A tangled mess has emerged at the Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University (SBBU) in the Shaheed Benazirabad district, as the debut batch of students take their first semester exams.
The first step to the drama was the incumbent vice-chancellor (VC) Arshad Saleem Arain taking charge in late February which was met with protests by the faculty. These events led to the recent firing of the registrar Kehar Khoso.
Clashes ensued at the campus and over a dozen people were injured. An FIR was registered against a number of people, including 13 employees, while lecturer Anwar Mangrio challenged Arain’s appointment in the Sindh High Court.
“The first VC (Rasool Bux Baloch) was removed because he resisted the meddling of MNA Azra Afzal Pechuho (President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister) in appointments and other matters,” he claimed. “Zardari House wanted a VC who can transcend all legalities in their obedience.”
Arain worked as a controller in the university. The faculty claims that he is not qualified to be vice-chancellor and was elevated without being vetted by the Governor’s Search Committee.
“He completely lacks the experience of heading such an institution,” says Kehar Khoso, the sacked registrar. While talking to The Express Tribune, he said that problems between him and Arain started early on. “He wanted me to grant admission to three girls who had failed to qualify the pre-entry test conducted by the National Testing Service. Then there was the Education Works department which had to spend Rs9.4 million on boundary walls, parking shades, iron grills, bathrooms and a lawn. They ended up consuming all the outlay on the lawn alone.”
Khoso said that he also did not approve of the 13 appointments which were made by the VC over the past three months. “A chemistry teacher with a PhD was made to head the education faculty while two retired teachers were hired on contract with all the privileges of regular employees.”
He defended himself against his termination by alleging that the syndicate that sought his removal is unfairly balanced to favour the Zardari House.
According to the SBBU Act passed by the Sindh Assembly in 2010, the syndicate is supposed to have 20 members, including an ex-officio, but it is currently working with 12. Khoso says five of them are elected representatives (two MNAs including Pechuho and three MPAs) and one is a member of the Zardari family, Aftab Zardari.
Other point of views
Dr Suleman Shaikh of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Techonology, who is a member of the syndicate, said he did not attend the syndicate meeting and was not aware of the issue between Khoso and Mangrio. “How can I approve of the sacking when I have not been to any of the syndicate meetings?” he asked. “It was VC Arain who proposed to the syndicate that the services of the registrar Kehar Khoso be removed.”
The VC refused to speak about the university and referred inquiries to the registrar.
The acting registrar Roshan Siyal, the finance director at the university, said that he was oblivious to the controversies. “Whatever has been happening is between the VC and the registrar, and the VC and the teachers. The finance section has never been involved.”
However, he justified the appointments made by the VC without properly advertising them, saying that the University Act empowers the VC to “create and fill the temporary posts for maximum six months.”
Arfana Mallah, the general secretary of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), describes the syndicate as a ‘politicised entity’ and not an academic one. There is a difference between the SBBU Act and the University Act 1972 regulating the other public sector universities in Sindh, she says.
Pechuho could not be reached for comment.
Published In The Express Tribune, June 13th, 2012.
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