THE KU Arts Auditorium is filled to capacity at Prof Khan’s memorial reference on Monday.—White Star
THE KU Arts Auditorium is filled to capacity at Prof Khan’s memorial reference on Monday.—White Star

KARACHI: Prof Mohammad Ajmal Khan, the late vice chancellor of Karachi University (KU), had only one dream: he wanted to raise his alma mater to a level that it was recognised as one of the leading universities in the world. He was so obsessed with this dream that he delayed an urgent heart surgery to realise it.

This was how some friends and colleagues recalled Prof Khan at a condolence meeting held in his memory in KU’s Arts Auditorium on Monday. Prof Ajmal died on Saturday.

“He was energetic and enthusiastic about science and Karachi University. I always advised him to have patience as changes require a lot of time,” said Prof Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, a former KU vice chancellor currently heading the Ziauddin University.

“It’s not an easy job to head a (Pakistani) university where every person wants to be entertained. Dr Khan, however, never compromised on merit and remained ready to accept challenges, he added.

‘He knew that he can change barren land for a useful purpose and betterment of the people’

Prof Muhammad Qaiser, another former KU VC and Dr Khan’s teacher, said that Prof Khan was like a friend to him rather than a student.

Praising Prof Khan’s ability as an administrator, Prof Qaiser said: “When I was the vice chancellor, I got only Rs200 million for the university during my whole tenure. But Prof Khan managed to bring a good amount of money due to which the university was able to address a number of its financial issues.”

He was a dedicated person who believed in hard work and knew how to fulfil a dream with proper planning and use of available resources, he added

Specifically highlighting his work on halophytes, Prof Qaiser said though some people had explored this subject before, Prof Khan gave it a completely new dimension and undoubtedly was the pioneer of halophytes research in Pakistan.

Seconding these views, Prof Shahana Urooj Kazmi, who has served as KU’s pro-vice chancellor, said: “As a scientist, he knew that he can change the barren land for a useful purpose and betterment of the masses. He was recognised for his services in botany and halophytes and he received a number of prestigious awards from the Pakistani government and around the globe.”

Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, KU, said Prof Khan had over 300 research publications with a rare honour: at least [each of the] 50 publications had been cited more than 50 times in international journals.

“Prof Khan was my teacher and I know how much devotion he had for his students and this university. He was a top-ranked researcher and I believe he was a martyr as he lived for the betterment of mankind and died while trying to achieve his goal.”

Dr Shakeel-ur-Rehman Farooqi of the KU’s genetics department recalled how sad it was that only two days back at this place Prof Khan was speaking in memory of former KU vice chancellor Prof Jameel Jalibi.

“At that time, no one knew that Prof Khan was about to leave us forever. Still, it did not turn out to be a surprise as people close to him knew that his heart condition was deteriorating,” he said. He urgently needed a surgery but kept delaying it, waiting for a suitable time when the university would not have a serious issue to be taken care of,” he said.

Prof Bilquees Gul shared through a phone call that Dr Khan was a caring husband and loving father and always encouraged youngsters who had goals and plans for their lives. “He was aware that his health was not in good shape, but he was more worried about the university than his own health,” she said.

Prof Dr Abid Azhar, president of the Karachi University Teachers Society Prof Anila Amber Malik, Prof Dr Abid Hasnain, N.D. Khan, Vice Chancellor of the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University, Lyari, Prof Dr Akhtar Baloch and dean of the education faculty Prof Dr Nasir Salman also spoke.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2019