PMDC National Examination Board exam | English literature

PMDC Exam of foreign medical graduates on May 4
Islamabad, May 02: The Pakistan Medical and Dental Council has finalised arrangements for the National Examination Board (NEB) examination of foreign medical and dental graduates of Pakistani origin on Saturday (May 4) in Islamabad.

Under the PMDC rules, a foreign medical or dental graduate is to clear the NEB examination for practice in the country.

According to PMDC Administrator Dr Raja Amjad Mehmood, 1,167 medical and four dental graduates will appear in the NEB Step I (basic subjects' theory examination) at Pakistan-China Friendship Centre, and 729 medical and seven dental graduates in the NEB Step II (clinical subjects' theory examination) at Hotel Margalla.

He said that the PMDC had outsourced the NEB examination, so it would be conducted by the Khyber Medical University, Peshawar.

The PMDC administrator said that the examination would be invigilated by the National Testing Service.

He said that the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council had already secured the support and cooperation of the capital city's administration and police for the smooth and fair holding of the examination. The news

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English literature alive and well
Islamabad: At the first day of the Islamabad Literature Festival, English literature by Pakistani writers figured prominently.

There were two sessions, on either side of Ahmed Rashid's lively noen-fiction session. And it was revealed that he had also written poems in his more youthful days.

He chaired the session about 'English novels in the new millennium', as the talk and slide presentation by Muneeza Shamsie was entitled.

She gave a beautiful presentation of a dozen writers with brief summaries of their main works, some 50 in all.

Ahmed Rashid was quick to ask why she hadn't mentioned Daniyal Mueenuddin, the author of the much acclaimed novel In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, and what about Mohsin Hamid's books? His book The Reluctant Fundamentalist has been filmed, and just released. It turned out, though, that Muneeza Shamsie was taken in by Mohsin Hamdid's works, including the mentioned book and his latest one How to Get Filthy Rich in Emerging Asia.

A participant wanted to know if many of the English language writers belonged to the Pakistani diaspora living abroad.

Muneeza Shamsie explained that the term is not clear; many writers live abroad for a while, then, back to Pakistan, and may be they go abroad again. In many ways, it is up to the writer himself or herself to define their own identity. "And, does it really matter as long as the literature is valuable?"

Openness was shown regarding different genres, too: poetry, novels, short stories and even non-fiction literature.

In the past, writers and readers were more rigid and formalistic. In our time, with new media, everyone has become more open.

It is perhaps not obvious that a country like Pakistan, with at least half a dozen major languages, and many more vernaculars, should also have an English language literature.

Yet, English is a major language in Pakistan, and Muneeza Shamsie explained that when she was young, in her teenage school years, she came to know that English was easier for her than Urdu.

Today, many youngsters attend English medium schools and are likely to feel more comfortable in that language than in the mother tongue, especially if they also continue further education abroad, in a globalised era.

Athar Tahir gave a brief historic overview of English literature in the subcontinent, explaining that in certain ways English had taken the place of Persian. There was also a debate about using the colonial language on English.

He drew attention to the vibrant late 1960s and 1970s and said schools should teach more about Pakistani writers who write in English.

"That is how they become great," he said. "We teach about African and Indian writers."

Poet Harris Khalique underlined that, "It is not about language. Poetry is my passion, Pakistan is my country and South Asia my larger area."

"This part of the world has always been multilingual," he said, and added that he thought that young people had little interest in Urdu poetry, and less understanding of it.

"It is important to use English, too," he said. "It puts me in contact with the wider world. And if a Polish writer, for example, is translated into English, I can also read his works," he said.

Ilona Yusuf emphasised the role of the publishing houses. "I was writing in isolation when I was young," she said, expressing the hope that publishing houses could be contact points and forums for writers. Poet Harris Khalique also underlined this point.

Ilona Yusuf said she had appreciated the good work done by (the now defunct) Alhamra Publishing and its leader Shahiq Naz.

Recently, a Canadian poetry journal entitled Vallum published as a special issue about Pakistani poetry, edited by Ilona Yusuf and Blain Marchand as guest editors. It was agreed that such efforts are important.

"Sometimes there is the notion that there is not a big enough market for English language literature in Pakistan. But I don't believe that," Muneeza Sahmsie said, and drew attention to the essential role of schools in giving more attention to the new literature.

Ahmed Rashid said there was a need for translation of English language literature into Urdu, which was more common earlier.
He reminded the attentive audience of many hundred listeners that for that to happen there was a need for subsidies and sponsorship.

