The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province faces issues like militancy, chronic women rights abuses, violence against women and low literacy rate to name just a few innumerable problems. However, the province has pleasingly witnessed a striking growth of public-sector varsities of late. Remote districts known to the lowlanders as health resorts for their refreshing weather and scenic views get either public-sector varsities or their campuses.
Alpine districts like Chitral and Upper Dir have universities while Lower Dir has the province’s second-ranked Malakand University after Peshawar’s seat of learning. Buner and Swat get their full-fledged high-learning seats; as District Shangla enjoys the scholastic services of Swat University in the Shangla campus.
But all that glitters is not gold. Public-sector varsities mushroom growth might have given Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s people much-needed jobs but has never ameliorated education sufferings; with the last two decades—which saw the launch of so many public-sector universities in the province—witnessing no tangible progress emerging out of big funding accrued to these learning seats amid tall claims of national and provincial rulers, and the Higher Education Commission.
The HEC, a white elephant per se, never gets tired of boasting about faculty hiring which, it says, is strictly evaluated. But the last 20 years don’t produce the desired results for the society at large; as extremism still permeates the social fabric, amongst other pressing issues, gauging sane voices and putting society on obscurantist ways.
Most researches though soared in numbers to stratospheric highs are plagiarised and fake, with the so-called strictly-evaluated faculty barely able to write a few sentences in any language.
In the same breath, university-paid teachers also don’t have the same eloquence and reason as that of any great scientists and free thinkers, considering our so many limitations, with most but not limited to natural sciences teachers, having their dogmatic beliefs. They not only fail to provide scientific and philosophical moorings for their students’ worldview but their obduracy also stop them from connecting to worldly affairs including but not limited to history, sociology, political science, philosophy and economics. The impressionable minds then become intolerant.
The old Chinese proverb ‘a fish rots from the head’ best fit the plight of our high-learning seats wherein political appointees, always in contact with their political bosses, rule the roost; as high-learning seats’ welfare always takes back seat when personal interests arise. The appointment of top bosses at the high-learning seats gets steeped in dirty politics as no ordinary employee/candidate could even think of making it to the position of a Vice-Chancellor without political backing.
Political wheeling and dealing for the top slot has ruined KP’s public-sector varsities. A candidate for the top job must come through political backing and is then expected to sustain political pressure/give and take, failing which he might lose his job.
Four Vice-Chancellors including Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, Prof Dr Gul Zaman, Prof Dr Iftikhar Ahmad and Prof Dr Muhammad Jamal Khan recently got the top slots of the VC to lead Women University Swabi, Malakand University, Gomal University and the University of Swat, respectively. Except for Dr Gul Zaman who still controls Malakand University, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman who by virtue of his office is the Chancellor of Pakhtunkhwa’s high-learning seats, has shown the door to all the three VCs.
Gomal University Vice-Chancellor Dr Iftikhar Ahmad was sent on forced leave and subsequently removed from service after being charged with violating stated rules by writing a letter to the prime minister. Dr Muhammad Jamal Khan of Swat University was also sent on forced leave by his boss who accused him of lack of leadership skills apart from being inefficient, as the Governor House referred to his alleged failures to fill vacancies.
The third in line suffering the same fate was Dr Shahana Urooj who led the Women University Swabi; with the Governor Office charging her with alleged illegal hiring among other wrongdoings. It may be mentioned here that no inquiry body was ever constituted against any of the three Vice-Chancellors.
They say the speed of the boss is the speed of the team. But Governor Shah Farman’s speed is only reflected in the sacking spree of VCs of public sector high-learning seats amid clear discrimination amongst his subordinates as shown in the case of Malakand University Vice-Chancellor Dr Gul Zaman who retains his seat despite facing inquiries while the rest are sent on leave without being heard.
Two probe committees—one dealing with Dr Gul Zaman’s alleged graft scandals while the other looking into the viral death threats he gave to peaceful protesting teachers after which 80 faculty members became signatories to a complaint against him—were constituted to probe his alleged highhandedness. One of the high-powered probe bodies led by Special Secretary Higher Education Department Qadar Safi gave fair chance to both parties in UoM teachers—whose activism has started making a difference even in the highly-controlled system—and Vice-Chancellor Dr Gul Zaman to present their arguments to the Governor-constituted committee.
Proof of allegations against the VC, including but not limited to his alleged illegal appointments/promotions, illegal posts creation, appointment and subsequent paid leave to his close relative, the appointment of his uncle as ORIC manager and illegal admission of his wife in the Department of English, were presented to the probe body which also received a presentation on Chinese student harassment case. This case involved Chairman of the Department of English and which, as per University Harassment Committee, disclosed serious administrative lapses in the admission of the Chinese student.
The probe body also heard about Dr Gul Zaman’s illegal pay fixation for himself; as UoM teachers furnished proof showing corruption in giving the varsity land on the lease. As per sources who have been attending the inquiry meetings in Peshawar, Prof Dr Gul Zaman got either angry or speechless during the probe.
What about dozens of faculty members signing a petition against UoM Vice-Chancellor whose incessant emergency syndicate meetings make the former live under the shadow of termination fear? Won’t the delay in the report of the inquiry by Governor House be misconstrued by other teachers wanting to complain against their boss in other Pakhtunkhwa high-learning seats? Doesn’t the Governor give a wrong message to honest officers like Qadar Safi and his teammates who worked tirelessly to conduct the inquiry a report of which Dr Gul Zaman’s boss is hesitant to release?