Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Law University (Szabul), Karachi, the first of its kind in Pakistan, is facing delays in moving into its purpose-built facility, despite the construction's completion with a budget of Rs1.14 billion.
The university, established by the Government of Sindh, was inaugurated in 2013 and temporarily accommodated in the building of the Government Girls Degree College, Clifton.
Originally, the decision to utilize the Girls' Degree College building was made to facilitate academic activities and kick-start the academic year until the completion of the university's dedicated premises. The then chief minister of Sindh, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, approved the temporary arrangement, allowing the university to commence its sessions immediately.
A 14-acre plot allocated by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) in the jurisdiction of Chakragoth, Ibrahim Hydari, was designated for the construction of the university's building. At the time of the allotment, the plot faced challenges with encroachments, including about 250 houses. Through collaborative efforts of the founder vice-chancellor, Justice (retd) Dr Qazi Khalid Ali, and senior government officers, including Karachi Commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Deputy Commissioner Zubair Ahmed Channa, KMC Director Encroachment Mazhar Khan, and KDA Director Jameel Baloch, the plot was successfully vacated.
Key figures such as the then chief justice of the Sindh High Court and current caretaker chief minister, Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar, the then governor, Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan, then chief minister Qaim Ali Shah, and then education minister Nisar Ahmad Khuhro lent their full support during this process.
In the Annual Development Budget (ADP) of 2014-15, a budget of 1145 million rupees was allocated for the construction of the Law University. The foundation stone was laid by the founder vice-chancellor, Justice (retd) Dr Qazi Khalid Ali, in June 2014. The construction, which was nearly completed in 2020, received additional funding of Rs565 million from the federal government through the Public Sector Development Programme. Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed laid the foundation of a research institute.
The Supreme Court commended the university's performance in a case involving the Pakistan Bar Council and issued an order to maintain high standards. Facilities such as a sports ground, a hostel for students, residence for teaching and non-teaching staff, a library, a tuck shop, and a medical clinic earned praise from international institutions and British university delegations for the quality of construction and planning. The last convocation, attended by then chief minister Murad Ali Shah, emphasized the completion of the university's construction within a year. However, this could not be done.
At present, the university has been without a permanent vice-chancellor for the past three months. The registrar is a retired security officer, who was appointed for six months and his tenure has been extended four times so far. There is a retired official who is being given a non-practice allowance although this allowance is reserved for teachers only.
It is anticipated that Caretaker Chief Minister Justice (retd) Maqbool Baqar will address the delay and oversee the transfer of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Law University to its dedicated building, subsequently returning the Government Degree College Clifton building to the college.