Do you know we have a
mathematician in Pakistan who has around 200 research articles to his
credit? All written and published in the span of the last three and half
years, almost one research paper a week. He is also editor-in-chief of more
than a dozen research journals. He is the head of the Mathematics department
at a university in Taxila. He is a young man (judging by his photograph on
his website), and if he continues writing research papers at the same speed,
he will soon be a world record holder. Incredible!
A biological scientist,
working at the Lahore College for Women, got three of her research articles
published in a single issue of the Journal of Applied Pharmacy, a journal
published by the Intellectual Consortium of Drug Discovery and Technology
Development, Inc. in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada that started in 2009.
This scientist of ours so far has got 12 of research articles in this
journal published — some of them even co-authored by the editor of the
An associate professor at
the Department of Zoology, University of the Punjab Lahore, has 35
publications to her credit, almost all co-authored with her professor
husband. Interestingly, 19 of her research articles were published in
Pakistan Journal of Zoology whose editor is her husband.
Here the pertinent
question perhaps is: whether an editor can publish his research papers in
A professor working at a
university in Islamabad says that the HEC has brought a new kind of higher
education culture to Pakistan. “It announced incentives for doing MPhil
and PhD without creating a culture of creative writing and research in the
first 14 years of our higher education system. It forced students and
teachers to find easy ways out — through plagiarism,” regrets the
He adds that since
students and teachers are not taught lessons in code of ethics, they turn to
malpractices in research without inhibition. “Teachers use data collected
by students in their research papers,” he says.
The number of research
articles published by an academic does not only give recognition to him
“but also earns him lots of other monetary benefits. The HEC needs to
check this practice”, he says.
Apparently, there are many
international research journals which have many Pakistanis on their
editorial board. But a close look at some of these journals’ websites
raises many suspicions: for instance, American International Journal of
Contemporary Research (AIJCR) is one of the publications of the Centre for
Promoting Ideas (CPI). Seven prominent Pakistani academics are associated
with this journal. If one takes a look at the logo of CPI that appears on
the top left corner, the word ‘Centre’ is spelled as ‘Centre’ while
Americans always spell this word as ‘Center’.
Interestingly enough, Dr
Matthew Sanders, Professor at Kettering University, who appears at the top
of the list of the extensive Editorial Board, has denied having links with
Dr Isa Daudpota, an
independent researcher, has worked a lot to expose the fake journals and
unethical practices of some Pakistani researchers. He contacted four
professors from prestigious western universities whose names appeared on the
sites of such research journals, including two from Cambridge, England, and
the University of Maryland (UMD). “They were both horrified by this
revelation and the UMD professor got her university’s attorney to get the
offending websites removed from the net. Other professors have also been
requested to do so. This is what one would like the HEC to do,” Dr
Daudpota tells TNS, adding that many such journals are recognised by the HEC.
There are many more such
cases where academics are plagiarising and getting published in research
journals. These academics have created bogus research journals with the help
of their friends in different countries and producing articles.
Dr Isa Daudpota says that
such gross violation of academicians prompted him to download the resumes of
all the 71 HEC-recognised PhD supervisors in management sciences to do a
rough analysis of their publishing record in the HEC-recognised journals.
“20 of them completed PhD in Pakistan while 51 went abroad to do their
PhDs. Of these 71 academics, there are 39 (18 with PhDs from Pakistan and 21
from foreign universities) who had submitted 180 articles to fake journals.
80 per cent of those with Pakistani PhDs contributed to such publications.
Having had relatively better training and better research ethics, about 40
per cent of the overseas-trained persons contributed to such publications.
The 39 persons involved in this activity bagged an average of 4.6
publications per person,” reveals Dr Daudpota, adding “Information about
such fake publications has been provided to the HEC, but so far it has done
nothing concrete to stop such practices.”
Fake journals are not
unique to Pakistan. “Such journals are found everywhere in the world.
There are publishers even in countries like Germany where books without
editing and checking the authenticity of material are published,” iterates
Dr Javaid Laghari, chairman HEC.
