The provincial government’s notification on the merger of the Sindh Muslim Government Science College with the Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU), issued on Thursday, is likely to irk the Sindh High Court that had issued a stay order against changing the college’s status.
In October, 2012, a similar move had vexed the parents of students studying in SM Science College who approached the court, stating their grievances on the provincial government’s decision of merging the college in the SMIU.
A division bench headed by SHC Chief Justice Mushir Alam took up the petition and suspended the government’s order while asking the respondents, including the provincial chief secretary and SMIU vice-chancellor, to submit their comments. The decision on the petition is pending as the court has set September 27 next date for hearing.
“We had requested the court to declare the decision of merging the property of SM Science College in SMIU and the earlier letter issued by the provincial government to vacate the premises as unlawful,” said one of the petitioners, Shaikh Ziaul Haq while talking to The Express Tribune. “As the matter is sub judice, the government’s notification for the merger of college with SMIU is a show of high-handedness and amounts to the court’s contempt,” he said.
The college, that holds a historical significance for being founded by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah in 1943, became the centre of controversy when the government was requested by SMIU vice-chancellor to add the college to the university. This request came after the Sindh Madressatul Islam was awarded the university status on Feb 16, 2012.
The college administration, however, did not want to become part of the university and were ordered to shift from the alleged SMIU premises. On October 11, 2012, additional director for colleges’ inspection, Prof. Mukhtiar Naseer Dogar, had directed the SM College principal to shift the institution to the building of Government Degree Girls College in Kharadar along with the physical assets as well as over 1,200 enrolled students and 90 teaching and non-teaching staff. The decision had reportedly been taken to create more space for the newly established university.
The petitioners, however, believed that by virtue of such a decision, the ownership of the property that belongs to SM College, located in a prime location in the city centre, would shift to the university.
“By asking the students to move to highly volatile vicinity that also lacked the requisite infrastructure to accommodate them, the careers of hundreds of college students was being put in jeopardy,” said Haq
He added that the students and teachers did not agree to become part of the nascent SMIU nor did they agree to leave the SM Science College’s actual building.
For decades, the college has been affiliated with the prestigious Karachi University for its degree programmes and with Board of Intermediate Education Karachi for intermediate-level certificates. He added that the decision of merging the college in the SMIU was illegal, unlawful and a violation of the articles 25 (a), 26, 27, 37 and 38 of the Constitution.
For his part, the SMIU VC Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh when contacted by The Express Tribune claimed that the court’s stay order “merely barred shifting of the SM College students to any other premises” till the decision on the petition filed was announced. Dr Shaikh did not believe that implications of such a notification, issued by Sindh education department’s secretary, Fazlullah Pechuho, would lead to contempt of court but accepted that the matter was sub judice.
“All we did is declare SM College as constituent part of the SMIU by merging the former in the university and this does not go against the court’s stay order,” said Dr Shaikh. “The college will function under the administrative control of SMIU and as its science faculty.”
He, however, did not comment on the fact that the issue of college’s merger with the university was an integral part of the petition, requesting the court to declare any such move unlawful.
“I’m not aware of any stay order in this connection and if the court will call up for explanation we will objectively defend our position,” said Pechuho. “The Sindh government is entitled to decide the fate of all such institutions which are its property.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.