KARACHI: The process of appointment of a permanent vice chancellor of Karachi University (KU) is likely to face more delays as the recently notified search committee of the provincial government includes a controversial member.

Sources told Dawn that the six-member committee included former KU VC Prof Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui and former member of Sindh Public Service Commission Syed Anwar Haider as well as chairman and secretary/ executive director of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, universities and boards secretary and colleges secretary.

According to a March 25 notification, the terms of reference of the search committee is to scrutinise the record and to hold interviews of the short-listed candidates and determine the track record of leadership in the field of academia, administration, finance and management.

“The committee shall consider the applicants’ integrity, professional experience and contribution towards the public service,” it said.

Govt rejects criticism over inclusion of former KU vice chancellor in the body

The body would recommend a panel of three most suitable candidates to the Sindh chief minister, “who may either select one of the suitable candidates or interview them”.

‘Conflict of interest’

Casting doubts over the reconstituted committee, Prof Mohammad Ahmed Qadri, a senior KU teacher and one of the petitioners in the KU case, said they would again challenge body in court.

“We will challenge it again because it includes a former vice chancellor of KU and would lead to the conflict of interest,” he said.

Referring to the Jan 26 order of the Sindh High Court, he said that the court had directed the government to notify a new search committee because it had agreed to the petitioners’ argument that the said body was “biased”.

“Earlier, the search committee had Prof Muhammad Qaiser and Prof Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, both of whom had served at KU as vice chancellors. We want to know why he [Prof Siddiqui] is so important for the government that he has been made part of the body again despite reservations,” he said.

The search committee, he insisted, couldn’t carry out its task with transparency and fairness when candidates have no trust in the body.

Govt unfazed by criticism

When contacted, Sindh Universities and Boards Secretary Muhammad Mureed Rahimoon rejected concerns over Prof Siddiqui’s nomination in the search committee.

“He is included as an expert. One person can’t overrule the entire body that has other members as well,” he argued.

KU has been waiting for the appointment of a regular VC since May 2019 following the death of Prof Mohammad Ajmal Khan. The government appointed Prof Khalid Iraqi as its acting vice chancellor.

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.

On Jan 26, 2022, the SHC bench directed the government to reconstitute the search committee for the appointment of KU VC within two months and complete the process of interviews of all candidates afresh at the earliest.

Earlier, the government removed Prof Iraqi on court orders and appointed senior most professor Dr Nasira Khatoon as the acting VC.

On March 8, the SHC had given the last chance to the provincial authorities to reconstitute the search committee and process the appointment of a permanent vice chancellor at KU within two weeks.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2022

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