PHC stays new construction in Islamia College University

Updated 01 Oct 2020

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Islamia College University Peshawar. — Photo by Sarah Ansari/File
Islamia College University Peshawar. — Photo by Sarah Ansari/File

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday issued a stay order suspending the ongoing construction in Peshawar’s historical Islamia College University and directed the provincial chief secretary to visit the campus to ascertain whether that work is affecting the building’s heritage significance.

A bench consisting of Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar Khan gave chief secretary Dr Kazim Niaz 14 days to produce a report on the matter.

A day ago, the bench while hearing a petition filed by Kafeel Ahmad against the demolition of the official residence of the principal of Islamia Collegiate School situated on the premises of the Islamia College University, had fixed the case for Wednesday and summoned the chief secretary.

During the Wednesday hearing, the court also ordered to club with that petition an earlier petition filed by resident Noorul Had last year against the massive construction in the college over what he called a violation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Antiquity Act, 2016.

Seeks report about impact of work on building’s heritage significance

When the bench began hearing into the case, Abbas Khan Sangeen, lawyer for Noorul Haq, also showed up and said he had filed a petition last year against the ongoing construction of several buildings over adverse impact on the historical significance of the college.

He pointed out that the Islamia College was built over a century ago and its current administration was depriving it of that significance through ruthless construction.

The bench observed that it would not let anyone play havoc with the heritage significance of the college at any cost.

The chief secretary informed the court that the government would not allow any construction in the front portion of the ICU, which could overshadow its historical structures.

He added that only a synthetic turf was being laid in the hockey ground.

The chief secretary said he fully realised the apprehensions of the bench over the issue as the Islamia College was a historical institution, which the people were attached to in large numbers.

Advocate General Shumail Ahmad Butt informed the court that the college used to have only six departments but currently, it had become a university, which had 28 departments and had students in large numbers.

Justice Qaiser Rashid observed that the number of students had increased in the Oxford and Cambridge universities but no changes had been made to their historical buildings.

The AG said the administration had been taking extra care to ensure that the historical significance of different structures in the university is not affected.

Essa Khan, lawyer for petitioner Kafeel Ahmad, contended that the university’s administration had been dismantling some old structures to put up new buildings.

Lawyer Abbas Sangeen said the new master plan designed for new buildings in the ICU was illegal and violated the Unesco protocols and KP Antiquity Act, 2016.

He said those buildings would change the entire view of the ICU.

The lawyer pointed out that the archeology department issued a notification in 2013 declaring the ICU a protected antiquity, so no changes could be made to it without the approval of the department.

He said the department had also sent a letter to the university on Apr 22, 2019, asking it not to make any physical changes to the ICU building.

The lawyer said the administration had begun work on the new buildings for administration, IT and social sciences blocks, library, gymnasium, Vice-Chancellor’s House, visiting faculty lodges, and reconstruction of the main gate.

Published in Dawn, October 1st , 2020