Legal vacuum brings work at Fata University to standstill

Updated 08 Jun 2020

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The university's employees have not been paid salaries for the last two months owing to legal vacuum. — Dawn/File
The university's employees have not been paid salaries for the last two months owing to legal vacuum. — Dawn/File

PESHAWAR: Construction work on several buildings of the newly-established Fata University Darra Adamkhel has been stopped and its employees have not been paid salaries for the last two months owing to legal vacuum created after completion of the vice-chancellor’s tenure, according to officials.

Officials told Dawn that nonpayment of salaries to the teaching and non-teaching staff of the university created multiple financial problems for them, especially for low ranking employees.

“The employees have not received salaries since the month of April and May. We don’t know whether we will get salaries next month or not,” an official of the university said.

He said that contractors also stopped construction work as there was no authority right now in the university to sign the bills and release funds to them.

Employees without salary for the last two months

The Fata University Darra Adamkhel was established in October 2016, under the Fata University Regulation, 2013. The university imparts education to students in seven disciplines including political science, management sciences, sociology, mathematics, English and geology.

More than 700 students are enrolled in the university. The students mostly belong to the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

The official said that the employees spent the holy month of Ramazan and Eid with empty pocket.

Prof Dr Muhammad Tahir Shah, whose tenure expired as vice chancellor on March 4, 2020, when contacted, said that he had no authority to sign any cheques after completion of his tenure. He said that the file regarding his extension in tenure had been under-process for the last few months.

The university officials told Dawn that extension in the tenure of the vice-chancellor was in process while there was no authority in his absence to sign cheques for payment to the employees and contractors.

They said that the case about extension in tenure of the vice-chancellor had been pending with the higher education department for the last few months as it was moved months before his retirement. They said that government was also informed about the crisis in the university after the retirement of the vice-chancellor.

The officials demanded of the government to expedite the case of extension in the tenure of vice-chancellor as the employees couldn’t afford further delay in payment of their salaries. They said that the summary was still pending in the higher education department that would be moved to establishment department before sending it to Chief Minister’s Secretariat for approval.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor, who is chancellor of the public sector universities, would sign the summary for notification after the approval of the chief minister, said the officials.

“Legally speaking, right now, there is no vice-chancellor in the university,” an official of the higher education department said. He said that legal vacuum was created when the university’s regulations were replaced by the KP Universities Act, 2012 after the approval of the provincial assembly.

The official said that previously the university was functioning under the regulations and both the laws had different provisions about the extensions. Under the regulations, extension was possible but there was no such provision in the KP Universities Act, which was extended to the university on March 4.

He said that the case for extension in the tenure of the vice-chancellor was in process. He said that higher education department had forwarded the summary for extension to the provincial law department for opinion.

The official said that law department’s opinion was not in favour of extension. He added that there was no other option with the government as it required someone to run the university till appointment of a regular vice-chancellor.

It merits a mention here that there are several precedents of allowing the vice-chancellors to work till appointment of the regular ones as provincial government in the recent past has allowed three vice-chancellors to continue after expiry of their tenure.

Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2020