‘Saudi pressure’ forced Zardari to sack IIUI rector

Published: November 16, 2015
 Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. PHOTO: AFP

 Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari. PHOTO: AFP Kingdom officials said the university had ‘lost its way’. PHOTO: IIU.EDU.PK

ISLAMABAD: Former president Asif Ali Zardari had sacked the rector of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) in 2012 under pressure from Saudi Arabia, according to a leaked cable of the Saudi Embassy.

A telegram sent to the then Saudi foreign minister confirms that Zardari told the Saudi ambassador in Islamabad during a meeting that Quaid-e-Azam University Vice-Chancellor Dr Masoom Yasinzai was appointed as acting rector in place of Dr Fateh Muhammad Malik.

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Saudi officials had complained to the former president that the university was not being run according to the principles for which it was established during General Ziaul Haq’s regime, and rather ‘enlightened moderation’ was being promoted at the university, which is run mostly on funds received from the oil-rich kingdom and other Arab countries.

The university was established with the prime objective of imparting Sharia during the Soviet-Afghan war in the 1980s.

The major reason behind the Saudi annoyance and Dr Malik’s subsequent removal was stated to be a seminar organised at the university on ‘Extremism of Prisoners’, in which the then rector was somewhat critical of the kingdom’s policies and political discourse. Malik had labelled Saudi society as ‘uncivilised’ and ‘anti-women’.

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According to the former rector, Zardari had first asked him to stay on but later said it had become difficult for him to sustain Saudi pressure. However, Dr Malik said that many things in the leaked cable were factually incorrect, as ‘some people’ had played a negative role and created confusion that led to his dismissal.

He said he had presented a paper at a conference and his findings were based on his research. “The seminar was organised on the Arab Spring, and as the chair at the event I read a paper on Allama Iqbal. I tried to establish how Iqbal’s poetry played a role in that revolution.”

As per the cable, Saudi officials said the sacked rector had dubbed Saudi society as followers of Abu Lahab, Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) paternal uncle who was openly opposed to Islam. They claimed that Malik had said God’s name could not be kept alive in an authoritarian society. “He also criticised the Saudi police for not taking action on crimes against women and said they are buried alive in the kingdom,” stated the cable.

Mosque controversy: Students file plea in court against IIUI management

Recounting one of his meetings with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman, the former rector said Zardari first told him that he would stay on as the rector as long as the PPP remained in power. Malik said: “He also extended my tenure, noting down on my file – until further orders.”

But once the then Saudi foreign minister approached Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zardari discussed the issue with the IIUI rector and asked him to pick any other institution, citing ‘sensitivity’ of the matter. “First I was sent on an indefinite leave, and later I was sacked,” recalled Dr Malik, who is working on a book these days.

When contacted, Zardari’s spokesman Senator Farhatullah Babar said, “He [Zardari] really doesn’t know about the background of Professor Malik’s removal.”

“The one thing he knows is that during last days of his tenure, ex-rector of IIUI went on indefinite leave,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Raj
    Nov 16, 2015 - 5:15AM

    Educational institutions are the very foundation of a healthy and vibrant society. Imparting teachings from the medival times will only take your curent generation backwards…say no to saudi money and rid urselves of these unnecessary problems. Let ur students flourish with open minds and scientific rational….its will benefit ur economy and bring peace to the region…religious fundamentalists have no place in educational institutions…..Recommend

  • Mrs HighBall
    Nov 16, 2015 - 5:40AM

    Whaddaya expect ?! IIUI is nothing but a glorified madrassah anyways which has march to the beat of a wahabbi drum. Add to that the scruples- bereft Mr Zardari and Dr Malik was faced wirh a one-way ticket to palookaville !Recommend

  • Naeem Khan
    Nov 16, 2015 - 6:28AM

    It is time that the Saudi interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan is stopped. When would our nation ever wake up from this long slumber. Wahabism has devastated Pakistan and those who are receiving funds from Saudi Arabia or any other Arab States in Pakistan should be watched carefully. some how our ruling class is indebted personally to the Saudis for their money and they are dragging the country to be subservient to the Saudis who are taking us backward 1500 years. Majority of the Pakistanis are progressive people and there is no room for Wahabism to be imposed on them by the ruling class. Recommend

  • k.k
    Nov 16, 2015 - 6:35AM

    The last days of his (Malik) tenure I remembered he was gone completely mad violating all the very basic principles of the university, huge pressure and resistance come out from the students organization specially IJT constantly demonstrated on Co -Mushaira issue arranged under his supervision.. Recommend

  • Shaukat ali
    Nov 16, 2015 - 6:39AM

    What do you expect when you take free money from the one of the most fundamental and illiterate nations in the world!!Recommend

  • Nov 16, 2015 - 6:42AM

    In last days of his tenure Dr.Malik was completely gone mad violating all the very basic principles of the university code of conduct, faced huge pressure and resistance from the students organizations specially from IJT on organizing a Co-Mushaira under his supervision..!! Recommend

  • wut
    Nov 16, 2015 - 10:28AM

    I never knew IIUI was Saudi funded. Why are we allowing this? Recommend

  • Amir
    Nov 16, 2015 - 12:38PM

    Our rulers can’t even blink without Royals blessings. Recommend

  • Saqib Mehtab
    Nov 16, 2015 - 1:39PM

    Many Shias were refused admission in the early days of the university. I don’t know if this has changed now.Recommend

  • Arshad Hussain
    Nov 16, 2015 - 2:19PM

    @Mrs HighBall:
    Dear Don’t beat about the Bush. You know our Media Give big stories and later show small apology for breaking wrong.Recommend

  • tellmore
    Nov 16, 2015 - 4:14PM

    @Naeem Khan:
    How can you say this? In all difficult times, Saudi has helped and stood behind Pakistan. Even the nuclear program of Pakistan is backed by Saudi. If the support of Saudi and brotherly Arab nations is not there, Pakistan would have become bankrupt long time back. Hence It is wise for Pakistan to grateful to the nations which behind during difficult times and further the identity of Pakistan is with Allah and Sharia. So the funds given by Saudi should be used properly to impart the Sharia law and education to the people ultimately implementing Sharia law strictly in Pakistan. This is the only solution for all the problems of Pakistan.
    Just compare Pakistan with the other countries which are implementing Sharia strictly like Saudi , Abudhabi etc. How rick they are and how Pakistan is . So Sharia is the only way to solve all problems in Pakistan. Do not insinuate Saudis, we are indebted to them.Recommend

  • Asif
    Nov 16, 2015 - 7:49PM

    @tellmore: Arrest this psycho under NAP. Saudis are the biggest enemy of Pakistan and world peace.Recommend

  • sajid kaleem
    Nov 19, 2015 - 11:03AM

    How can you say this? In all difficult times, Saudi has helped and stood behind Pakistan.But i would like to Say that Mosque is compulsory for Such a grand Islamic International university.Otherwise the university name should be changed .I am a present student of IIUI.Recommend

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