Govt to appoint VCs as petition against law still pending

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The provincial government had enacted the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Universities Act (KPUA), 2012, around two years ago to reconstitute and reorganise the universities established or to be established by the government.

The then Awami National Party-led government had drawn criticism on some of its provisions especially related to the appointment of vice-chancellors (VCs) as the opponents believed it would increase political interference in the universities as the governor/chancellor has to act on the advice of the government. The law is presently applicable to 12 public sector universities.

While an important writ petition pertaining to the appointment of VCs in five universities has been pending before the Peshawar High Court, the provincial government is set to appoint VCs to three other universities. Some senior faculty members believe that so far none of these universities have framed statutes governing the terms and conditions of the VCs, therefore, appointments under the present law would result in legal complications.

The petition was initially filed in 2012 when the government had advertised posts of some VCs in Oct 2012. The petition was filed by four senior teachers named Dr Ameer Nawaz, dean Faculty of Life and Environmental Science, University of Peshawar (UoP); Dr Mohammad Abid, department of computer science; Dr Syed Zahir Shah, Islamia College University; and Dr Noor Mohammad, UoP.

During pendency of the writ petition VCs were appointed to five of the universities following which the court directed the petitioners to file an amended petition so that those VCs should also be made respondents. Recently, the petitioners have filed amended writ petition and included the VCs in the list of respondents. The respondents are the chancellor of the universities; the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly Speaker; UoP VC Dr Rasool Jan; Malakand University VC Jauhar Ali; Bannu University VC Abdur Rahim Marwat, Haripur University VC Dr Nasir Ali and Bacha Khan University, Charsadda, VC Dr Fazal Rahim Marwat.

The petitioners stated that autonomous status of the universities should be maintained and amendments should be made in the Act so as to ensure appointment of VCs on merit.

Under Section 12(1) of the Act, the VC shall be appointed by the chancellor on the advice of the government from a panel of three candidates proposed by the search committee. Furthermore, Section 12 (2) of the law provides that the search committee shall consist of provincial minister for higher education, who shall be convener, the chief secretary, provincial secretary higher education department, three eminent members of the society, two eminent educationists, and secretary of the administrative department.

The petitioners have contended that these two provisions would result in increasing political interference in the universities as the minister would be convener of the committee whereas chancellor has to act on the advice of the provincial government.

Recently, the higher education department has advertised that the search committee for VCs has invited applications for the positions of VCs for Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University, Peshawar, and the post of officiating VC Islamia College University, Peshawar. These VCs would be appointed for four-year term but the officiating VC would be for four years or till the arrival of the VC Ajmal Khan.

Interestingly, in the advertisements certain eligibility criteria were given which has not been available in the KPUA. Under Section 11 of the Act, the VC shall be an eminent academician, a distinguished administrator or a former public office-holder and shall be appointed on such terms and conditions as may be prescribed. However, in the advertisement the government has removed the words “a former public office-holder.” The advertisement provides that the candidate should have 10 years minimum experience in postgraduate teaching/research or experience in executive administration. It is added that the candidate should preferably have earned PhD degree.

A UoP teacher asked how the government could add conditions in an advertisement in addition to the criteria given in the Act.

Advocate Nazeer Ahmad, dealing with cases related to universities, said that the condition of only 10-year experience was used in past for accommodating junior professors who were on good terms with the then government and there were apprehensions that the same condition would be again misused. He suggested that these appointments should be kept pending till decision on the writ petition, which would be heard on March 19.

Source: The News.