A rift between the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Diocese of Peshawar over the prestigious Edwardes College Peshawar is threatening to destroy the reputation of the institute.
The Bishop of Diocese fears that the government is taking possession of the college from Christians and is threatening to launch a protest campaign against interference in the college. As a result of the on-going governance crisis, the 120-years-old college is facing severe blows to its reputation.
Sources privy to the developments told The Friday Times that the issue dates back to 2016, when Malik Naz, a candidate for the post of the college’s principal, went to the Peshawar High Court against the appointment of the incumbent Principal Nayer Fardows. The court decided against the applicant and also declared the college a private entity.
In light of the court’s decision, the Diocese Committee formed its own Board of Governors (BOGs) for the college headed by the Bishop of Peshawar Diocese. It also stopped the BOG headed by the KP governor from holding meetings and managing administrative affairs of the college.
Some faculty members had turned against the current principal and started a movement against him. Students also joined in the protests. Rallies were held against the principal and faculty members held press conferences asking the KP government to intervene and save the college from getting ruined.
In an unprecedented move, students boycotted classes for two weeks.
In the meantime, the Bishop of Diocese moved a petition in the Peshawar High Court, asking the court to stop the KP government from intervention in the affairs of the college, which was a private entity. Faculty members also filed a petition, asking the court to revisit its decision from 2016 in which it had declared the college a private entity. They asked the court to declare the college an autonomous educational institute with its BOG headed by the governor, as was the arrangement prior to the court’s 2016 order.
Last Monday, Shah Farman chaired a meeting of the college BOG after the court’s order. It was boycotted by Christian members of the board
The court was told that the college had been taken over under the Privately Managed Schools and Colleges (Taking Over) Regulations 1972 and it had a BOG headed by the governor. Last month, the court dismissed the Bishop’s petition and declared the college an autonomous body. The court also directed the authorities concerned to restore the past glory of the college.
In the most recent development, Bishop of Diocese of Peshawar Hamphery Sarfaraz Peter held a press conference last week stating that the Christian community in Pakistan would start protest campaign if the KP government did not handover the college to the Church before Christmas. The Bishop said that baseless allegations levelled against the principal and his family had forced them to leave the country. He said the governor had reconstituted his own BOG and was intervening in the administrative affairs of the college.
In another press conference, the KP governor said the college was the property of Christians and its principal would be from the Christian community. He told the media in his official residence, “The Peshawar High Court has directed authorities concerned to restore the glory and good reputation of the college.” He said the college’s principal and his children were trying to malign the name of the country abroad by propagating that Christian properties were being taken over by the Pakistani government.
Last Monday, Shah Farman chaired a meeting of the college BOG after the court’s order. It was boycotted by Christian members of the board.
“Edwardes College was the most well-reputed and prestigious college after Islamia College in the province. It alumni feel proud to be associated with the college and now 400 to 500 students have moved to other places due to the poor performance of the college,” Mohammad Ashfaq, a senior journalist covering education in KP, told The Friday Times. Administrative issues and internal rifts between the management, faculty and the government have affected its performance so much that people have started moving their children from the college, he said.
“The Bishop says the college belongs to Christians and the government is also saying the same then where is the point of contention?” he said. “If the college is being affected because of the incumbent principal, then he should be removed in public interest and the bishop should stop backing him and if there are troublemakers in the faculty, they should also be taken to task. The goal should be restoration of the reputation of the college because it is our children who are being affected by the on-going crisis. Christian leaders and the government should sit together to resolve the issue,” Ashfaq said.
The writer is a journalist based in Peshawar