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Literature in English and politics
Islamabad: Literature is not just good stories, smartly crafted plots, great words and heartfelt words in poetry and prose.

Literature is much more, and genres are many, and even combinations thereof.

In our time, we must include new and social media, in addition to the slightly older visual media of films and TV and the audio media of radio, records, tapes and CDs. Yet, the books remain special even in our multi-media world.

This was underlined by several panelists and many participants on the second day of the large and most successful Islamabad Literature Festival on Wednesday.

In a session about 'Pakistan in the Western Imagination: What are the Challenges faced by Pakistani English Literature', the moderator Muneeza Shamsie asked Rashed Rahman if he had considered using non-fiction in his work.

He stressed that he was a journalist, not a writer, but he did mention that he was also writing poems, and he underlined that he read a lot of Pakistani, Indian and other literature.

He explained that when he came of age as a journalist, he took particular interest in reporting about the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan.

He felt it an imperative to tell the truth and explain what was happening. For some periods and in certain places, he was the only reporter present.

"Even today, it is very important to tell facts and explain facts, yes, and search for the truth," Rashed Rahman said.

"There is still little knowledge and much misunderstanding among people."

Later, Rashed Rahman stressed that to write about everyday issues, if we do good or bad to our neighbours, that is also political. Politics is not something that can be compartmentalised.

Poet Ilona Yusuf said that she was never a political person, but that she would also write about political items, such as her interest in writing about people sometimes avoiding seeing the truth.

She also mentioned that she had written about the problems in Swat, and she recalled that when in south-western America, she had been surprised by people's interest in and lack of knowledge about women's situation in Pakistan, including violence against women and maiming of women's faces.

Shehryar Fazli, a political analyst who has also written non-fiction, said that he thought that poetry and the spoken word could travel a lot further than prose does. And Ilona Yusuf then underlined that in Pakistan that would only apply to Urdu, not to English.

And she said that part of the reason for the power of literature is that great literature comes out of what is closest to oneself.

Furthermore, the panelists seemed to agree on the power of the written word, even in our multimedia time.

Rashed Rahman and Shehryar Fazli both underlined that we all remember the books we have read, especially in our youthful years, even more than the films we saw.

Many questions raised were about the image that was created of Pakistan in the West.

Some participants seemed to feel that Pakistan was often given a raw deal, with emphasis on negative aspects rather than the positive and softer aspects.

The journalistic view that was underlined was that reality could not be changed, it had to be reported.

Rashed Rahman said that the messenger, the journalist, should not be blamed. Also Ilona Yusuf also underlined that it was not the duty of the writers to soften images.

It is their duty to write what they see, the way they see it, in a search for truth.Although the impact of the English language fiction writers in the West remained inconclusive at several sessions at the Islamabad Literature Festival, and one would have liked some academic and systematic analysis of the theme, the writers managed to give a good picture of the importance of the broad and varied English language literature at home and in the West, including such written by the Pakistani diaspora abroad.

It was beyond the scope of the Festival to discuss concrete projects that in future could help give a more complete picture of Pakistan abroad.

Yet, it may well be important to do that. Rashed Rahman emphasised that he saw Pakistan as a diverse country, needing multi-faceted pictures painted.

In separate, political session entitled 'Pakistan at the Crossroads' showed that perhaps writers are as good as scientists and analysts at debating Pakistan's burning issues.

Yet, insights were presented by the strong panel including Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Humayun Gauhar, Riaz Khokhar and the moderator Ashraf Jehangir Qazi.

Yes, it was an all male panel, and that was a mistake in our time and age.

It was emphasised that in the years to come, we should not only be critical to the politicians in the country.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said that he thought the decentralisation efforts had been very impressive, and he also thought that in the years to come, after the coming elections, many other achievements will be made.

He also underlined the importance of the civic society's role and people's participation.

These two sessions, the latter one indeed serious and topical, were softened by an hour of selected readings in English by Zia Mohyeddin.

The largest hall in the hotel was packed by hundreds of young and old participants. The elegant and sometimes folksy stories were first class Pakistani literature in English, engaging everyone.

Many had come in particular for that session. And that was how it should be at a large literature festival: people come to receive inspiration and food for thought, get a smile on their faces, feel warmth and gain insight, yes, and simply enjoy the time. And then, perhaps make a visit to the bookshop on the way home. Dawn

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