Lahore GCU’s honorary PhD degrees questioned

Published January 28, 2021
Government College University, Lahore. – Wikimedia commons
Government College University, Lahore. – Wikimedia commons

LAHORE: Using his position as governor/chancellor, Chaudhry Sarwar has made the Government College University (GCU) award doctorate of philosophy (PhD) degrees to two of his friends during the last one year.

Early last year, the GCU conferred the honorary PhD degree in Philosophy upon British Member of Parliament Afzal Khan on the recommendations of Chaudhry Sarwar. Now, the GCU has obliged an industrialist on the wish of the chancellor.

Chaudhry Sarwar’s directive to the vice chancellor states: “The Honorable Chancellor desires the Government College University vice chancellor to award an honorary PhD degree to Mr Anwaar Ahmad Khan, founder of Ghani Group -- a leading business group of Pakistan in recognition of his meritorious services to Pakistan.”

Civil society activists and a syndicate member have questioned the GCU move on the chancellor’s direction.

Haqooq-i-Khalq Movement executive council member Farooq Tariq says on what grounds the university is giving a degree to an industrialist and UK MP.

He said the university, in its letter, mentioned that the industrialist was feeding poor people and running different schools and seminaries and had also paid taxes.

“If the state wants to endorse the services of an any individual, it should itself take the burden.”

One of the old Ravians, on the condition of anonymity, told Dawn that on what grounds the GCU was giving honorary PhD degrees to politicians and industrialists.

“There are several other ways to honour anyone’s services for the country or society and it was the responsibility of the state to award anyone, not of any prestigious institution to give away PhD degrees,” he said.

He also demanded the university should take back its decision of awarding degrees to a politician and industrialist.

A Syndicate member of the university told Dawn that the GCU was awarding such degrees without discussing the matter in the syndicate.

“It is being done only on the recommendations of the governor,” he said.

He said the governor was obliging his personal friends and those who had played any role in supporting the government in Covid-19 pandemic control.

“The governor had already written the name of the industrialist on the Corona Hero’s Wall and why was he given an honorary PhD degree for the same role,” he questioned.

He said awarding degrees to anyone was damaging the reputation of the university and the administration should take back its decision.

Meanwhile, the GCU, through a news release, states the varsity has recommended to the chancellor/governor that an honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy may please be conferred upon top philanthropist and a dedicated social worker, Mr Khan, for his meritorious services to the society.

Mr Khan’s Ghani Foundation spends over Rs400 million per annum on marriages of the daughters of labour class, serving food to 10,000 families daily, provision of financial assistance to widows and orphans, operating 175 first aid points in glass markets and provision of clean drinking water nationwide.

He is also on the board of directors of a 600-bed hospital which provides indoor and outdoor free medical treatment to over a million individuals annually. He is general secretary of Jamiat Taleemul Quran Trust which is providing basic and Islamic education to 80,000 students in over 2,000 maktabs and 69 jails.

The agenda for conferment of honorary degree was placed before the Syndicate through circulation under section 2(i) of GCU Business Rules 2004. The Syndicate via majority decision approved the agenda which has been now forwarded to the chancellor/governor.

VC Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi said the GCU was “breaking away from a tradition of granting honorary degrees to eminent foreign dignitaries and politicians only, and this year it was acknowledging a person who has been doing good to the society and country”.

A Governor House official said UK MP Afzal Khan had supported the Kashmir cause.

The governor said the GCU VC had a discussion with him that the universities should move away from the tradition of giving honorary degrees to politicians and foreign dignitaries only.

“The VC said that we should set a new example and instead honour our philanthropists, especially those who played an important role during the Covid-19 crisis.”

The chancellor said he endorsed the idea that anyone who gave back to humanity must be acknowledge.

“Subsequently, Mr Anwar Ghani’s name was moved as a candidate by the VC to the syndicate which approved it by with a majority vote.”

Published in Dawn, January 28th, 2021

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