of 1000 university rankings; and 147th in GDP per capita out of 181 countries.

In April 2019, your government slashed higher education funds by 50 percent, thus depriving poor, but deserving students, of a golden opportunity to receive higher education. This is an alarming situation.

For the sake of argument, let’s also assume that 100 students graduate from Al-Qadir University in the year 2023 with a degree in ‘Spirituality and Super Science’. Where will they be employed? Pakistan already has a very high number of unemployed and underemployed graduates, and adding more to this list would be a disservice to the country you often claim to love.

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Please Improve Pak’s Extant Science & Tech Infrastructure, Instead Of Making Unfounded Claims

There is no scientific and technological infrastructure in the country; the bridge between research and development and the industries was never developed. Pakistan does not produce any satellite information, and has only one satellite in geostationary orbit which was launched from a Chinese platform. Neighboring India has six satellites in orbit, and is planning for a Mars mission in 2022.

Fawad Chaudhry, Minister for Science and Technology in your government, recently claimed that SUPARCO sent the Hubble telescope into orbit. No sire, it was NASA.

The nation would be eternally indebted to you if you focused on improving the current infrastructure of science and technology in the country rather than making new, unfounded claims.

PM Imran Khan, you also mentioned that “students will be given financial assistance and scholarships, quite like Namal University. This will then be extended to other cities and towns”. How do you know that it will be extended to other cities? Are you or your wife stakeholders in the project? As a private entity, you or your wife should not have any stakes in this project.

Imran Khan, Please Stop Patronizing Counterproductive Causes

In my opinion, educating students at Al-Qadir University would be tantamount to dumbing them down – they would neither become good scientists, nor good yoga instructors. On the contrary, there is a good chance that these students would end up as confused citizens.

At the end, Mr Khan, I would frankly request you to stop patronizing such dubious projects which are counterproductive, and will further erode the confidence of the current and next generation of scientists, doctors, professors, technologists and engineers.

Pakistan is replete with religious seminaries of every color, value and hue, catering to the needs of every sect and every denomination in the country. Let the private ownership take care of their own theological needs.

Best wishes,

Dr Asim Yousafzai
(Doctorate in Science)

(Dr Asim Yousafzai is a Washington, DC-based geo-science professional and regularly writes on technical and geo-strategic issues. He is the author of the book “Afghanistan: From Cold War to Gold War” and can be followed @asimusafzai. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.

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