The Punjab Higher Education Department (HED) has been left between a rock and a hard place with regards to appointment of vice chancellor at Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore after only five candidates applied for the position.

In view of Supreme Court of Pakistan’s orders of appointing permanent VCs in universities across Punjab at the earliest and that too keeping high standards of merit in perspective, the lukewarm response to the top position in ITU has caused a setback to HED’s plans to complete the process in time.

If it goes back to re-advertising the post, the process gets delayed further, while proposing three names out of a total five is also likely to draw ire from academic and non-academic circles and may end in the department being possibly accused of favoritism.

Given the situation, HED is now seriously considering running a second advertisement to invite applications for the vacant seat of ITU VC. According to well-placed sources in the higher education department, a meeting of the committee was held in this regard on Thursday. Sources claimed that the committee had decided in principle that the date for receiving applications against the post of ITU VC will be extended, and new date will be announced with a re-advertisement for the post.

Dr Saif’s Domain

The ITU has been looked after by Dr Umar Saif ever since its establishment. The VC’s post fell vacant in January 2017, and Dr Saif was handed over the charge of acting VC. Dr Saif is considered among the people closest to former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif. Many critics of Dr Saif cite the former CM’s partiality as the reason for various roles assigned to Dr Saif, despite him not being legally eligible to man such key positions.

Prior to joining the Punjab government, Dr Umar Saif was an assistant professor at a private university, but was tasked with founding ITU by Shahbaz Sharif in 2012. Besides running the affairs of ITU, Dr Saif is also in-charge of the province’s IT infrastructure and serves as the chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB). He also served as the advisor to the Punjab chief minister. Besides, he was also a member of the search committee formed to select the vice chancellor for Punjab University – the largest university of the province.

The HED had advertisement the vacant post of ITU VC on orders of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and set June 3 as the application deadline. A letter issued by the HED also mentioned that the ban imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was not applicable for this appointment because of the instructions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The Search Committee for ITU included Convener Dr Amjad Saqib, Prof Dr Amjad Hussain, Dr Javed Ghani, Dr Zafar Iqbal Qureshi and the HED secretary.

 

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