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Fate of Fata University in limbo

Updated September 01, 2013

PESHAWAR, Aug 31: The proposed Fata University has hit snags at its nascent stage as political interference coupled with litigation over top position has marred the project.

Initially, a tug of war among parliamentarians from Fata was the major hurdle to the opening of the university in the region.

Every Fata parliamentarian manoeuvered to take the project to his own constituency to derive political mileage from it.

However later, the parliamentarians developed consensus on establishment of the university in Akhurwal area of Darra Adamkhel adjacent to Peshawar.

President Asif Ali Zardari has approved the Fata University Regulation, 2013 on May 20.

Funds are available, but disputes among the intelligentsia over the top position have hindered the project.

Two vice chancellors have already been relieved in a short span of time.

First, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor Barrister Masood Kausar ignored candidates shortlisted by the search committee and picked Professor Shafiqur Rehman for the post of the vice chancellor on January 23, 2013.

However, he later suddenly withdrew the appointment order of Professor Shafiq in less than two months and he was replaced with former bureaucrat Mohammad Ishaq Khattak.

Officials said the search committee constituted with the consent of the former governor had shortlisted two candidates for the post of the VC, including incumbent Vice Chancellor of Peshawar University Dr Rasool Jan, and Ishaq Khattak.

They said Professor Shafiq was removed because he was not recommended by the search committee.

Insiders said an influential political family from the southern districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had pressurised Barrister Kausar to appoint Professor Shafiq as the first VC of the university.

“Due to political compulsions, Barrister Kausar ignored the shortlisted candidates and picked Professor Shafiq from outside for the lucrative post,” said an official.

Professor Shafiq challenged his dismissal in the Peshawar High Court and the learned judges granted him interim relief on May 14.

In the meantime, Engineer Shaukatullah replaced Barrister Masood Kausar as governor of the province and he withdrew appointment order Ishaq Khattak. The post of the VC of unfortunate Fata University has now been lying vacant. Aggrieved Professor Shafiq has filed contempt case because what he said the competent authority had ignored the court order and he had not been allowed to resume his job.

As the court has fixed September 17 for contempt proceedings, the issue got another twist.

Officials dealing with the issue opined future of Fata University in limbo that after approval of the university regulation by the president the appointment of both VCs had become null and void because the governor had no authority to appoint the first VC of the Fata University.

“Section 47 of the Regulation says the first VC of this university shall be appointed by the Chancellor of this university on the recommendations of the government as soon after commencement of the regulation as possible,” an official said.

The “government” defined under Section 2(XIII) of the regulation means the federal government, he said, adding that Ministry of State and Frontier Region (Safron) had been requested to appoint the first VC of the university under Section 47 of the regulation.

“Appointment orders of both the previous appointees, including Professor Shafiq and Ishaq Khattak, may be withdrawn for being made without legal authority covered by law as provided for in the Fata University Regulation, 2013,” said an official document addressed to the provincial law department.

Officials said the Ministry of Safron had yet to give any reply about the appointment of the VC.

They admitted that ongoing disputes had affected the project and even design of the university had not been prepared so far.