HYDERABAD, Jan 5: Wrangling between a provincial minister and the chief secretary over the control of the Dr Nabi Bux Baloch Institute of Research has rendered the institute all but dysfunctional, reducing its work to that of a mere publishing agency.
Established in Sept 2009, the institute which was to gather research work by world renowned Dr N.A. Baloch under one roof and provide an opportunity to young scholars to get inspiration from his life had been handicapped since its inception as it was never made autonomous financially and administratively.
The first meeting of its advisory committee decided to prepare a constitution and rules of business but it failed to go ahead with it.
Dr Baloch was disappointed after attending the meeting and lost interest in the institute as it appeared to him the government was not interested in making the institute autonomous, said a friend of Dr Baloch’s.
Gul Mohammad Umrani, a literary figure and retired bureaucrat, was appointed as the first director of the institute but he was not delegated powers of drawing and disbursing (DDO) and, in effect, a section officer in the administration department was handed over reigns of the organisation.
A fan of Dr Baloch said that Sindh Minister for Antiquities and Inter-Provincial Coordination Makhdoon Jameeluzaman wanted to take over the institute and run it like the Sindhi Adabi Board.
The minister made his move after the death of Dr Baloch and took it over in April 2011. He brought it under the department of antiquities and heritage. The minister created a post of chairman for himself and started convening all meetings at the minister’s office in order to keep the chief secretary, who was patron-in-chief of the institute, away from its affairs.
The institute has 13 posts which have been lying vacant since its creation. The administration department purchased some books worth Rs500,000 without getting approval of the advisory committee and they contained not a single book of — or about — Dr Baloch, said an inside source.
The committee raised objection to the purchase as almost half the books were bought from a market of used and pirated books in Khori Garden, Karachi, said the source.
The section officer who looked after the institute was also transferred, leaving the institute a complete pauper as it had no budget and no powers to seek and spend funds. At one stage, it was not even able to pay its utility bills, said the source.
The source said that during the troubled times, the minister reportedly made an offer to the director of the institute that he would be given DDO powers if he agreed to shift the institute to a residential bungalow of the Sindhi Adabi Board, whose chairman was the minister himself.
In July 2011, a small bungalow of a member of the advisory committee was rented out for Rs40,000 without observing rules of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority and the institute was moved into its new home, said the source.
Director Gul Muhammad Umrani kept his part of the deal but the minister failed to keep his and as a result the official quit the post. The institute had failed to realise Dr Baloch’s dream as it was being run by a section officer, he said.
He said that four books were edited during his tenure bur the chief secretary did not approve their publication. The books were however published later.
Later, Dr Habibullah Siddiqui was appointed director and was given DDO powers although a retired officer could not be given financial powers. He was soon deprived of the DDO powers.
One of the objectives of the institute was to offer scholarships on thematic research for MPhil leading to PhD. Scholarships were announced in the first year of its creation but it could not continue with it the following year, although the advisory committee had raised objections to award of the first batch of scholarships.
The institute failed to award fellowships and scholarships last year and invited applications this year but received poor response.
The institute was supposed to bring all books and works by Dr Baloch under one roof and put on display his personal belongings.
Some friends of Dr Baloch complain that his family is not ready to hand over his memorabilia to the institute.
They fear the valuable belongings would suffer damage or go missing as the institute had no building of its own, neither any staff.
Dr Siddiqui admitted that Dr Baloch’s family was reluctant to hand over his belongings because “it doesn’t have a statutory position. Neither has staff been recruited nor have rules of business been framed.”
Dr Abdul Ghaffar Soomro, member of advisory committee and patron of the institute, said the institute had no law, constitution and statutory position and it could not work without autonomy. The government and the secretary were responsible for destroying the organisation, he said.
Secretary of antiquities Dr Kaleemullah Lashari admitted the institute was facing a host of problems. Proposed rules of business were sent to the Sindh Public Service Commission for approval but it did not respond to the department, he said.
He opposed autonomous status for the institute and said “we have already some bad examples (of administrative mess) like the Sindhi Adabi Board”.
The institute receives no grant. It was allocated funds of Rs12.450 million. Last year, it had Rs13.3 million funds which it failed to utilise and, therefore, got less this year.
Entire budget of the institute is utilised at the source. Some inside sources alleged that now, Karachi-based secretary of administration department wanted to run the show at the institute.
Mr Siddiqui said that without DDO, administrative and other powers the institute’s work was badly affected.
The first requirement of an organisation was its staff and the institute had no staff for the past three years, he said.
According to Dr Lashari, the institute’s building was being built in Jamshoro at a cost of Rs55 million on a piece of land donated by the Sindh University and would be handed over to the institute in March 2014.