Dr Umar Saif, one of the most blue-eyed officials in the team of former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, has been removed from his offices of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB) chairman and vice chancellor of the Information Technology University (ITU).
He had held the position of the university’s vice chancellor since the foundation of ITU in 2013, while he remained the chairman of PITB for almost seven years – from November 2011 until November 2018. Dr Saif’s tenure as the ITU VC ended in January 2017, however he remained at the helm of the varsity’s affairs and was handed over the charge of acting VC.
The selection committee tasked with finding a replacement for Dr Saif advertise the vacancy after Supreme Court of Pakistan’s strict orders of finding permanent VCs for universities across Punjab earlier this year. However, the issue of finding a suitable VC for ITU was put on the backburner prior to general elections, with the selection committee citing a “lack of response for the advertised post”.
According to sources, a summary was finalised for appointing a VC at ITU, but it was scrapped and the post might get re-advertised as the Punjab government is in reportedly in the middle of finalising a new criteria for the appointment of vice chancellors in the province.
The new Punjab government, as well as the one before it, has faced a hard time finding vice chancellors for public universities in the province.
This problem has plagued many government varsities that continue to operate without permanent heads of affairs.
Dr Saif confirmed the development in a Facebook post, as well on his twitter account.
All good things must come to an end. It was a privilege to serve this country for 7 years, establish PITB, ITU, Plan9 & e-rozgaar.
In the end, I served for as long as I could — beyond provincial boundaries and political divides — and gave it all I had. Pakistan zindabad! pic.twitter.com/6gUrSLUXtP
— Umar Saif (@umarsaif) November 12, 2018
The Cambridge scholar was considered a sworn favourite of former CM Shahbaz Sharif. Academics had time and again raised questions over his appointment as the ITU VC, often citing the fact that he served only as an associate professor at LUMS before his appointment to the top office of then newly formed ITU.
He also appeared to be a part of every important decision and development during Shahbaz Sharif’s tenure; even having a presence in search committees that were tasked with vetting candidates for appointment as vice chancellors, all when he himself was a candidate for the VC’s post at ITU. An official notification of his removal from the two posts is yet to be issued.
As usual, the news of Dr Saif’s removal lit the Twitter late on Monday, with people on both sides of the divide deeming it apt to put their thoughts on to their timelines.
Many praised the man for what he wanted to be remembered as, a digital evangelist.
Dear @umarsaif – thanks for the being the digital evangelist for Pakistan and for revolutionising the public sector with technology as could have never been imagined. Good luck with your journey ❤️
— Saad Hamid (@SaadGH) November 12, 2018
While other criticised the PTI government and questioned its commitment to upholding merit.
— Muhammad Umar Yousaf (@mumaryousaf) November 12, 2018
Still, there were others who went ahead to appear thankful over the development.
Catching white collar crime is difficult and Umar Saif is s prime example. All the SMS alerts that people of Punjab receive from the government are contracted out to a private company owned by Umar Saif. Imagine the contract size for last 10 years. https://t.co/bPf3gYes0L
— Naveed (@naveedpti) November 12, 2018
Sharif's crony @umarsaif removed from PITB
— LHK (@Edwardian842) November 12, 2018
But all things remaining as they are, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for ITU and dozens of projects initiated by PITB is a post-Saif era. Here’s to hoping only for the best.