The Berkeley Pakistan Initiative

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(Newsletter Coming Soon)

The University of California at Berkeley is a global leader for the study of South Asia, and one of very few institutions in the United States to offer both undergraduate and graduate degree programs focusing on numerous aspects of this vital region. As an integral part of the South Asia curriculum at Berkeley, interest in the study of Pakistan's history, politics, and culture is growing rapidly. We are strongly committed to strengthening our engagement with this subject in the years ahead.

Faculty with a special interest in this region:

Asad Ahmed (Near Eastern Studies), Kiren Chaudhry (Political Science), Lawrence Cohen (Anthropology), Munis Faruqui (South and Southeast Asian Studies), Qamar Jalil (South and Southeast Asian Studies), Neil Joeck (Institute of International Studies), Saba Mahmood (Anthropology).

Quaid-i Azam Chair in Pakistan Studies

UC Berkeley is one of two institutions in the country that houses the Government of Pakistan funded Quaid-i Azam Chair in Pakistan Studies. The ISAS in collaboration with the Government of Pakistan established the Quaid-i Azam Chair of Pakistan Studies at UC Berkeley in 1999. It is named after Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan, who is often referred to by the title, “Great Leader,” or “Quaid-i Azam." The goal of this chair is to encourage increased knowledge of Pakistan in the United States and to help forge better ties between American academics and their counterparts in Pakistan. According to the terms of the chair, the chairholder, chosen from a college or university in Pakistan, will have a full-time teaching and research position at UC Berkeley for up to two years. The funds for the scholar's salary and other expenses are provided by the Pakistan government.

  • The first chairholder, in 2004-05, was Professor Tariq Rahman, a National Distinguished Professor and specialist in socio-linguistics. During his year on campus he taught a course titled “Language and Politics in Pakistan.” He also put together an Urdu reading group.
  • The second chairholder was Professor Ishtiaq Ahmad Choudhry, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sargodha. He served between 2009-10. At Berkeley, he taught a course titled "Current Political Trends in Pakistan."

Due to educational reforms and political turmoil in Pakistan, the chair has been empty since 2010.

BULPIP-AIPS Urdu Training Program

We are extremely proud to announce that after a 5 year hiatus the Berkeley Urdu Language Program in Pakistan's (BULPIP) is back. In September 2013, UC-Berkeley received a $3.1 million grant from the US government to re-establish BULPIP. Founded in 1973 and permanently based in Lahore, Pakistan, BULPIP's purpose was to provide intensive Urdu language training to American students, scholars, and teachers who had research and professional interests in Pakistan, Islam, the Muslim communities of South Asia, and Urdu language and literature. The program ran in Pakistan from 1973 through 2001, when due to a State Department travel warning prohibiting students from traveling to Pakistan, BULPIP was forced to first temporarily move to Lucknow, India, and then subsequently shut down in 2008. However, now BULPIP is back. In this revived version, ISAS will run BULPIP in conjunction with the American Institute of Pakistan Studies (AIPS). The program will award fellowships to a) ten US-based students to spend fifteen-weeks each year to study Urdu language through an intensive Urdu language immersion program based in the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan and b) to train ten to fifteen Pakistan based Urdu teachers in contemporary second-language teaching pedagogy through internship appointments of two to four months in intro and intermediate level Urdu classrooms in the US.

Pakistan-related Visiting Scholars

The Institute regularly accepts visiting scholars who are pursuing a research project on South Asia. Our Pakistan-related Visting Scholars are: Nosheen Ali (2010-2012), Niaz Murtaza (2012 - 2013)

Pakistan-related Course Offerings

Over the years, UC Berkeley has offered a wide variety of courses that have either focused on Pakistan or have included Pakistan related content. The box on the right highlights some of these courses.  The course syllabus, as well as the videos used to supplement class discussion, for Nosheen Ali's class titled Re-Imagining Pakistan are available online.

Pakistan-related Library Collections


The South and Southeast Asia Library (SSEAL) contains a large collection of books in Urdu (22,000), Punjabi (7,500), Sindhi (950), Pushto (700), and Kashmiri (600). Most of these books were published in Pakistan. Our Pakistan-focused acquisition efforts have been rapidly increasing over the past years thanks to the interest of Adnan Malik, head librarian for the entire South Asia. A series of faculty-library initiatives have also contributed to additional growth in our already strong Pakistan-specific holdings.

Pakistan-related Programming

  • The Mahomedali Habib Distinguished Lecture on Pakistan
    The Mahomedali Habib Distinguished Lecture on Pakistan is named in honor of one of the leading figures in the history of the Habib family. In addition to successfully guiding the Habib family’s transition from India to Pakistan following independence in 1947, Mahomedali Habib laid the foundations for the House of Habib, a group of powerful business and financial companies. The group has a long-standing history of philanthropy and social service and is currently leading the establishment of Habib University, a liberal arts and sciences university, in Pakistan which aims to bridge the gap between global academia and Pakistan. Toward honoring the legacy of Mahomedali Habib – who was distinguished by his love for Pakistan and his deep commitment to education and philanthropy – the Habib family has decided to endow an annual lecture series in his name. Through this lecture series the Habib family aims to improve and diversify conversations about Pakistan in the United States as well as create opportunities for US and Pakistan-based scholars to dialogue. Our inaugural lecture will be delivered by leading Pakistani lawyer, advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, President Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and human rights activist, Asma Jahangir on Tuesday, October 8, 2013. Details about this lecture here.

