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Islamia College and Sir Syed of Sarhad

Updated August 04, 2013

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The centenary celebrations of the Islamia College, Peshawar, have been underway for quite some time now, but a visit to its founder Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan’s vale and mausoleum in centre of Topi city revealed that the pioneer of modern education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (Fata) has been ignored by successive governments and management of the college due to unknown reasons.

His relatives, alumni of the college and local people poured complaints against both the college management and government for what they termed “utter negligence.”

The college administration has launched the 100 years celebrations, held numerous functions and the grand gathering in this regard is planned to be held in October this year. However, so far no one from Sir Sahibzada’s family was invited to grace these functions. His grandson, Mohammad Ijaz says they are not aware of the centenary celebrations of the Islamia College.

Known as Sir Syed of Sarhad, Sir Sahibzada was born in a religious family on Dec 12, 1863 and passed away on Dec 3, 1937. His mausoleum is situated in the mosque where he used to pray.

Mr Ijaz showed to this correspondent the original map of the college, which had been protected for over 100 years by the family of Sir Sahibzada.

“We have kept this unique map with us though it is not an easy task to maintain it in its genuine shape. We are determined to keep it safe for 100 more years,” he said with proud.

However, it was noticed that a part of the map was damaged and the ink used for drafting has spread, overlapping the structure site and making it clear that the historic paper design of the college might not survive for long. Sir Sahibzada’s mausoleum and four rooms where his used things have been secured were in untidy condition and the signs of negligence quite visible. The gigantic picture of Sir Sahibzada was in a dilapidated condition and if urgent steps are not taken its preservation would be at stake. The residence inside his vale has a special significance for the visitors, especially those who studied in the college. “The site is a place of attraction, but has fallen to lack of proper care,” said Syed Arif Shah, president of Anjuman-i-Naujawanan Topi.

Sir Sahibzada and the then chief commissioner of the province, Sir George Roos-Keppel, founded Islamia College in 1913. “The college has produced numerous distinguished personalities in various fields who played their due role in the post-independence period of the country. With the establishment of Islamia College the entire landscape of education in the province saw a result-oriented change but I don’t know why the government and political parties remained silent about Sir Sahibzada.” said a local journalist, Amjid Ali. MPA Shiraz Khan said: “Sir Sahibzada belonged to the district and the first student who got admission in the college in 1913 was Sahibzada Mohammad Khurshid. He hailed from Kotha village of the district. Later, he became the first Pakistani governor of this province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).” Before independence, the governor had been appointed by the British Indian government, based in Calcutta and later in Delhi.

It was Sir Sahibzada who played a central role in collecting donations and convincing the British colonial rulers on building this institution.

Mohammad Jamil, a columnist said: “Some of the historians write that the British actually strived to reduce the increasing influence of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College, Aligarh (Muslim University since 1920) and keep the Muslims away from Aligarh. The British also wanted to reduce fanaticism among Pakhtuns because once they were educated they would no longer be violent warriors.”

Starting with 10 members faculty and as many students there was one each clerk and accountant, and two hostels, including Qayyum Manzil and Hardinge, he said and added that Sir Sahibzada was deeply involved in picking up competent academic staff for the college till his death. Now the college has about 18,000 students, 300 teaching staff and 12 hostels.

About 30 kanals green zone of Sir Sahibzada’s garden, home and four separate rooms where he used to hold meetings are also in a dilapidated condition. The chairs, sofas, tables, a huge portrait of Sir Sahibzada, letters, two boxes and the things gifted to him by the British government/officers were covered by a layer of thick dust. The four-room building remained closed and is opened on arrival of guests.

“The building is also rarely opened for airing and cleaning. However, when the special guests visit the tomb then we give an opportunity to them to see all the records and things used by Babaji (Sir Sahibzada),” said his grandson.

Mr Ijaz said: “All the vital information and things used by Babaji have been kept secure in the two rooms since his demise in 1937. We are trying to keep them in the original shape, but how can it be possible for a long time. It is the responsibility of the government and the Islamia College management to work out a plan for preserving this precious record for posterity.”

The Rs6,000 provided monthly by the college management for the salary of Imam and electricity bill of Sir Sahibzada’s Mosque had been stopped since 2007. A few students and teachers from the college usually visit his tomb on his birthday on December 12, placing floral wreaths on the mausoleum and offering fateha.

An eye-catching photograph of Sir George Roos-Keppel, former governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa placed in one of the rooms had also been kept safe for over 100 years. “Sir Sahibzada was enjoying warm relations with Sir Roos-Keppel and both joined hands to establish the Islamia College,” said Mr Jamil.

Sir Sahibzada donated 52 kanals in the heart of his native Topi city to government high school Topi, 12 kanals to old Topi hospital and eight kanals to Topi police station. Regretfully, none of these structures have plaques inscribed with his name.

However, Waqar Ahmad, a research officer in GIK Institute, says that there are numerous places named after him, acknowledging his great services for the nation. A few are: Qayyum Manzal, hostel in Islamia College; Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan Road in University Town; Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan Archaeological Museum, Peshawar University, and Sir Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum Khan Road in Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology.

He said that there was a dire need that all the stakeholders should prepare a comprehensive plan to make the coming 100 years of the college more glorious.

The college is now a national heritage. The management and alumni association of the college should join hands to resolve problems of the college and secure release of the first vice-chancellor of Islamia College University, Ajmal Khan, said Mehbubur Rehman, a retired academician who studied in Aligrah.

He said that the provincial government should direct the relevant departments to protect the letters and other valuables of the pioneer of modern education in Pakhtun region.

Owing to contributions of Sir Sahibzada, his family should be specially invited to grace the grand function of centenary celebrations. His mausoleum and vale need protection and special programmes should be arranged to highlight his distinguished role.

Dr Abdullah Sadiq, a scientist who studied in the college, said that the television and radio should arrange special programmes on the birth and death anniversaries of Sir Sahibzada to highlight his services and achievements.

Eulogising the services of Sir Sahibzada, Amir Usman, president of Senior Alumni Association, Islamia College, Islamabad chapter and Pakistan’s former ambassador to Afghanistan, demanded that the government should declare the residence of the college’s founder and his mausoleum as national heritage.

We hope that finally the Islamia College management would come forward to take immediate practical steps for preserving the precious asset and residential site of Sir Sahibzada. In addition, family of Sir George Roos-Keppel should also be traced and invited to the grand function of centenary celebrations of the college.