Educationist Aquila Islam passes away

Web Desk -June 18, 2021

KARACHI: Pakistan’s first woman PhD in nuclear physics, Aquila Islam, died in Dubai on Wednesday morning. She was 85.

Aquila Islam, the elder sister of renowned journalist Ghazi Salahuddin, passed her matriculation exam from New Town Girls School in Karachi and obtained a Master’s in Physics from the University of Karachi.

Subsequently, she did her PhD in nuclear physics from McMaster University, Ontario, Canada in the mid-1970s. She also had a Master’s degree in biophysics from the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

Aquila Islam was committed to physics education in Pakistan. She was a teacher of the subject at several colleges and universities in the country from 1958 to 2014. She was the principal of the Government College for Women (Frere Road, Kara­chi); registrar at the Jinnah University of Women, Karachi; dean of Natural Science, Karako­ram Inter­national Unive­rsity Gilgit-Baltistan; and deputy director and director of a number of institutions.

She served as a senior scientific officer (PINSTECH), Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission as well.

Apart from performing her duties as a teacher, her involvements included: founding president of the Centre of Physics Education (CPE), Karachi under the patronage of Prof Abdus Salam and member of Academic Council of University of Karachi.

Speaking to Dawn, her long-time friend Shaista Zaidi said, “She was a sheltering tree (shajar-i-saya daar), a friend who did a lot for her friends and students. I had known her for a long time. All she wanted to do in life was to educated children selflessly. She only gave love to others and was such a hard worker that even after her retirement she kept trying to do something or the other for the younger generation of Pakistan. It’s a personal loss to me.”

Educationist and public speaker Dr Arfa Sayeda Zehra said, “She was an extremely educated and intelligent individual, and humble one at that. She only loved people — her family, friends, students. I myself am a beneficiary of her love. We were friends for many, many years.

“When she flew out to Dubai she told me that her WhatsApp wasn’t working. I said no worries, we’d be in touch. One day she messaged me that her younger brother Asif Akhtar and sister Fahmida Moin were in the ICU in a Dubai hospital [both of whom died of coronavirus a week apart on Wednesdays before Aquila Islam]. It made me worry about her … and now this terrible news. She was a science specialist and so educated, and yet this country did not take advantage of her abilities. She also had great taste in literature,” Ms Zahra said.

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