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LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday took exception to mushroom growth of private universities in Punjab and ordered the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to submit a complete record of these institutions, their affiliated colleges and sub-campuses established in violation of the law.

The chief justice observed that these institutions had ruined the standard of education in the country and become commercial entities. He regretted that students had been protesting on roads for the award of their degrees. He also lambasted the HEC for not taking concrete steps against the private universities fleecing and cheating students.

A two-judge bench comprising the CJP and Justice Ijazul Ahsan was hearing a matter regarding non-issuance of degrees to students of colleges affiliated to the University of South Asia.

An official of the HEC told the bench that the university was established in 2005 after the Punjab government granted a charter to it under an Act. However, he said, there was a 10-year ban on the university to grant affiliation to colleges and establish its sub-campuses. He said the university violated the ban and granted affiliation to 27 colleges. Moreover, he said an approval from the chancellor/governor was mandatory for the grant of affiliation and establishment of a sub-campus.

Vice Chancellor Mian Imran Masood, also a former education minister, told the court that the ban [of 10-year] was not violated. However, he said all the 27 affiliate colleges had been closed since 2016. He insisted that permission of the chancellor was required for establishing sub-campus only and not for granting affiliation.

Justice Ahsan, however, observed that the university had been committing fraud with the statute/law and cheating students.

The bench directed Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Awais to take up the matter [of the university] with the chancellor/governor and reach a solution to the extent of degrees as future of some students was at stake.

The bench directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to hold a detailed probe into the affairs of the university and its affiliated colleges.

The CJP lamented that the FIA remained dormant while the university kept playing with the future of students. He said the HEC being regulator of education institutions also failed to discharge its duty.

CJP Nisar observed that the past governments played havoc with the education sector during the last 10 years. The private universities were granted charters like permits were used to be given to influential people by the governments to establish industries, he lamented.

He also directed the HEC to apprise the court about criteria for establishing a chartered university. He appointed two senior lawyers — Zafar Iqbal Kalanauri and Uzair Bhandari — as amici curiae (friends of court) to render their assistance in the matter. The bench also issued notices to all [27] private universities for Sunday (today).

Visit to hospital

Also on Saturday, CJP Nisar visited Sheikh Zayed Hospital and inspected healthcare facilities being provided to citizens.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan of the Supreme Court, senior lawyer Zafar Iqbal Kalanauri and Additional Advocate General Imtiaz Kaifi accompanied the CJP.

The CJP listened to patients’ problems at the hospital and ordered its medical superintendent to resolve them. He visited emergency ward and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and expressed satisfaction [over the facilities].

Later, CJP Nisar went to Doctors’ Hospital, a famous private healthcare facility in the city. He visited emergency ward, laboratory and canteen of the hospital. Attendants of the patients complained of non-functioning of an elevator for basement and overcharging at the canteen.

The CJP purchased a bottle of mineral water and grabbed a rate list from the canteen for an analysis. He expressed concern over costly treatment being provided to citizens at the hospital and took notice of non-provision of segregated rates against medical facilities availed by patients.

On the complaint of a woman, the CJP directed the hospital administration to provide free of cost medical facility to her. He also visited Hameed Latif Hospital in Garden Town and examined healthcare facilities being provided to citizens.

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018