THIS is with reference to the editorial ‘Aitchison controversy’ (March 27) in the wake of the events that were related to the resignation of Aitchison College principal as a reaction to the alleged interference by the governor of Punjab. After the event unfolded, the matter was widely discussed by mainstream media, both print and television, and it got great currency over social media platforms.

Surprisingly, the way ministers and spokespersons of the current ruling party in Punjab tried to justify the action of someone in a position of authority trying to seek tuition fee waiver was downright disgusting. They tried to downplay the incident as a ‘college affair’ that did not even deserve the coverage it received in the media.

They have spun a simple story as if a financially drowned and poor family posted out of its will to Islamabad could not even afford to pay the tuition fee. The letters written by the person to the governor clearly bear the address, Ministers Colony, Islamabad. So much for the family’s poverty. Come to think of it, the move to Islamabad was a matter of choice. Or, was it forced?

The family must bear the consequences as it had decided to draw the benefits of this move. Tell me of an educational institution in the world that will keep places vacant for absentee students without payment of fee. This implies that the college denies admission to other deserving students and also bears a financial loss. Over time, this will be a parade of parents asking for such concessions and one may end up with half empty classes without people paying for such an undeserved privilege. This leads institutions to become unviable and get ready for a collapse.

Moreover, the fact of the matter is that this incident has broader national repercussions and, in fact, represents one of the maladies Pakistan continues to face. In fact, this is a sign of state capture by the elite class that draws benefits at other people’s expense. The class gangs up and milks the resources, but refuses to share the economic burden.

The governor was seriously ill-advised to write the letter. Such interventions by the power elite on behalf of one another have brought Pakistan to a state of default. The whole episode was the worst form of nepotism, influence peddling and misuse of authority. Mind you, in civilised countries, many ministers have resigned for much less of an indiscretion. Period.

Sajjad Ashraf
Former ambassador
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2024

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