CHITRAL: The future of University of Chitral is in jeopardy as the provincial government has failed to provide land for construction of its building for the third consecutive year, forcing the federal government to withdraw the Rs3 billion grant released in 2017, from the current budget.

Sources in the higher education department told Dawn that after the 18th Constitutional Amendment the concerned provincial government made available the land for establishment of a public sector university, while the federal government bore the expenses of its infrastructure, including the building.

They said the federal government had released Rs3 billion in 2017 in line with the announcement of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif which he had made in a public gathering in Chitral a year before, but the PTI-led government in the province did not provide land due to which the funds remained unutilised.

Classes in different disciplines are being run in a makeshift campus

They said the University of Chitral was inaugurated by then PTI chairman and opposition leader in the National Assembly Imran Khan and then chief minister Parvez Khattak on July 5, 2017, by merging the regional campuses of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University and Abdul Wali Khan University, and classes were also started there.

In the fiscal 2018, the provincial government allocated Rs880 million for purchase of land measuring 400 kanals as per criterion of the establishment of a university, but the money was not released due to one reason or the other. The land in Seen Lusht village had been selected for the university and the revenue department had fulfilled all formalities for its acquisition, they explained.

The sources maintained during the current year’s budget of the province, no substantial amount had been allocated for acquisition of land, which meant that the federal government would also close the chapter on its part keeping in view the lukewarm response of the province.

Presently, over 1,800 students are enrolled in different disciplines of the university in under-graduate and postgraduate classes, while the number of students seeking admissions to the varsity has been estimated at 4,000 every year.

An official of the university said the present makeshift campus of the university was quite insufficient with regard to availability of space. He said due to limited space, no more disciplines could be started.

Former district nazim Maghfirat Shah said lack of interest on the part of the PTI leadership towards the establishment of university in Chitral had shocked the people.

He said Imran Khan as then opposition leader had inaugurated the classes in the university in 2017, and his coming into power had raised the hopes of the locals about speeding up the process of construction of the varsity building, but to no avail.

Mr Shah said it was high time the federal and the provincial governments allocated special grants for purchase of land and construction of the building.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2019