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News Category: Pakistan

Ali Asani and Ali Sethi pay ode to regional poets at ‘Misaq-e-Ishq’

16252313_361401474253079_120009414114107995_oThis was published in Pakistan Today.

The Lahore Biennale Foundation (LBF) in collaboration with the LUMS School of Education (LUMS SOE) and Harvard South Asia Institute (Harvard SAI) organized an exclusive music and poetry evening on Jan. 17. Renowned musician Ali Sethi and Harvard Divinity School Professor Mr Ali Asani put together a special set which they performed to an enthralled audience at the Ali Institute of Education.

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Tax Collection and Civil Society

JF17_image_Page_015_Image_0001This article was published in Harvard Magazine. It highlights the work of SAI Steering Committee Member Asim Khwaja.

By Marina N. Bolotnikova

AROUND THE WORLD, tax receipts in low- and middle-income countries are much lower than they ought to be. Poor recordkeeping makes it easy for people to pay less than they owe; distrust that taxes will be returned as government services undermines people’s willingness to pay. Absent a strong culture of civic participation, policymakers need to find ways to improve tax compliance without further degrading public faith in institutions.

Asim Khwaja, Sumitomo-FASID professor of international finance and development, who directs the Evidence for Policy Design program at the Harvard Kennedy School, has spent the last few years working with the government of Punjab (the most populous province in Pakistan, home to Lahore and more than 100 million people) to study that problem. In Pakistan, tax collectors’ salaries are largely predetermined, based on experience and education. With no financial incentive to bring in more revenue, collectors frequently collude with taxpayers, accepting large bribes in exchange for tax write-offs. Both taxpayer and tax collector thus benefit—at the expense of the state. Khwaja and his colleagues, London School of Economics professor Adnan Khan and MIT professor Benjamin Olken, thought that improving the tax collectors’ performance would be straightforward: pay them based on how much revenue they collected. And indeed this is what they found: employees incentivized in this way collected much more than employees paid through the existing system.

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A new way to detect fake medicines

Technicians test antimalarial tablets on a PharmaChk device, Accra, Ghana, Dec. 5, 2016. PHOTO: WOLFGANG KRULL

Technicians test antimalarial tablets on a PharmaChk device, Accra, Ghana, Dec. 5, 2016. Photo: Wolfgang Krull

This article was originally published by the Wall Street Journal. Muhammad Zaman, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University, is a visiting faculty member at SAI.

‘Aesthetic approach of Islam is the way forward’

AsaniThis article was originally published by about a Jan. 13 SAI event cosponsored with Habib University.

By Haneen Rafi

KARACHI: In an attempt to deconstruct negative stereotypes about Islam that are rampant in popular discourse, there is an urgent need to understand and propagate it from an aesthetic approach, said Harvard scholar Prof Ali Asani during his talk at Habib University on Friday.

While highlighting the importance of religious and cultural literacy in a cosmopolitan world, Prof Asani gave a nuanced perspective to the differences that set us apart, which have resulted in polarisations and created conflicts.

Prof Asani teaches Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University, and is also the former Director of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Programme at Harvard.

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2017 Winter Grant Recipients

davey Discussing some of the major health issues seen from a visit to an urban slum in Delhi.The Harvard South Asia Institute has awarded 15 grants to support student projects over the Winter Session 2016 in January. These include 12 graduate students and 3 undergraduate students who will travel to India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Pakistan for research and internships.


Undergraduate Students
Mei Yin Wu Applied Math, 2017 Harvard College
Wildlife Conservation Trust Internship

Zayan Faiyad, Economics 2018 Harvard College
Field research to identify root causes of achievement gap in state-regulated Madrasas in Bangladesh

Mahnoor Khan, Government 2017 Harvard College
Desensitization to Violence and its Affect on an Individual’s Moral Decision Making in Pakistan

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SAI hosts artists Komal Shahid Khan and Meenakshi Sengupta

Visiting the Harvard Art Museums

Visiting the Harvard Art Museums

From November 29 – December 9, the South Asia Institute hosted two artists from South Asia as part of its Visiting Artist Program. Komal Shahid Khan, from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Meenakshi Sengupta, from Kolkata, India, spent their time at Harvard attending classes, meeting with students and faculty, giving a public seminar, and had the opportunity to display their work on campus.

The artists visited several undergraduate classes where they were invited to speak about their work and engage with students. Courses included ‘History and Sexuality in the Modern West’ taught by Nancy Cott, Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History, ‘Comparative Politics of Gender Inequality’ taught by Ana Catalano Weeks, College Fellow in the Government Department, ‘Gender and the Making of Modern South Asia,’ taught by Catherine Warner, College Fellow in the Department of South Asian Studies,  and ‘Leaning in, Hooking up: Visions of Feminism and Femininity in the 21st Century’ taught by Phyllis Thompson, Lecturer on Studies on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. The artists were also invited to the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies for an informal gathering with concentrators and affiliates.

During their visit, Khan and Sengupta were exposed to the various arts-related resources at Harvard. Rachel Parikh, Calderwood Curatorial Fellow for South Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums, led a session for the artists in the Museum’s Art Study Center, and allowed the artists to access several pieces from the Museum’s collection. Lamia Joreige, Rita E. Hauser Fellow, Radcliffe Institute and a renowned visual artist and filmmaker from Lebanon invited the artists to her studio to speak about their artistic process.

“We experienced a lot. Visiting the museums and seeing the original works there, that means a lot to me,” Sengupta said.

During their time, the two artists collaborated on an interactive performance piece about Partition, an idea that formed when they met in Cambridge. (Video below).

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Student voices: Teaching history through empathy

15193682_1146680992035386_9720135855591234_nThis is part of a series in which we share reports from Harvard students who have traveled to South Asia with support from a SAI grant.

By Asad Liaqat, Doctoral candidate, Public Policy PhD program, Harvard Kennedy School; SAI Graduate Associate

This summer I worked with “The History Project” (THP) in Lahore, Pakistan to develop an evaluation strategy for an exciting set of workshops they are doing with school children. These workshops are aimed at improving critical thinking and increasing empathy in schoolchildren in Pakistan and India. As a researcher, my role in these workshops is to design an evaluation strategy to ascertain the impact of these workshops on critical thinking and empathy in children.

The workshops in themselves are borne out of THP’s previous work in schools in India and Pakistan, introducing children to the idea that there is multiplicity in historical narratives. They decided to place versions of the same incidents from Indian and Pakistani textbooks right next to each other and simply show that to students, taking in their reactions and learning how the rigid notions of right and wrong formed due to particular forms of socialization in formative years could be broken. Having gone through that development phase, THP was ready to start piloting its workshops this summer, and I formed a partnership with them to evaluate the impact of their interventions.

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Lakhani joins LUMS Suleman Dawood School of Business advisory board

Ent240491Congratulations to  Karim R. Lakhani, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, for his invitation to serve on the advisory board of Suleman Dawood School of Business, the oldest of the four schools at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

LUMS and SAI have recently signed an MoU to make LUMS a substantive partner in Harvard-SAI’s activities in Pakistan. Eminent scholars from Harvard Business School, as well as from IMD and Ivey School of Business played a key role in the establishment of the flagship 2-year full-time LUMS MBA program launched in 1986.

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