KARACHI: The University of Karachi has been waiting for a regular appointee for the post of vice chancellor for over two years now as there seems to be a deliberate attempt on part of the government to delay the whole process, sources told Dawn.
They said the search committee tasked to suggest the top three applicants for the post (to the chancellor) had not called eligible candidates yet for an interview, though it had received the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) feedback on the research credentials of the applicants last week.
As per a court decision a few months back the research publications of candidates needed to be verified by the HEC.
The sources said that only four to five candidates, out of the eight, had their 25 research publications, as per the eligibility criteria, in the HEC-recognised journals and that the incumbent acting KU VC Prof Khalid Mehmood Iraqi, also a candidate, could not meet that requirement.
When contacted, Aayesha Ikram, the HEC director general (media), confirmed that the commission had sent relevant verification reports to the search committee last week.
“We can neither reveal the number of candidates whose research publications were sent to us for verification nor disclose the identity of those whose papers were published in the HEC-recognised journals.”
Asked why the commission took months to complete the verification process, she said: “The commission received research publications for verification in three stages at different times.”
Senior KU teachers, however, believed that a lobby both in the HEC and the provincial government favoured the incumbent acting KU vice chancellor and wanted to prolong the process so he could get maximum time to ‘please the lobby’.
They also said the delay was also meant to discourage the candidates, some of whom would be out of the race as they would cross the age-limit of 65 years set for the post.
What gives credence to this viewpoint is the fact that the whole process of appointment of KU VC has been marred with serious irregularities from day one.
Prof Iraqi has been on an acting charge since May 2019. His appointment was very much against the principles of merit and court rulings under which the senior most university professor should be given the top slot in the interim period till the government made a regular appointment. Prof Iraqi was at 27th number on the seniority list at that time.
In June 2019, the government advertised the vacant post of vice chancellor, but later issued a corrigendum in which the criteria relating to experience, research work and age was changed, apparently to benefit a few candidates.
The government had to revert to the old eligibility criteria on the orders of the court which directed it to consider all applicants for the post.
Sources said the government adopted another strategy to delay the process by asking one of the candidates to get his research papers verified from the HEC.
The candidate challenged this in court that directed the relevant authorities to get papers of all applicants verified by the HEC.
The first court directive in this regard came in February 2021.
The sources said there was no precedence of seeking HEC’s verification of research papers of the candidates vying for the professorship or vice chancellorship.
“The delay (in regular appointment) of two and a half years amounts to grave injustice. We believe that the chief minister uses his powers under the law and directly appoints a regular vice chancellor of the KU on merit without further delay,” said Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS) president Prof Shah Ali ul Qader.
The society was not silent over the issue as the matter was sub judice, he added.
Prof Liaquat Ali Tunio, president of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (Fapuasa) Sindh chapter, said the government must stop running educational institutions of higher learning on an ad hoc basis and immediately remove all acting vice chancellors.
“The search committee has been biased in several cases. Hence, we believe that the government must make the whole process fair and transparent,” he said.
Currently, the sources said, seven public sector universities out of 28 were headed by acting vice chancellors despite court orders directing the government to make regular appointments.
These institutions include Sindh University, Jamshoro; Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences for Women, Shaheed Benazirabad; Sukkur IBA University; Begum Nusrat Bhutto Women’s University, Sukkur; Jinnah Sindh Medical University, Karachi; Dawood University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi; Government College University, Hyderabad and Shaheed Allah Buksh Soomro University of Art, Design and Heritage, Jamshoro.
Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2021