The Punjab Assembly (PA) on Thursday passed three bills, including one about the establishment of a university run by the Pakistan Army.
The Lahore Garrison University Bill 2014, the Punjab Payment of Wages Amendment Bill 2013, and the Punjab Development of Cities (Amendment) Bill 2014 were all passed through a majority vote.
Deputy Speaker Sardar Sher Ali Khan Gorchani was in the chair when the session resumed at 11am.
During the question hour, Provincial Minister for Irrigation Yawar Zaman answered the members’ questions.
The treasury introduced four bills. These were the Nawaz Sharif University of Engineering and Technology Multan Bill 2014; the Punjab Industrial Relations Act 2014; the Punjab Reproductive, Maternal, Neo-natal and Child Heath Authority Bill; and the Punjab Mental Health (amendment) Bill 2001.
Opposition members expressed several reservations.
According to the statement of object and reasons of the bill, the Lahore Garrison University is being established with two pre-existing postgraduate campuses at Sarfraz Rafiqui Road in Cantonment and Walton Road. The sponsoring society, the Lahore Garrison Education Trust, is owned by Pakistan Army.
The Defence Housing Authority has allotted 74 kanals land in Phase VI, Sector-E for the university. The university will initially offer classes in natural sciences (mathematics, chemistry and physics), psychology, English language and literature and information technology.
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Nausheen Hamid said the bill did not say anything about how the government will maintain a check on the university. Instead of granting university status to garrison colleges, she said, the government should implement the 2012 report of the Education Commission.
She said that the bill was also silent on the fee structure for students from civilian families. She said it was not clear how and which children of civilian citizens would be admitted.
She raised concern about the fact that the university would award scholarship from only two per cent of its income.
She said apparently Pakistan Army had launched another commercial project to benefit only the children of its employees.
She asked why education in biological sciences was being ignored, while the faculty was one of the strongest at other army institutions.
Talking to The Express Tribune later, Hamid said she had learnt that the government planned to award degree awarding status to another 16 institutions. She said the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) already existed in Phase V quite close to where land had been allocated for Lahore Garrison University. She said there were dozens of private universities in the city that needed better monitoring by the government.
Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan said that the bill had been presented during previous government. He said it had been reintroduced last month and had been passed after standing committee’s recommendations in this regard.
The Punjab Development of Cities (Amendment) Bill 2014 [amendments to the Punjab Development Authorities Act 1976], too, was passed on Thursday after a long heated debate on it on Wednesday.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2014.