Dr Zafar Mueen Nasar had been facing opposition from inside the varsity and HED Minister Syed Raza Ali Gillani over alleged financial irregularities
In a rather unexpected move on Friday, Punjab University’s (PU) Vice Chancellor Zafar Mueen Nasar tendered his resignation to the Punjab governor, apparently over the issue of the government asking the varsity to give away two kanals of its prime land to a religious organisation for building a seminary.
The land in question is part of the PU’s Old Campus sports ground near Chauburji. Per reports, officials of the Punjab government had been urging PU rather forcefully to give part of its land to a religious party whose existing seminary had been affected by the construction of Orange Line Metro Train.
On January 1, Adviser to Chief Minister Khwaja Ahmed Hassaan had held a meeting with the VC, deans, treasurer and other senior officials of PU, pressing them to cede to the government’s demands. The demand by the government has already enraged the PU staff and faculty, who have demanded the provincial government accommodate the religious party and its planned mosque at some other location. Before the January 1 meeting, the PU Academic Staff Association had passed a resolution against the government’s bid to take over the varsity land, saying PU land could only be used for academic purposes per the PU Act. They also asked the CJ to take notice of the unjustified move by the Punjab government.
But the government appears to be unfazed by the agitation, forcing the VC to tender his resignation to the university chancellor over his issue. Dr Nasar told newsmen that he preferred to resign rather than succumbing to immense pressure from the provincial government to give away the varsity’s land. He apparently followed in the footsteps of former VC Dr Khalid Hameed Sheikh, who also quit the job in 1997 instead of ceding to then government’s – also PML-N’s – demand to give four marlas of PU land near the Barkat Market crossing. However, there seems more to Dr Nasar’s story than his apparent ethical stance.
Although the resignation to protest the government’s unethical demand is laudable, Dr Nasar’s tenure wasn’t exactly clear of troubled waters in its own being. The VC had already been facing opposition from both within and outside the university and he might have seen the land issue as a viable option of an honorable exit. The VC was in an ongoing tussle with Higher Education Minister Syed Raza Ali Gillani, with both sides accusing each other of malpractices. The minister had recently written to the Punjab chief minister seeking removal of Dr Nasar as the VC, accusing him of financial irregularities and disregard of rules in in several projects and recruitments. Gillani had also demanded the chief minister inspection team look into the charges. The PU Teachers Front had backed the allegations of malpractices by the VC.
Contrarily, Dr Nasar claimed the minister had turned against him after he refused to accommodate Gillani’s unlawful requests for appointments and admissions to the university. The former VC had also vowed to move the court against Gillani over his alleged baseless allegations.
While it remains to be seen what kind of a legacy Dr Zafar Mueen Nasar leaves behind, one thing is clear as of now, the government’s apathy towards the property of a university that has been a citadel of learning for decades. The government has acquired PU land in the past as well, most recently for the extension of Maulana Shoukat Ali Road leading to Karim Block in Allama Iqbal Town. For argument’s sake, the acquisition could still be justified as the resultant route benefits hundreds of thousands of people each day. But the current demand for taking land to give to a religious party is seriously misplaced. Acquiring university land was unavoidable in the case of Shoukat Ali Road as the university practically sits in the middle of two of the most populous parts of the city. But the current demand for land has nothing to do with PU.
PU’s premises in no way affected the acquisition of seminary’s land or causes nuisance to masses movement in any way every day. Therefore, the university, especially its playground, should not be made a scapegoat to cater for government’s vested interests and politicking.
The university has none – and should not have any – burden to bear.