Govt restrained from giving UoP land to other universities

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A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Friday restrained the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government from handing over a vast piece of land of the botanical garden of University of Peshawar (UoP) at Azakhel to two other universities.

The bench comprising Justice Abdul Lateef Khan and Justice Mohammad Daud Khan also sought comments from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary, provincial secretary Higher Education Department, secretary local government and the UoP through its registrar in a writ petition filed by the Peshawar University Teachers Association (Puta) against the decision of handing over land of the botanical garden to other universities for setting up their campuses.

The court also directed the provincial government to refrain from implementing the controversial decision till next date of hearing, to be fixed later. The controversial decision has drawn flak from the UoP teachers, civil society and environmentalists.

The Puta had filed the petition through its president Dr Fazli Nasir and general secretary Fayyaz Ali, requesting the court to declare the impugned decision as illegal and without jurisdiction as the land belonged to the UoP where the Higher Education Commission had invested a huge sum of money on establishment of the botanical garden, a centre of biodiversity and public park.

The respondents in the petition are: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister; the KP government through its chief secretary; the Higher Education Department through its secretary; the secretary local government; and the UoP through its registrar.

The petitioner’s counsel, Mian Mohibullah Kakakhel, stated that on Feb 24 the chief minister presided over an official meeting and decided that the botanical garden and centre of biodiversity belonging to the UoP should be shrunk from 83 acres (677 kanals) to 100 kanals and decreed that rest of the land be given to the AIR University and Technical University.

He contended that the botanical garden enjoyed the status of being one of the 3,000 internationally recognised such gardens across the world and it was the only one in Pakistan to be included in the elite list of Botanic Gardens in Conservation. He said that the UoP botanical garden enjoyed a unique position in the world botanical gardens by its focus on education and research.

Mr Kakakhel stated that the UoP syndicate had approved the establishment of Centre of Plant Biodiversity, which included the botanical garden, on Dec 10, 2003. He added that the HEC provided a developmental grant of Rs37.9 million to the UoP for development of infrastructure for the centre and garden. He requested the court that till final disposal of the petition the government be stopped from implementing its decision.

The petitioner claimed that the provincial government being part of the Biodiversity Action Plan as per international commitment had transferred 83 acres of Azakhel Park for establishment of the Centre of Plant Biodiversity and Botanical Garden on Sept 29, 2005. He stated that a deed agreement was signed between the district government, Nowshera, and UoP on Dec 16, 2005 in a public ceremony held at Azakhel Park in the presence of then chief minister.

It is stated that the Directorate of Centre of Plant Biodiversity was made functional as per decision of the syndicate in Feb 2006. The Botanical Garden Conservation International (BGCI) had declared the UoP botanical garden globally recognised in 2012.

Source: Dawn News.