“Academics tend to adopt
inappropriate ways and use loopholes in the system for personal benefits. We
possibly cannot stop people from writing research papers every week or
publishing three papers in an issue of a research journal. There is no law
that we can use to check such practices. But we can initiate an inquiry only
if we are sent an application with substantial proof by professors or
HEC has recently banned a
research journal on suspicion. “It’s not easy to identify fake journals
as most of them do not have print editions. They are mostly online. Also
they have editorial boards from prestigious universities. It’s impossible
to contact each and every board member to find if his or her consent was
sought before being included in the list.
The phenomenon has been
helping both researchers and the institutions, at least in Pakistan, in
increasing the ranking of universities in Pakistan by the Higher Education
The publication of
research articles in national and international journals is also a
prerequisite for university teachers to get promotions. There is no quality
assurance programme at university level in Pakistan and instead many
institutions offer monetary incentives to the academics to get published in
an international journal. There is an urgent need for an internal and
external review conducted by the institutions that have the capacity to
restore the integrity of research publications and higher education in
“Ideally, it should be a
university’s duty to verify the authenticity of research papers and
journals. But here HEC’s Quality Enhancement Cell set up in every
university is entrusted with the task,” Laghari says.
HEC, he adds, is planning
to train people to help universities find credible research journals —
“We are in the process of introducing rules on the quality of research
journals. Our committee has decided that only a credible institution or
group of people will be allowed to publish research journals. Also it will
be mandatory for the editorial board to provide their official email
address. We have also formed a committee of editors of leading research
journals of Pakistan to form a code of conduct,” he says.
Dr Sohail Naqvi, Executive
Director of the HEC, says sometimes fake journals succeed in befooling
genuine researchers as well. “We have been observing 20 per cent increase
every year in publication of articles of our researchers in international
journals which have the impact factor. The HEC is trying its level best to
ensure the research culture in Pakistan is foolproof,” he tells TNS.
Film historian have often
pointed out that Roger Vadim’s And God Created Woman opened the door for
the wave to crash on the shores of the Festival de Cannes. But And God
Created Woman is synonymous with Brigitte Bardot. Sight and Sound, the
acclaimed British film journal, once suggested that in order to understand
the New Wave revolution one must go back to 1956 and the rise of Bardot.
Although Vadim, Bardot’s
husband, consciously promoted her as a physical sensation, Bardot’s
enduring effect on modern popular culture was prominently due to her youth,
sexiness and rebellious modernity in that film. Sight and Sound further
wrote, “Perhaps her greatest novelty was her ability to be both a
traditional object of male lust and the subject of her own desire.” Young
Truffaut wrote, “From now on, films no longer need to tell stories, it is
enough to describe one’s first love affair, to take one’s camera to the
But when the young turks
of the wave began making their first films, the New Wave would pass the sex
goddess by. Only in 1963 would Godard cast her in his classic ‘Le Mepris’
(Contempt). But we will come to this later. For one thing, she would be too
expensive for any first-time New Wave director and the cost concerns was one
of the central issues of the movement. Also, the New Wave directors
appreciated what she evoked at that particular moment — a time for change
— not what she represented: big budget movies relying on safe clichés
with tricks for commercial success thrown in, without challenging national
myths or status quo.
Though Bardot might have
been the accidental gate opener, the New Wave needed a new woman (or women)
to personify its soul. If taken as a rebellion against le cinema du papa
(the cinema of the fogies), the Wave had to be about an anti-patriarchal
consciousness, if not downright feminist (As an aside for some other time,
let me just mention that there have been feminist critiques of the Waves
There are many angles one
can bring down on the movement for understanding the phenomenon. One could
take the Bazin and Astruc route or the Vadim and Bardot one. One could
situate it in a post-WWII Europe beginning to recover from the trauma,
humiliation, and disorientation. Anti-colonial and independence movements’
effect on French youth can also be studied. One could also argue the wave
wouldn’t have taken shape if it were not for the Italian neo-realism,
triggered by Rossellini’s Rome, Open City (1945) and perhaps best
exemplified by De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief (1946).
