KARACHI: Confusion and concern prevails on university campuses across Sindh over the recently released notification that bars universities from initiating the process of any appointment without taking approval from the chief minister.

Speaking to Dawn, teachers questioned the ‘actual government intention’ behind the directives as it had issued a similar notification in 2019.

“Several appointments of both teaching and non-teaching staff were made by the then Karachi University acting vice chancellor [Prof Khalid Mehmood Iraqi] in 2019 and in subsequent years, but there was no objection from the government,” Prof Shah Ali-ul-Qader, said the president of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association-Sindh chapter and the Karachi University Teachers’ Society.

Criticising the move, he said the universities were being run under the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act, 2018, and it’s unfortunate on part of the government to send universities such directives.

Teachers to hold general body meeting at KU today

“Right now, the KU syndicate has 70 per cent representationof the government where officials can share their concerns on this forum without restricting the powers of the vice chancellor given in the act,” he explained, adding that a general body meeting of KU’s teaching and non-teaching staff would be held on Wednesday (today) to discuss the matter.

It might be recalled that the universities and boards department has recently sent a notification to 27 public sector universities of the province asking them “not to initiate any regular/contract appointments from BS-1 to BS-22 till the prior approval of the competent authority i.e the chief minister”.

While restricted autonomy had adversely affected all institutions of higher learning, sources said, its impact on KU was far greater where more than 400 faculty members had been awaiting their promotions for posts advertised in 2019, while many teachers awaiting promotions for years had retired.

At KU, there are currently 136 vacant posts for lecturer, 45 for assistant professor, 37 for associate professor and 110 vacant posts for professor. As a result, several departments are being run without chairpersons.

The total number of internal and external candidates who applied for these posts in response to the 2019 advertisement are between 5,000 and 6,000.

Prof Khalid Mehmood Iraqi, now KU vice chancellor, admitted that he made several appointments in 2019 and in subsequent years, but said, “as far as he remembered”, the 2019 notification imposed “an overall ban on appointments, including universities”.

“But, this one is specifically for universities. My appointments pertained to the teachers’ posts advertised in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Other appointments were of low-grade non-teaching staff,” he said.

Under the Sindh Universities and Institutes Laws (Amendment) Act, 2018, Prof Iraqi pointed out, the vice chancellor could make appointments from grade one to grade 16.

About the large number of KU teachers protesting for the long overdue promotion for posts advertised in 2019, he said, he couldn’t exactly recall whether approval for these posts had been taken from the chief minister or not.

In February this year, KU held one selection board on court’s order for a post advertised in 2019. But, the selection board was initially declared null and void by the secretary universities and boards on grounds that “KU hasn’t taken prior approval for the selection board from the chief minister”.

Sources said the selection board’s cancellation had no precedent in KU’s history. They also said that it was first time that the universities and boards secretary attended a meeting of the selection board.

The university took permission from the government and the selection board was finally held last month after getting postponed thrice.

Meanwhile, the KU Selection Board Action Committee, a body formed by teachers awaiting their promotions, held a token hunger strike in front of the administrative block.

They teachers demanded that the administration immediately announce a schedule for the selection boards pending since 2019.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2022

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