LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has directed the Punjab advocate general to present the government’s original summary for allowing the establishment of Bahaudin Zakariya University (BZU) sub-campus in Lahore.
A full bench headed by Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi issued these directions while hearing a petition filed by BZU students against the varsity administration after the Higher Education Commission (HEC) declared the campus illegal and forced its closure.
Dr Khawaja Alqama, the former BZU vice-chancellor who helped materialise the idea of setting up the Lahore campus with public-private partnership, appeared before the court on Monday.
He submitted that in 2011, the university faced a deficit of Rs450 million in its annual budget and asked the government for a grant. The authorities refused the proposal, asking the varsity to generate funds on its own. He then studied cases of different universities and introduced this public-private partnership system.
At this, Alqama’s counsel interrupted him, saying he needed legal assistance before recording his statement. Advocate Abid Saqi submitted there were 11 sub-campuses of different universities in different cities and there should be no discrimination against BZU for having a sub-campus as well.
Justice Mazahar, however, pointed out that neither the university’s act of 1974 allowed a sub-campus nor had it been approved by its syndicate.
HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed contended different universities indeed had sub-campuses but the public-private partnership adopted by the BZU was different altogether. Education has become an industry but franchises of the universities cannot be allowed like those of fast food chains, he added.
Dr Mukhtar recalled he had written a letter to the BZU vice-chancellor when he was serving as the HEC executive director in 2014, highlighting the illegality of its sub-campus but nothing was done.
The court directed the HEC chairman to present the record of his correspondence with the Punjab Higher Education Department, different universities and the government about sub-campuses by the next hearing date on January 13.
The current BZU vice-chancellor told the court that on January 23, they would start classes of the students affected and within a few days there would be an advertisement in newspapers.
The judges also ordered a representative of the West Continental Group, which runs the BZU campus, to submit details of students, courses and financial benefits derived from the campus.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2017.
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