The Karachi police on Saturday fired tear gas and baton-charged students who allegedly pelted stones at law enforcers that had gone to the Islamia College to implement an order of the apex court pertaining to it, according to officials and student organisations.
Jamshed Quarters police Station House Officer (SHO) Naveed Soomro said that the college was established on private property whose owners/trustees approached the Supreme Court (SC) to get its premises vacated.
The officer said that the SC gave an order in favour of the "decree-holder" and directed the Sindh High Court (SHC) to end its "occupation". Soomro said the SHC directed the City Courts to ensure the implementation of the apex court order and hand it over to the SHC nazir.
The SHO said that the police party, along with the court’s bailiff, arrived at the college with senior police and education department officials.
He said the bailiff was talking with the college's principal when certain students allegedly pelted the police with stones. Soomro added that the police resorted to "mild" tear gas shelling the students and baton-charged them to disperse them.
The officer said that after dispersing the students, East Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Syed Abdul Rahim Shirazi, the education department’s secretary for colleges Aleem Lashari and other officials arrived at the spot and engaged the college administration in negotiations to vacate the premises.
## Student body reaction
While the SHO said no student was arrested or detained during the police action, a student wing of Jamaat-i-Islami claimed that five "innocent" students were arrested.
In a statement, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) — the JI's student wing — said that contingents of the police arrived to get the college vacated, where 400 students were studying. The organisation said that it was a "conspiracy to end" the academic institute and build a "shopping centre" on its premises.
“The students of Karachi are being deprived of education,” said the IJT statement, adding that the police had "failed" to maintain law and order in the provincial capital but it subjected the students to torture.
The statement said that if the five allegedly detained students were not released immediately, then the police and the city administration would be responsible for the "consequences".
The IJT urged authorities to take notice as a "peaceful" protest was the right of the students.
History of the issue
Lashari told Dawn that the history of Islamia College dated back to the 1950s when Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) gave around four and a half acres of land to the Islamic Education Fund (IEF) on rent at Rs2 per acre in 1957 where colleges and schools were established by the fund.
He said there were four colleges and four schools on the property where over 7,000 students were studying.
The IEF claimed that the lands belonged to them while the KMC contended that it had not given the lands on a lease, instead, it was given on rent only.
Lashari recalled that this matter went to the SC which directed the SHC to decide the ownership between the Fund, the college administration and the KMC.
He said that the KMC and others also became "inter-pleaders" before the SHC in the case.
The senior official said that the SHC directed the government to submit the rent of the premises before its official assignee. He said the provincial government was paying Rs220,000 rent annually before the SHC’s official assignee.
Lashari added that the case was pending before the high court for a decision on ownership.
In the meantime, he said the IEF approached a lower court (City Courts) by "misrepresenting" facts and got an order in its favour for the ejection of the building.
He said that today, the lower court’s bailiff along with the police party went there to "eject" the college.
The secretary of colleges said that he and the education department’s other officials also arrived at the college.
Lashari said they contended before the bailiff that the IEF allegedly by "misrepresentation of the facts" had got the decision from the lower court in its favour though its ownership issue was still pending before the SHC.
He opined that when the SHC had asked the government to submit the rent of the premises before its official assignee, it meant that the decision was still pending and the high court had not directed for giving such rent to the IEF.
He said the bailiff and SSP Shirazi after receiving such papers from the education officials were "satisfied" that the issue of ownership was not decided so far and left the premises.