KARACHI, Sept 5: No classes were held at Karachi University on Thursday following a strike call given by the Karachi University Teachers’ Society (Kuts) against the recently enacted Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment) Act, 2013.
The campus wore a deserted look in the morning as just a handful of students had turned up. The teachers, however, organised a protest march to air their concerns over the “controversial” law. Raising slogans in favour of university autonomy, the teachers marched from the administrative block to the university post office.
Talking to Dawn, teachers said the government must pay heed to their concerns and make required changes in the law, otherwise, they said, they would take to the streets and seek court’s intervention.
“The token strike has been organised to show that the teachers are one on university autonomy and that they have strong reservations over the law. It’s unfortunate that the government didn’t take the teaching community into confidence before approving such a controversial piece of legislation,” said senior teacher and member of the Kuts executive body Dr S.M. Taha, who was among the participants of the march.
The march was followed by a meeting of the Kuts executive body.
“The meeting has demanded that the vice chancellor immediately call sessions of university statutory bodies on a one-point agenda and that is to reaffirm the autonomy of the institution. It has also decided that a series of programmes would be organised to make people aware of the implications of the 18th constitutional amendment and the controversial law,” said Kuts president Prof Dr Mutahir Ahmed, adding that the first seminar of the series would be held next week on the campus.
The members, he said, had a consensus that the teachers would launch a struggle and approach the court to secure autonomy for Sindh universities.
A six-member body of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fpuasa), he said, would meet on Friday at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology to draft recommendations which, according to Prof Ahmed, needed to be made part of the law.
“The Fpuasa meeting would also decide our next course of action. All teachers across Sindh are on the same page regarding university autonomy, academic freedom and independence of university’s statutory bodies,” he said. The six-member Fpuasa committee comprises Dr Asad Raza Abdi (convener), Dr Azhar Ali Shah (secretary), Prof Ahsan Memon, Prof Liaquat Jamali, Dr Harris Shoaib, Dr Usman Shah and Prof Imdad Chandio.
Fpuasa had earlier given 15 days to the government to amend controversial clauses seen by it as an attempt to take away the autonomous status of universities.
The Sindh Universities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2013 restricts the appointment powers of the chancellor of the public-sector universities and vice chancellors (earlier required to make hiring decisions on recommendation of the university syndicate and academic council) and makes them subject to government (chief minister) recommendations. The appointments include that of vice chancellor, pro-vice chancellor, registrar, controller of examination, chief accountant, bursar and resident auditor.
The bill also authorises the government to determine an admission policy of the university and its constituent colleges, institutes and centres from time to time “in order to provide equal opportunities to all the students of the province”.
The bill includes separate chapters on universities. The clauses in the section are related to their administrative and academic matters as well as admission policy.
The law, according to teachers, also lacks the criteria (set by the Higher Education Commission) for appointing a vice chancellor.