The New Wave directors,
especially the five main ones, adored Rossellini’s work and imitated many
of the elements of the great Italian director such as avoiding conventional
film categories, grasping contemporary reality, and highly personal nature
of films. Just like Rossellini, many of the Wave directors would cast their
lovers and wives in lead roles. Jacques Rivette, one of the lesser known of
the five but an excellent critic nonetheless, once remarked that Rossellini
wasn’t anymore filming his ideas only but every bit of his daily life. It
is more from the Italian master than anybody else that the New Wave
directors learned to pin down contemporary anxieties and also the
non-linear, arbitrary and undetermined nature of life in the present. But we
digress and it’s time to return to the new woman of the New Wave.
Last year the guardians at
the Académie Française (whose members are the ultimate decision-makers in
matters of language since 1635) chose “attachiante” as the winner thus
allowing a new word into the French language. The word attachiante stands
for a woman you can’t live with but can’t live without as well,
immortally personified by Jeanne Moreau’s character Catherine in
Truffaut’s Jules and Jim (1962). While Jeanne Moreau’s name would become
synonymous with the French New Wave more than any other female lead, the
director who made it possible was only ambiguously attached to the movement:
Louis Malle, known as the independent filmmaker, whose Lift to the Scaffold
(1957) and The Lovers (1958) signalled a changing of the guards was just
around the corner. Jeanne Moreau played the lead in both films. In Lift to
the Scaffold, Moreau’s character has been described as a latter day Emma
Bovary, “a beautiful young wife and mother slowly suffocating from the
aridness of provincial bourgeois life.” Moreau’s character in The Lovers
leaves her husband and child for a new life with her lover (This may sound a
strange place for sharing family secrets but I too know a close relative who
just did that in Pakistan in the late 1950s.)
What if Pakistani
filmmakers too had looked at the social reality of their surrounding! We
might have had a cinema worthy of respect. To answer one question, it is
safe to pronounce that the Wave had barely an influence on the Pakistani
Anyway, Louis Malle is not
always considered an auteur in the strictest sense of the word but a
brilliant stylist. I think it is fair at this moment to find out what this
animal called auteur theory really is: a theory of filmmaking in which the
director is viewed as the major creative force in a motion picture. It is a
foundation stone of the French cinematic movement. The auteur theory —
dubbed by the American film critic Andrew Sarris — holds that the
director, who oversees all audio and visual elements of the motion picture,
is more to be considered the “author” of the movie than is the writer of
the screenplay. In other words, such fundamental visual elements as camera
placement, blocking, lighting, and scene length, rather than plot line,
convey the message of the film.
Having understood this
concept, it is common sense that there would always be some tension between
the director and the person who shells out the money hoping some profit on
his investment. Godard’s Contempt is a classic on this variation. Jack
Palance plays the American producer who holds art movies in contempt. Fritz
Lang, the great director, plays the role of the director. Godard’s real
life producer, a role played by Jack Palance, insisted on more nudity since
Brigitte Bardot was in the lead role. Godard deliberately shot Bardot’s
nude scenes, The Observer writes, “unerotically and sent up Levine the
actual producer as the ignorant Hollywood mogul played by Jack Palance”
since the American tycoon wanted a sexy art-house production. Then Godard,
in Contempt, killed her in a car accident. It remains Godard’s most
complex film where form and content produce a rare synthesis.
The commercial appeal of
Bardot’s body that unleashed the modern sexuality on cinema and made the
new woman to step into the New Wave possible is killed by one of the young
turks. What better homage to auteur’s cinema could there be?
I would like to close this
article by stressing the need that our younger generations need to be
encouraged to do serious examination of the Pakistani cinema. Courses should
be offered as part of general studies and films should be studied
critically. We would also do well to rubbish once and for all the notion
that Pakistani cinema ever had a golden age. Such assertions are a result of
deluded minds. Just because at some point in history our studios produced
over 100 films a year does not make it a marvel. This is not to deny there
were no hard working and even brilliant people connected to the industry
but, in all honesty, they have, individually or collectively, left no mark
on the history of cinema or the development of its art and aesthetic.
