PESHAWAR: A vicious campaign has been launched in United Kingdom and on social media to communalise a prestigious educational institution by misleading the public and pre-empting the government’s attempt to regain its administrative control, say leaders of Christian community and legal experts.
“Those involved in the campaign to communalise an administrative issue of the prestigious Edwardes College Peshawar have personal stakes,” they say.
They say that some elements with vested interests have launched a campaign in the UK to spread disinformation among the Christian community by trying to portray the ongoing legal battle for the administrative control of the college as a religious issue.
“They are going around and telling those who care to listen that the KP government is out to nationalise the college. This is outrageous and patently wrong,” a legal expert said.
Govt wants to regain administrative control of the prestigious institution
Officials approached for comments said that persons with vested interests and personal stakes were trying to mislead the people by misinterpreting and misrepresenting facts about the so-called ‘nationalisation’ of the century-old Edwardes College by the provincial government.
“Whosoever have launched the campaign of giving communal colour to the administrative issues in Edwardes College are not doing good with Christian community,” said MNA Jamshed Thomas.
He said that it was not a communal issue. He said that he had condemned the act at all forums as it could trigger unrest in the country and create a bad impression in the international community.
Bishop of Mardan, Rev Jimmy Mathew told Dawn that majority of the Christians in Pakistan and UK were unaware about the actual issue and therefore, believed whatever was fed to them by certain elements with vested interests.
The elements involved in disseminating disinformation were actually telling the people in UK that provincial government wanted to occupy the properties of the Edwardes College, he said.
However, he said, a few days ago, the provincial government in a high level meeting clarified that the property of the college would not be transferred or occupied by anyone in the name of nationalisation.
Giving communal impression abroad for personal interests would damage the image of the country, said Mr Thomas, who is also running Pakistani Lutheran Church Trust Association. “Creating state within a state is impossible,” he added.
He said that the people propagating communal issue were not thinking that they were playing with the future of the students and image of the country. “It’s unfortunate that our religious leaders having top positions are twisting realities to suit their own interests,” he added.
Diocese of Peshawar Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters told Dawn that no one would give communal colour to the issues of Edwardes College, nor the Christians would allow anyone to do so.
“We are against those elements, who are giving communal colour to the issues in Edwardes College,” he said. He added that they were fighting for their rights protected by the Constitution.
He said that problems would be created if government occupied properties of any community.
However, legal experts say that as per the “Privately Managed Schools and Colleges (Taking Over) Regulation, 1972”, Edwardes College qualified to be a privately managed college and by the expressed declaration of the regulation it stood ‘nationalised’ to the extent of administrative control only.
And thus, they say, the governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (then NWFP) had notified a board of governors in January, 1974 and vested it with all administrative powers for the college. The regulation was accorded due protection by Article 269 of the Constitution.
The experts say that the government is bound by the exposition given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a civil appeal in 1981 that government could only take over the management of the educational institutions and not confiscate the property.
The college, they insist, would continue to be a property of the Church and it would continue to pay rent as per the agreement between Edwardes College, Peshawar and the Diocese of Peshawar.
“We just fail to understand where the ‘nationalisation’ issue has come from,” questioned an official when approached for comments. “This is very unfortunate that the name of a prestigious institution is being dragged through the mud by some elements for their own self interests,” he added.
Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2019