KARACHI: Ignoring concerns and criticism over the controversial selection process, the chief minister on Thursday appointed Prof Khalid Mahmood Iraqi as the 22nd vice chancellor of Karachi University (KU) for a term of four years.

The appointment for the much-coveted post was pending for weeks following candidates’ interviews, which were held last month.

“In exercise of powers vested in him under Section 13(I) of the University of Karachi Act, 1972, as amended by Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act-2018, the Honorable Chief Minister Sindh has been pleased to appoint Prof Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi as Vice Chancellor of Karachi University for a period of four years,” says a July 28 notification released by the Universities and Boards Department.

The two other candidates interviewed for the post were Prof Moonis Ahmer and Prof Syed Jamil Hasan Kazmi. Their names, including that of Prof Iraqi, were forwarded by the search committee to the chief minister.

Prof Iraqi had earlier served as the acting vice chancellor of KU for almost three years.

Speaking to Dawn, he expressed his desire to tackle all challenges the university is faced with, particularly its financial constraints.

“It’s indeed a difficult time not just for KU but all universities across Pakistan currently experiencing a serious economic crisis,” Prof Iraqi said, adding that he would work with all colleagues on the campus as a team.

About his plans for university’s financial issues, he said it’s time to move towards self-sustainability, which could be achieved through revenue generation and cost-cutting measures.

“For instance, university’s electricity bills have increased from around Rs30m to Rs50m. We can bring it down by running our academic facilities on solar energy. The experiment has already been done in few departments while the rest can gradually be shifted to the renewable energy source.”

He rejected criticism against his credentials and said he didn’t do anything “illegal” during his three-year tenure as the acting KU vice chancellor.

Prof Iraqi is expected to take over charge of the office on Friday.

The university is currently headed by Prof Nasira Khatoon, also the dean science, who took over as the first female acting vice chancellor of KU in March, 2022 after the government had removed Prof Iraqi on court orders.

Prof Nasira was the senior most professor on the campus.

Controversial process

It may be recalled that the selection process for the (regular) post of KU vice chancellor had been controversial since May, 2019 after KU vice chancellor Prof Muhammad Ajmal Khan passed away.

The chief minister decided to hand over the charge of KU acting vice chancellor to Prof Iraqi. This 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 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, which 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. Later, the court ordered removal of Prof Iraqi as acting vice chancellor.

It also directed the government to reconstitute the search committee tasked to carry out the selection process after some candidates challenged it on the grounds that two members of the committee (former KU vice chancellors) had conflict of interest with Prof Iraqi who served as an adviser under them.

Recently, it came to surface that Prof Tariq Rafi, the incumbent head of the search committee, had co-authored two research papers with Prof Iraqi.

Also, sources pointed to the questionable role the HEC had played in the verification of research papers as assigned by the court.

It dropped out a few candidates after rejecting their papers, published before June 2005, on the ground that they were not printed in the list of 181 HEC-verified journals.

This list, the sources said, did not exist before 2022, and that the HEC in its old directives had allowed university bodies to verify papers printed before 2005.

Another major flaw in the HEC’s verification process, candidates stated, was that the commission verified the research journals and not papers.

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2022

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