LAHORE: Punjab University (PU) former vice chancellor Prof Dr Niaz Ahmad Akhtar is expected to be appointed against the varsity’s top slot again, apparently for being in good books of the Buzdar-led set-up that previously ruled the province.

Dr Akhtar’s previous tenure in the top PU office had ended in June, 2022.

The delay in the appointment of Punjab University VC was also creating academic and administrative problems in running of the varsity’s affairs.

The Usman Buzdar-led Punjab government had constituted a search committee on April 6, 2022 for a term of two years for recommendation of a panel comprising three most suitable candidates for the appointment of one of them as PU vice chancellor with immediate effect.

The committee was led by National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Rector retired Lt Gen Javed Mahmood Bukhari, while other members included economist Prof Dr Akmal Hussain, former bureaucrat Syed Tahir Shahbaz, Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) chairperson and Higher Education Department (HED) secretary.

A source says that both Gen Bukahri and Mr Shahbaz have engineering background, while Dr Akhtar is presently holding the office of vice chairman of the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC).

One of the members of the committee, Prof Dr Akmal Hussain, had resigned stating, “Regretfully, I am unable to accept the honour of being a member of the search committee because of my prior teaching and research commitments.”

The post of vice chancellor was also advertised and around 59 candidates, including PU acting VC Prof Dr Niaz Ahmad Akhtar, applied for the slot.

However, the process of the VC’s appointment could not be completed due to political instability in the province that witnessed change of two successive governments within a short span, hence the university had been working without a regular VC for the last three months.

A senior HED official, on condition of anonymity, told Dawn that a special search committee was constituted to conduct an interview of the post of PU VC on the direction of former chief minister Usman Buzdar during the last days of his government.

He said the process of conducting interviews was not carried out due to political instability in the province and the government was changed.

He said that Dr Akhtar was a favourite of the Buzdar-led set up and the previous search committee was specifically designed to favour him.

He said the Hamza Shehbaz-led government also could not complete the process and was ousted within two months.

He said the department had been trying to conduct the interviews for the PU VC slot through the new search committee, but again the current Chief Minister Parvez Elahi ordered the process should be carried out through the old search committee.

He said the Punjab-level search committee was led by former federal minister for education Shafaqat Mehmood, educationist Dr Arif Butt, former PU VC Dr Khalid, PHEC chairperson and HED secretary.

He said the old search committee would conduct the interviews for the post of PU vice chancellor and recommend a panel of three “most suitable” candidates for the post.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2022

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