If our filmmakers and
super stars had common sense, they could’ve looked at our western
neighbour whose films have dominated the international film scene for the
last 10 to 15 years and films and film culture would have evolved for the
better. But, as they say, it is never too late.
Great Masters Great Music
M.A. Sheikh had shifted to London after serving at the Classical Music Research Cell for more than 20 years and the change of venue did not change his passion — he got busy in writing about music and musicians. Many manuscripts were in the process of being published in his lifetime. But, unfortunately, by the time the first got published, he was not around to share the pleasure with lovers of music.
The opening shot in Great Masters Great Music is on the contribution of the Muslim musicians in the growth of music in the region called North India.
Usually there have been two adversaries that have to be fought at the same time on music’s battlefront in our context. Those who consider music to be outside the pale of religion and hence any contribution or participation in music is regarded as an activity not worthy of consideration and better left untouched, and those who have a very fundamentalist view regarding the purity of music. The latter, followers of a purist tradition, insist on some pristine form and have called for expurgation and censoring of all outside influences. They take pride in restoring, at least theoretically, a purist musical tradition.
The historical reality is that music prospered in the last thousand years or so in this part of the world at many levels of patronage. Being an essential expression, it cannot be banished from the prism of human articulation, no matter how hard it has been tried repeatedly in the history of various civilisations, including our very own. It has to be included in the spectrum of disciplines considered to be worthy of analysis for a proper study of mankind.
From the courts of mighty monarch to the shrines of Sufi, music has been put to multiple uses. It took influences from other sources and then worked out forms and intonation through assimilation. The civilisation that developed in the past thousand years too was a combination of a number of influences and to deny it is to deny the various processes involved with its growth and development.
This combination of influences has been evident in all spheres of life, and the various forms associated with literature and art. Music could not have been an exception as Persian, Central Asian and Arabic influences were incorporated into the musical structure and the style of rendition. After the 18th century, European influences became dominant and music evolved and developed and took up various shapes, forms and tonic complexions, both due to internal reasons and external factors and flowered in dhrupad, kheyal, thumri, dadra, ghazal, tappa, qawwali, kafi, folk, theatre and film song. To deny it is to deny the existence of so many institutions and cultural patterns that we wilfully idealise now.
It is the pressure exerted from these two quarters that force the local musicologists to at times overstate their case. But those with an eye of objectivity, like Bhathkhande and Bharaspati, have acknowledged the evolutionary growth of music.
Besides write-ups on the number of outstanding musicians, vocalists, all Muslim, M.A. Sheikh has also focused briefly on the music of the various regions of the country and also in the same breath recalled some of the memorable concerts that he was a witness to or had heard about.
Another very valuable asset in the book is the number of genealogical charts of the various silsilas of music. Since music was an oral art form, its musical knowledge has been transmitted orally ‘sena ba sena, from ustad to shagird, father to son, and thus the correct mapping of the musical genealogical table has added significance about it. Some of the genealogical tables have been about the musical trends and families particular to the area which is now Pakistan and therefore can be considered seminal in nature.
M.A. Sheikh on the whole lived a full life, indulging in his first love, music, which took precedence over all else.
Classical Music Research Cell was conceived by none other than Faiz Ahmed Faiz and set up in 1976 with the idea of focusing on the immense contribution of the Muslim Musicians to the evolution of music, particularly the more serious classical forms in the subcontinent. This resource centre was to serve as a nucleus for research and scholarship.
Sheikh was responsible for the day-to-day running of the Cell and stuck it out with the organisation despite conditions being far from ideal because of his commitment to the cause of music. Brought up in the culture of the walled city, as it thrived during the first half of the 20th century, M.A. Sheikh was too keen to revive the glory of a tradition that he was once a witness to. Working on a puny stipend for more than 20 years, he earned his job satisfaction by not letting the collection from being squandered. On the contrary he built painstakingly whatever he could within those meager resources.
