Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is a symbol of modern education and his name should not be used for commercial gains.
This was the motivation behind a great-great-grandson of Sir Syed approaching the SC in the beginning of January. Syed Ahmed Masood in his petition alleged that Sir Syed Memorial Society (SSMS) is using the Muslim leader’s name for commercial gains.
A three-member bench of the court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, and Justice Tariq Pervez found the complaint valid on Tuesday.
They sought complete records from the SSMS, Islamabad chief commissioner and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) chairperson within 21 days. The court also asked Masood to appear in person before the court on the next hearing.
The CDA recently raised objections on two acres allotted to the society in G-5, saying that Sir Syed University, a private venture, has been established on the land. The land is meant for a public building, such as a library or a public hall, and not a private university. Moreover the authority said that the university’s activities are badly affecting a nearby greenbelt and traffic on the adjacent road.
Justice Hussain told the SSMS representatives that they “have no right to rent out government property worth Rs6b for commercial ventures.”
Justice Chaudhry and Justice Pervez endorsed this observation and told SSMS President Brigadier (retd) Iqbal Shafi to resign if he cannot run the society as per the rules.
Brig Shafi informed the court that he and some other former Aligarh Muslim University students wanted to carry forward Sir Syed’s mission in Pakistan by teaching Islamic values and modern education. Shafi insisted that no commercial activity is being carried out and that the staff members have been working on honorary basis since the establishment of the society.
The chief justice responded, “Then why has the CDA issued a notice to you for using the building for commercial purposes?” Shafi claimed that someone with an ulterior motive had pushed the authority to issue the letter.
The court also asked Shafi how they are managing the affairs of the society without the government’s support. He responded that the society was making do with the fees collected from students enrolled in the society.
The court found irregularities in the society’s joint venture with the Engineering Education Trust (EET), which overlooks the affairs of the Sir Syed University. No society bylaw allows for such a venture. Justice Khilji also lambasted the society when he learnt that five SSMS members were also part of the EET. He observed that it seems that the EET was created by the SSMS’s members to “earn profits”.
The court sought comments from Islamabad chief commissioner and CDA chairperson and adjourned the hearing till late-February.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2012.