Participants at the general body meeting of the Punjab University Academic Staff Association (ASA), held at the Chemical Engineering Department on Monday, said four out of five faculty members opposed boycotting classes but the ASA still decided to go ahead with its strike.
Teachers said that ASA is putting the academic future of 33,000 students at risk by continuing the boycott. Some said that it was surprising that the ASA was promoting the culture of boycott.
ASA had called a general body meeting in the wake of protests that followed the murder of PU student and Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) activist Awais Aqeel on May 13.
A faculty member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that an ASA office bearer announced that there would be no speeches and the boycott of the classes would continue till the next meeting. The faculty member said that former ASA president Dr Maher Saeed Akhtar, Ghalib Ata of Institute of Administrative Sciences, Political Sciences Department’s Shabbir Ahmad Khan, Hailey College of Commerce’s Syed Muhammad Nadeem and Additional Registrar Dr Aurangzeb Alamgir were allowed to speak after many faculty members voiced their disagreement. Four of them said that a case should be registered against the IJT activists who had manhandled teachers and they be arrested. Many faculty members advised that the boycott should be discontinued. The ASA, however, announced a boycott till Thursday, the faculty member added.
Another political science teacher said, “One of the speakers said that the university had become a battlefield between Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N). He advised teachers to shun politics and demand the arrest of those who murdered Awais Aqeel.”
Former ASA president Mahar Saeed Akhtar told The Express Tribune, “There were some 250 teachers present at the meeting. Majority of them did not agree with the boycott, however, no voting took place. It seemed as if university administration is using ASA for its own interest. It was ASA’s call to boycott but the university administration itself closed the university gates. This is unfair to the 33,000 students as Ramazan is approaching and the syllabus needs to be completed in time.”
Akhtar said a judicial inquiry should be ordered to ascertain who had manhandled the teachers. “The varsity has already slipped to the fifth position in the rankings of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). Boycotts will further damage the university’s reputation.” Akhtar said he believed that Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Mujahid Kamran should not have gone to the UK at this point.
IJT also protested at the Campus Bridge on Monday evening and condemned the boycott. IJT spokesperson Malik Arif Hussain said the politicking by some faculty members was damaging the university’s reputation. “Just 60 teachers attended the ASA’s rally.
This shows that teachers have no trust in the VC and the administration,” he said.
A student at the Institute of Education Research (IER) said the teachers’ boycott will mean students will not be able to complete their syllabus in time. “We did not have classes last week and this week will be much the same. This can be fatal for students.”
ASA General Secretary Professor Javed Sami confirmed that the meeting had decided to boycott classes till Thursday. He said the teachers were unanimous in their resolve to strike, adding that some 400 teachers had attended the meeting. “After the meeting, 400 teachers walked to the Campus Bridge peacefully,” he added.
Asked whether or not he believed that the VC had gone to the UK to avoid the situation, he said, “The VC went according to his schedule.” He said the ASA strategy would be decided in the next meeting to be held on Thursday.
ASA President Amir Sarwar said the government had formed a three-member committee headed by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah to probe the mishandling of the teachers and the charges that students from outside the university had come to the campus to harass the teachers.
He said other members of the committee included the Lahore Capital City Police Officer and MPA Khwaja Imran Nazir.
He said the boycott was meant to send a message that nobody should misbehave with the teachers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.