KARACHI, Aug 26: The Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council (PVMC), the professional body responsible to regulate veterinary education in the country, has expressed serious reservations over the establishment of an international veterinary university in Sakrand, a taluka of Shaheed Benazirabad (Nawabshah) district, for which the process of admission had been initiated even before the Sindh Assembly had passed a bill for its establishment.
The provincial assembly passed the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences Sakrand, Bill, 2012 on Aug 8. The university, it is planned, would have two campuses: one in Larkana and the other in Sakrand with faculties for veterinary sciences, bio-sciences, animal production and technology, livestock business management, fisheries and wildlife, information technology.
The process of inviting applications from aspiring candidates, however, was initiated through newspaper advertisements in May. The place for sending applications, entry test and interview mentioned in the ads was Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam.
Speaking to Dawn, experts deplored the haste shown in admitting students to the institution and said that approval from the regulatory body should have been taken before offering admission to students, which, they said, was mandatory under the Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council Act of 1996.
Besides, they said, it would have been wise on part of the government that instead of establishing a new university, it separated the veterinary section of the Agriculture University Tandojam and upgrade it to the status of a university as the old institution had the faculty and facilities to offer veterinary education as an independent university.
“It’s a violation of not only the PVMC act but also of the Supreme Court judgment which it gave on Dec 15, 2006 according to which no professional institution could be set up in the country without the advice of the relevant regulatory body,” said Dr Alamdar Hussain Malik, a former registrar of the PVMC currently on deputation in the finance ministry.
Citing clauses from the act, he said that any institution intending to award a veterinary degree needed to contact the federal government which, then, would forward the matter to the council that would make recommendations to the federal government.
“The institution could enroll students only after getting approval from the council,” he said, adding that the body had the same mandate as that of the Pakistan Medical Dental Council and the Pakistan Engineering Council.
When contacted, Prof Dr Jaimal Dhanani, a member of the accreditation committee, Pakistan Veterinary Medical Council, and chairman of the admission committee of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Sakrand, said all steps had been taken with the approval of the chief minister.
“There is no need for taking permission from the council for setting up an institution under the act. The accreditation will be done at a later stage. Right now, we are just starting the introductory theory classes,” he said, adding that the administration of the girls’ degree college in Sakrand had handed over their vacant 12-room building for use whereas the facilities of agriculture training institute in Sakrand would be utilised to provide accommodation to students.
Not a single candidate had applied for admission to the college and the building had been vacant for two years, he said.
Answering a question about university admissions before the passing of the bill, he said the decision to set up the university was taken at a meeting chaired by the chief minister and initially the government planned to bring an ordinance but somehow it got delayed.
“A large of students couldn’t get admission to the Agriculture University Tandojam in the veterinary department this year. So we thought that their need could be met with the setting up of a university. The province doesn’t have a veterinary university though there is an immense need for it,” he added.
About 200 candidates, he said, had applied for admission, apart from those who wanted to join the institution as teachers.
“The infrastructures for teaching and accommodation have been renovated. The act would be signed by the governor in a few days while the government would initially provide Rs500 million. The total cost of the project is Rs5,000m,” he said.
He rejected the idea of developing a veterinary university out of the Tandojam university and said it was already working as a university.
“Sakrand is second to Tandojam in having veterinary research institutions. An anti-snake venom laboratory is being built there while it also has wheat and cotton research institutes. The university project is a big one and would take the province forward in veterinary institutions.”
Presenting the stance of the PVMC, president of the veterinary council Dr Mohammad Arshad said the council had serious reservations over the proposed university that he had taken up with Mr Dhanani who, he said, had regretted that admissions had been started before taking approval from the council and had assured him that the process would be reversed.
“He also gave an assurance about acquiring faculty and facilities before giving admission,” he said.
When he was reminded that the chairman of the admission committee had given no such assurances while speaking to Dawn, he said: “The council will take action against him and remove him from the accreditation committee if students were enrolled without the council’s approval.
“It's like denying the role of the regulatory body. The council can’t stop people from establishing institutions. But when they would come to us, we won’t recognise them if they didn’t meet the council’s standards,” he said.
Dr Arshad also questioned the need for a university when about 3,000 veterinary graduates of the Tandojam university were jobless.
There are 13 institutes offering veterinary education in the country. Six of them are not recognised by the council.