KU dean removed on court order gets charge again

Published October 5, 2021
A file photo of Karachi University. — Dawn/File
A file photo of Karachi University. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: Despite a Sindh High Court order directing the government to remove all officials working on an acting charge, the Karachi University (KU) recently saw another controversial appointment on a key administrative post, it emerged on Monday.

Sources said KU Vice Chancellor Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi, who himself is on acting charge since May 2019, chose to allow a professor “to look after the dean science office” after first removing her as the dean-science the same day.

This strategy, the sources said, was adopted in an attempt to show compliance to a Sept 16 SHC order under which the government was required to hold fresh interviews for the post of dean-science within two weeks.

A Sept 27 university order, signed by the registrar, reads: “The High Court of Sindh vide its order dated 16-9-2021 in CP N0.D-162 of 2021 was pleased to set aside the notification SO(U)U&B/UoK/2-35/2018/273 dated 4th June, 2020 of the Secretary, Universities, and Boards Department approved by the competent authority i.e. the Chief Minister of Sindh regarding appointment of Dean, Faculty of Science, University of Karachi.

“Consequently, Office Order No.B/Estt. (T) (Dean Faculty of Science) 2020-902 dated 03-11-2020 pertaining to the appointment of Prof Dr Nasira Khatoon as Dean, Faculty of Science, University of Karachi, is hereby withdrawn.”

The same day (Sept 27), the university issued anot­her office order according to which “the competent authority is pleased to allow Prof Dr Nasira Khatoon, Department of Zoology, to look after the routine affairs of the office of the Dean, Faculty of Science, with effect from the date of joining till the appointment of a permanent Dean, Faculty of Science, by the competent authority.”

According to the sources, the university currently has an acting registrar, an acting controller examination, an acting dean of arts and social sciences, who is also looking after the faculties of law and management, besides an acting vice chancellor.

The director of KU’s Office of Research Innova­tion and Commercialisation has an additional charge.

Last year in May, the sources said, Prof Tabassum Mahboob completed her term as dean-science following which KU VC sent universities and boards secretary a list of three names (Prof M. Arshad Azmi, Prof M. Abid Hasnain and Prof Nasira Khatoon) for the post.

His letter suggested that Prof Azmi being “the senior most professor is a suitable candidate to be considered for appointment as dean faculty of science for the period with effect from May 3, 2020 till his retirement on June, 9, 2020.”

In response, the sources said, what was communicated to the university took most teachers by surprise.

The notification stated that the chief minister exercising his powers under the Sindh Universities, Institutes, Laws (Amendment) Act, 2018, appointed Prof M. Abid Hasnain as the dean-science up to his date of superannuation (03-11-2020) and Prof Nasira Khatoon, dean faculty of science with effect from 04-11-2020 up to her date of superannuation, i.e. 06-12-2022.

“This has never happened in KU’s history. Even if a teacher serves as a dean for a few days and gets retired, the university is required under rules to send names of three senior most professors again to make the process fair and transparent, allowing other teachers in the seniority list to participate in it,” said a KU teacher, adding that this showed malafide intentions.

Prof S. Jamil Hasan Kazmi, a senior KU teacher, challenged the appointment of Prof Nasira as dean-science in the SHC and won the case last month.

The court in its order dated Sep 16, 2021, stated “appointments are to be made by the government in statutory bodies, autonomous bodies, semi-autonomous bodies, regulatory authorities etc through the transparent and competitive manner and not otherwise.”

It directed the government to hold fresh interviews for dean-science’s appointment at KU “on merit under the law within two weeks from the date of this order”.

VC defends decision

The KU VC defended his decision of allowing the same professor to look after the dean-science office whose appointment on the same position had been cancelled on court orders, arguing that an acting charge was different from that of a “look-after charge”.

“We withdrew her appointment notification as dean-science on court’s order and later allowed her to look after the day-to-day affairs of the dean, science faculty’s office because she (Prof Nasira) was the senior most professor in the science faculty under KU 1999 rules.”

An acting official could attend meetings of statutory bodies but an official “looking after” office affairs couldn’t, he said.

About the government notification that was later challenged in court, he said: “I don’t exactly remember the year but we do have a precedent wherein appointments of two professors for administrative positions were notified in one letter.”

The secretary, universities and boards had sought a list of senior most professors in the science faculty from KU and the same had been sent to him. Nothing more had been communicated to the university yet, he said.

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2021

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