LAHORE: The Government College University (GCU) on Monday became a ‘centre of controversy’ following former prime minister Imran Khan’s hard hitting speech targeting his political opponents especially PML-N vice president Maryam Nawaz at the varsity’s Oval ground.
A social media trend purportedly generated by the PML-N against GCU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi for what the party of the Sharifs said “allowing Imran Khan to hold his public meeting at the prestigious institution.”
Acting swiftly, the PML-N led federal government removed Dr Zaidi from the VC’s Search Committee.
Over 50,000 tweets were made till Monday evening mostly targeting the VC (#RemoveVCofGCU) with PML-N supreme leader Nawaz Sharif’s daughter Maryam Nawaz calling for ‘action’ against him (Dr Zaidi).
GCU VC stripped of search panel membership
Even Federal Education Minister Rana Tanvir Hussain and Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman jumped into the controversy and supported their leader (Maryam) in this respect.
The GCU VC was quick to remind his detractors that in known universities of the world, students got the opportunity to hear all kinds of political views from the varsity forum. “The varsities have the right to be engaged in the political debate of the time. The world over, political leaders come to universities to address youth, and we don’t discriminate on the basis whether they are in the government or in the opposition,” Dr Zaidi said in a talk with Dawn.
The VC further said the Punjab Information Technology Board had organised the event and chose the guest list. “When the chief guest is speaking he cannot be instructed what to say and what not,” he said and added the GCU operated within the territorial jurisdiction of Punjab, so it was bound to follow the directions of the Punjab government.
In a tweet Maryam Nawaz said: “Strict action must be taken against the GCU VC for desecrating an educational institution by lending it to a Fitna & organising his jalsa on the premises. Using a seat of learning for political hate-mongering is a crime that should not go unpunished.”
Governor Baligur Rehman in a statement said: “As a chancellor, I have taken notice of organising a political programme in the GCU. There is no scope for such political gatherings in universities. Children are our future and they should not be pushed into politics.”
Punjab Information Technology Minister Dr Arslan Khalid replied to Ms Nawaz on Twitter saying: “Why don’t you (Maryam) or Shehbaz Sharif go and visit GCU or any university yourself and make whatever speech you want? Political leaders go to universities everywhere in the world. If you ppl can’t face youth, it’s not our fault.”
Meanwhile, Federal Education Minister Rana Tanvir reportedly removed Dr Zaidi from the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training’s Search Committee.
The committee was constituted on Sept 13 headed by the federal education minister for appointing VCs of Quaid-i-Azam University, Allama Iqbal University and rector of International Islamic University, Islamabad.
A source told Dawn that following the event addressed by Imran Khan at GCU, the education minister ordered removal of Dr Zaidi from the search committee. He said on the direction of minister, Joint Secretary Raja Muhammad Akhtar issued a notification, removing VC GCU from search committee.
Sources said Dr. Zaidi had been replaced with Dr. Shoiab Mir, as co-opted member of Search Committee. They said the minister also asked Higher Education Commission (HEC) to take action against the VC “in accordance with law.”
“I am short of words to condemn what has happened in GC University today, which is considered as one of the oldest seats of learning and has unfortunately been made to serve as a stage for a hate mongering PTI Leader. Have ordered the authorities to take strict action against VC GCU,” Rana Tanvir said in a tweet.
Published in Dawn, September 27th, 2022