ISLAMABAD: The government is considering operationalising a university in the Sir Syed Memorial Building in G-5 instead of the Prime Minister’s House as a stop-gap arrangement to honour the promise made by Prime Minister Imran Khan in his inaugural speech.
Sources said a few days ago officials from the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration held a meeting to discuss the options of setting up the university in Sir Syed Memorial Society (SSMS) Complex in G-5 along Ataturk Avenue.
HEC is supposed to set up the proposed Pakistan University of Engineering and Emerging Technologies (PUEET). The officials, after visiting the building, termed it appropriate for commencement of academic activities.
The sources said HEC had also written two letters to the CDA for the lease of the complex, adding that deputy director planning and development Asim Khanzada also held a meeting with the CDA member estate Naveed Elahi in this regard.
Varsity to be temporarily housed in Sir Syed Memorial Society building; officials visit complex, term it appropriate for starting Pakistan University of Engineering and Emerging Technologies
The meeting was told that the lease of the building had already expired and the CDA should hand it over to the HEC for the interim setting up of PUEET.
The sources said the HEC and CDA officials along with the ICT director Waqas Anwar and director development and finance Ali Asghar visited the complex and termed it appropriate to establish the varsity.
According to HEC documents, currently the building is under the use of the Department of Archeology and Museum, National History and Literary Division while the secretariat of Sir Syed Memorial Society is also housed in it. The building remained in the use of a private university from 2003 to 2018.
“The building was found purpose-built for an interim setup of a university. It has the following facilities: Total area is around 11,666 square yards (2.5 acres), and the covered area is 100,000 square feet,” the documents showed.
The building has two open halls and a fully functional auditorium with 850 seats and a service area of 20,000 square feet.
The HEC sources said a report about the site visit had been shared with the Prime Minister’s Office through the Ministry of Education.
They said if the government approved the proposal of setting up the university in the building, it will be an interim arrangement as the government was planning to establish a university in the lawns of the PM House.
They said on a long-term basis, a new campus would be set up at an estimated cost of Rs23.55 billion approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) recently.
The project approved in principle by Ecnec in May this year with the direction that the Ministry of Planning and Development should rationalise its cost and come back for formal approval within three months. The Planning Division later reported a cost cutting of a few million rupees which was approved by Ecnec.
HEC’s spokesperson Ayesha Ikram could not be approached for comments, however, a senior officer of the commission confirmed that the officials had visited the complex, adding that the HEC had conveyed its report to the federal government.
The Sir Syed Memorial Society was formed in 1984 by the Aligarh Old Boys’ Association as a tribute to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. The CDA had allotted 24 kanals on Ataturk Avenue in G-5 for the construction of an auditorium, library, reading rooms and a museum.
Later, the society rented out a large portion of the complex to a private university which moved out in 2018.
When contacted, Syed Ahmed Masood, who looks after the affairs of Sir Syed Memorial Society, said the building was the property of the society and not meant for the university. However, he said if the government wanted to use it for an interim period, the premises could be made available on rent.
He said the building could not be transferred to any organisation as it was the property of the society.
“We are ready to cooperate with the government if it wants to use the premises on rent, but we will resist if it tries to transfer the building’s ownership,” he said.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2021