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Govt changes master plan of Islamabad to set up university at PM House

Updated July 10, 2019

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The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a specific change to the master plan of Islamabad to set up a university at the Prime Minister House. — APP/File
The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a specific change to the master plan of Islamabad to set up a university at the Prime Minister House. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday approved a specific change to the master plan of Islamabad to set up a university at the Prime Minister House.

Before his party won the 2018 elections, Imran Khan had said if he came to power he would convert the Prime Minister House into a university.

However, after winning the elections he could not set up the university apparently because doing so would violate the master plan of Islamabad. According to the master plan of the city, an educational institution cannot be set up at the PM House located in G-5 as this sector is meant for government and administrative buildings only.

Cabinet’s approval of change to master plan is specifically for 50 acres of Prime Minister House, minister says

But the federal cabinet, which met on Tuesday, made a specific change to the master plan, allowing the establishment of a university at the PM House.

“Today the cabinet approved change of master plan for 50 acre land of PM House. We will set up a university in PM House with special focus on modern education such as artificial intelligence and engineering,” said Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood at a post-cabinet meeting press briefing.

Meanwhile, a press release issued by the Prime Minister Office said former Higher Education Commission (HEC) chairman Prof Dr Attaur Rehman met Prime Minister Imran Khan and discussed the proposed project of the university at the PM House.

“Dr Rehman discussed with the prime minister the proposed project of University of Engineering and Emerging Technologies to be set up at the PM House. The prime minister was informed that six centres of excellence would be established in the university, including for artificial intelligence, energy, bio-technology and material sciences,” said the press release.

Dr Rehman also discussed with the prime minister a proposal for establishing another five centres of excellence for artificial intelligence, one in the federal capital and four in the provincial capitals.

“A proposal for research funding to promote research work in the country was also discussed.”

In January this year, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had told the federal government that the prime minister’s initiative to set up a university at the Prime Minister House would violate the city’s master plan.

It had said the government would have to alter the master plan if it wanted to set up the university in a government building.

The CDA was of the view that according to the capital’s master plan a university cannot be opened in an administrative building.

“A university in the Prime Minister House would be non-compatible use of a government building.”

A 12-member commission has already been formed by the federal cabinet to review master plan of the city. Sources said in February this year, the commission at a meeting discussed the proposal to convert the PM House into a university. But the sources said the commission was mandated to carry out an overall revision of the master plan.

“The total area of PM House could be more than 100 acres. The 50 acres in question is situated on north western side of building towards Bari Imam side,” said an official of the CDA, who requested not to be named. He said the CDA had not moved the summary to change the master plan for the federal cabinet rather it might have been moved by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

The inaugural ceremony for the Islamabad National University, which is to be set up at the Prime Minister House, was held last year.

The government had announced at that time that the university was envisioned as an institution designed to support research-based policy making.

According to the government, it would initially consist of the Institute of Advanced Studies, which would be tasked with providing science-based annual reports to the government on emerging challenges facing Pakistan and the world, and a PhD programme would be started there at a later stage.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2019