  • The Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada Dissertation Prize on Pakistan
    The Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada Dissertation Prize on Pakistan has been endowed by Rafat Pirzada and his wife, Amna Jaffer. The prize, named after Rafat Pirzada’s father, Sharifuddin Pirzada, who is widely regarded as Pakistan's leading jurist and constitutional expert, will fund an annual dissertation prize for the best work in the humanities, social sciences, law, or public health on Pakistan, the region that is Pakistan, or things to do with Pakistan. Rafat Pirzada is a Silicon Valley based entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the telecom industry and Co-founder of Cyrus, which was acquired for over $1 billion in 2001.
  • Over the years, the Institute has offered diverse Pakistan-related programming. Some of the more recent events are listed below.
Spring 2014Talking with the Pakistani Taliban
The Warrior State: Pakistan in the Contemporary World 
Fiction and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: In conversation with Mohsin Hamid Video
Kala Pul (The Black Bridge) 
Mangoes, Alice, and the Missing Baloch: In conversation with Mohammed Hanif Video
 Fall 2013Democratic Transitions in Pakistan and its Impact on Human Rights Video
No Exit from Pakistan: America's Tortured Relationship with Islamabad 
Spring 2013 
Higher Education in Pakistan: Designing a Liberal Core for Post-Colonial Pakistan Video
Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea 
Fierce Courage: Muslim Women's Transformative Activism 
Fall 2012     Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan BorderlandsVideo
'The Evidence of Things Not Seen'?: An Artist's Explorations of Afghanistan's 21st Century Reconstructions and 20th Century Histories. 
Afghans Look at 2014 
Constructing “Home” in Transnational Spaces: The Case of Japanese-Pakistani Muslim Families 
Partition of India: Debates in History and Literature 
Spring 2012      Environmental History and the Creation of PakistanVideo
Sources of Tension: Pakistan, Its Neighbors and Regional SecurityVideo
Why foreign aid does not work in countries like Pakistan Video
Why Pakistan Matters 
Musings on PakistanVideo
Changing perspectives on the Indus Civilization: New insights from excavations in Pakistan and India 
Fall 2011     What Went Wrong?: Tracing the Troubled Trajectory of Development, Governance and Security in Pakistan, 1947-2011 
Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself 
Guftugu: Celebrating Faiz Ahmed Faiz Video
Guftugu: Contemporary Pakistani Art Video
Pakistan and the US - Challenges and Opportunities Audio
Poetry, Power, Protest: Re-imagining Muslim Nationhood in Northern Pakistan Video
Spring 2011The Redefined Dimensions of Baloch Nationalist Movement 
Fall 2010  Breaking the Silence: Women in Afghanistan and Pakistan 
Afghanistan - A Unit of Analysis: Round Table Discussion 
The Pakistan Flood Crisis: An Alternate Perspective 
Islam, Youth and New MediaWebsite
Spring 2010
and earlier
Hamid Mir -- The Resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan"Media
Abid Hasan Minto -- The Pakistani Crisis: On the current situation in the sub-continent and India-Pakistan Relations 
Ahmad Salim --  Preservation and Promotion of Archives in PakistanMedia
Huma Yusuf -- The War Against Terror : Five Reasons for the Persistence of Anti-Americanism in Pakistan 
Alice Albinia -- Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River 

Pakistan-related Student Organizations

CAL has a vibrant Pakistani Student's Association (PSA). Among other responsibilities, the PSA provides the Berkeley community a glimpse into Indo-Muslim culture through their Annual Urdu Culture show, a celebration of the Urdu language in the form of traditional dances, folk music, skits, poetic recitations, delicious ethnic cuisine, and lively speeches by various literary figures. In 2013 the PSA hosted its eighth annual Urdu Culture Show before an audience of over 400 people in the Chevron Auditorium of the International House.

On October 8, 2013, ISAS officially launched a Pakistan@Berkeley Initiative

The goal is to broaden and deepen understanding of Pakistan through on-campus talks and conferences, promote scholarly exchanges between UC Berkeley and educational institutions in Pakistan, raise funds for graduate fellowships (to train the next generation of scholars of Pakistan), create an annual prize for the best doctoral dissertation on Pakistan, and provide funding for Pakistan-specific courses at UC Berkeley.

Read more about this launch in the 2013 issue of Khabar, our annual newsletter. (pages 4 and 5)

We look forward to working with supportive individuals and organizations to accomplish these goals. For further information, please contact:

Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director
Institute for South Asia Studies
(510) 642-3608
Munis Faruqui, Professor
Dept. of South & Southeast Asian Studies
(510) 643-9188
Saba Mahmood, Professor
Dept. of Anthropology
(510) 642-3392