At the best of times the resources were meager. None other than the piddling salary bill of the staff. As the plans of the Cells were ambitious but not backed by material resources, performances, publication, recordings, concerts, genuine research, seminars, lectures and discussions rarely saw the light of the day. The publications have been few. Though, many manuscripts had been readied. The performances were even fewer, but memorable. The basement where the Cell is housed gave the appearance of a picture gallery with the photographs of the ustads from the times when the camera was invented. The sketches of musical giants of the pre-camera age had been commissioned too. There are vocalists and instrumentalists, the kheyaliaas, the dhurpadiaas, the thumri exponents — so much so that that the outstanding film singers and composers too found a prominent place in the galaxy of immortals.
This beautifully produced book is the first fruit of the lifelong tending of the garden of music by the author and as more fruits ripen and are picked they will surely taste just as sweet.
Abdullah Syed’s recent solo show, ‘Art Reserves’, at Canvas Art Gallery, Karachi, is an extension of his ongoing concerns with art, artist and the art market.
His video work ‘Bucking’ (2011), displayed last year at the Amin Gulgee gallery showed the artist consuming dollar bills, turning the audiences’ anxiety into disgust, as the chewed bills were thrown up in a plate. The artist explored the politics of consumption, using cliché and regurgitation, and becoming his own muse, he positioned himself as a willing consumer of his own creation. He set out to critique global power games, which find their resonance in the white cube of the art gallery.
In the current body of work, the artist is seen asserting his role as an activist, who defies what he creates. He thus sets new equations between the artist, his art and the power structure of the art market.
The artist’s location seems to be right in the middle of the art as a mediator, because he intervenes with a readymade object of daily use, and alters its perception, in terms of its social, psychological and economic value. Also as a viewer, he provides the space for his art to continue to grow, acquire new meaning (hence new value), and allow space for the creativity of its future owner(s).
In the installation ‘Under Construction Pakistan’, Syed places 64 bundles of Rs1000 notes, representing the number of years since Pakistan has existed as a State. A written contract establishes the parameters of the project, by which the collector/owner of the work must add a thousand rupees to the installation each year on August 14. The contract also states that an amount of equal value must be donated to charity each time the work is exhibited by its owner.
By allowing the artwork to evolve and transform over time, the artist allows others to become a part of his own creativity, thus negotiating with the established boundary between the artist and his audience. The relationship between the two is a continuous one as determined by the artist, even though the artist exchanges roles with his viewer, as receiver. He is the creator, but at the same time, he becomes the spectator as soon as the work occupies a public, gallery or private space, and changes ownership.
The act of giving away his work (currency notes) speaks of the artist as activist, but it is unclear if the artist has the ultimate vision to address capitalist market values through a social intervention, or if he is re-enforcing the very commoditisation; and adding a new consumer tag to his process.
The installation as it is “installed” in this specific space will alter in its physical form. What may remain is an idea or concept, and more importantly, documentation of the work as an intervention of dissent by the artist. The impermanence that this elicits is an important characteristic of the work.
It is perhaps the intangible in Abdullah Syed’s vocabulary that is more important than its physical form. The relationship between form and idea/concept is an interesting point of navigation. The artist draws inspiration from Joseph Beuys’ critique of culture through his art, specifically the context in which Beuys addresses capital=art.
Syed’s process is saddled with contradictions because his form, the currency note, is constant, but repeated in different formats to approach the same subject from different viewing points and combinations. The physical act of making (the art object) is in constant contradiction of its conceptual voice: the artist defies capitalist market values, and yet he adopts them. He pushes it a step outside the frame, by distributing many of the currency notes he works on, to the gallery audience in a lottery. This is an engaging subtext in Syed’s narrative, because the artist establishes his own voyeurism through his process.
There can be as many entry points to such an artwork as there may be viewers or receivers of it. One could debate on the nature of such an initiative/intervention in the context of art practice and social relevance in Pakistan. What is the value placed on work which does not have to do with accepted aesthetics? More importantly, as in Adbullah Syed’s case, is the artist empowered to dictate the value of the art object. What is the outreach of a language that defies established notions of self, other, and notions of beauty? What are the parameters that the artist is referencing, and towards what aim or vision of society? And finally, what is the role of art in this re-invented space. These are some key questions that remain unanswered.