To seek answer to the above question, the best place to start with are the universities as the general view is that great nations have great universities. Here the future leadership of a country is educated and trained not only to bring economic growth and scientific prowess but positive socio-cultural change as well. Former Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said ‘All is well with a nation, if its universities are in good shape and functional.’ Uniformity of opinion exists either in a military regiment or in a graveyard. Vibrant societies celebrate diversity in cultures and opinion. It accommodates members from different backgrounds, viewpoints and perspectives. The role of educational institutions become crucial in promoting diversity and discourse and that’s the reason that no country in modern history has progressed without investing in quality education. Socrates once said that “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think” and that’s exactly should be the job of a teacher to present a range of perspectives to encourage students to develop their own frameworks for thinking about the issues in point. In Pakistan, professors have a sense of fear which forces them to subject themselves to self-censorship. Students lack the courage to know and most of the teachers lack the courage to tell Not only academic freedom is the right of teachers and students but it is critical for the growth of academic discourse which leads the way to the pursuit of knowledge. As stated by historian Conrad Russell, “Academic freedom is the freedom for academics within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions without placing themselves in jeopardy.” Developing critical thinking in a student through academic discourse and inquiry is the foundational role of every educational institution especially universities as by the time a student reaches that stage, he/she should be able to develop enough mental faculty to indulge into a free discourse in pursuit of the truth that may not necessarily co-relate with what is commonly accepted. Restricting professors or students for that matter from a free discourse challenging dogmas or opinion of the public tantamount to blunting the students’ quest for knowledge. It is commonly observed that majority of people prefer normative claims that how things ought to be rather than what they actually are based on knowledge. Since the pursuit of knowledge dictates free discourse and reject normative claims unproven either true or false by empirical evidence, modern democratic governments accept free speech and free inquiry as a fundamental right of its citizen. Let’s talk about Pakistan and the state of academic discourse at the universities. I recently joined a well-reputed private sector university in Islamabad to study International Relations at Masters’ level. What actually worried me is the second finding that professors have a sense of fear which forces them to subject themselves to self-censorship. Students lack the courage to know and most of the teachers lack the courage to tell. Free academic discourse is key to learning in every discipline but more so in the discipline of social sciences as students are introduced to new ideas (unfortunately every new idea in Pakistan is considered Western idea and thus a conspiracy) and encourage them to develop critical thinking as a seeker of knowledge. With every passing day, teaching is becoming a tougher job in Pakistan especially for those who teach social sciences, a professor who teaches International Relations in that particular university told me requesting anonymity. “Since my job as a teacher is to encourage students to debate but the moment a discourse kicks off, some students would unduly bring religion into it which you know is beyond debate in this country and no professor including me want to put himself/herself in a life threatening situation”, the professor told me. There is this fear among professors that they may be dubbed ant-religion or God knows what by students if they challenged their religious views, however unreasonable they might sound. “We have no escape from religion, it’s everywhere whether you teach physics or international relations. Even I, as teacher of Islamic Studies, feel scared that a student belonging to a different belief system than mine might find my views offensive”, a professor at the largest public sector university in Islamabad told me requesting not to be named. This is what we call ‘indoctrination gone wrong’ added by the worried professor. I am not talking about some far flung places like Khuzdaar or Dera Ghazi Khan, I am talking about universities in the capital both private and public sector generally attended by students from wealthy families. “If this is the situation in Islamabad, you can imagine how things would be in remote areas. Our universities instead of knowledge giving have turned into knowledge blocking institutions” said by the International Relations professor. With apology to those who say that the future of Pakistan is bright, I must say that the future of Pakistan is dark, in fact for that matter any country’s future is dark where professors fear for their life just because they challenge dogmas and encourage academic discourse in the classrooms. If Pakistan wants to survive in a world where difference of opinion and diversity (cultural, religious) are considered strength and celebrated, it has to alter its direction sooner than later. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, September 21st 2017.