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September 19, 2017

Despite SHC stay order, Aisha Bawany College trustees shut students out

Karachi

September 19, 2017

The gates of the Aisha Bawany College were welded shut as worried students watched helplessly on Monday despite the Sindh High Court’s directives of Saturday staying the educational institution’s handover to its trustees. 

On Monday, the high court issued notices to the Aisha Bawany Trust, military estate officers and other respondents on a Sindh government lawsuit seeking the dissolution of the board of trustees of Aisha Bawany Trust and the appointment of new trustees with the require educational qualifications.

Filing the lawsuit of over Rs150 million, Advocate General Zamir Ghumro stated that the government had learnt of several breaches of trust by the trustees of the Aisha Bawany Trust, including the appointment of eight trustees of the same family in violation of the spirit of the original trust deed and object of the public trust.

The top government lawyer submitted that the president of Pakistan, through the military estate office, had granted 3.169 acres comprising survey No. 185/2 Karachi Cantonment the to plaintiff on lease for 30 years on May 14, 1959, and the lease was later renewed on January 7, 1991. 

He contended that the main purpose of the grant of lease were to build a public school, a staff quarter, a mosque, a library and a multi-purpose central hall ancillary to education and religion, and not to make any changes in the plan without the written permission of the commander in chief of the Pakistan Army.

He submitted that the public trust constructed two buildings from donations of different philanthropists in which boys and girls schools and colleges were established.  The advocate general maintained that the trustees of the Aisha Bawany Trust, instead of calling themselves as trustees, frequently claimed to be the beneficial owners of the property and it was evident from the fact that all the new eight trustees were members of the same family. 

He said that under martial law regulation 118, no contract could be entered into by the original trustees, and the illegal occupation of the premises and an extension of lease for another 30 years were clear violations of the martial law regulation as after the promulgation of the regulation the lease stood confiscated, i.e. terminated.

Questioning the handing over of the school building to the Aisha Bawany Academy, the attorney general said no notice was given to the military estate officer under the provision of the clause of the lease deed; therefore, lease in favour of the lessor stood terminated for having unlawfully handing over the possession of the suit property to the licensee academy.

He further stated that since the rent and premium amount for an area of 3.65 acres on Sharea Faisal for a lease of 30 years was for a nominal amount and the buildings were constructed with public donations; therefore, by no stretch of the imagination could the plaintiff claim to have the title of the property. 

He submitted that cause of action occurred when facts came to knowledge when the school portion of the premises were occupied illegally by the Aisha Bawany Academy in collusion with its trustees of the trust and that the present trustees were misusing the suit property for commercial gain on a daily basis.

The court was requested to dissolve the board of trustees, comprising members of a single family, and appoint trustees with professional educational qualifications and other prominent persons from different walks of life who had attained high office through merit.

The advocate general also requested an audit of the trust for the last 50 years, besides a joint survey of the land through the board of revenue and the cantonment board. He requested handover of the trust property to new trustees. 

After the preliminary hearing of the lawsuit, the SHC issued notices to the respondents and called their comments.

Contempt plea 

The provincial government also filed a contempt of court application against the trustees of the Aisha Bawany Trust for not obeying the court order. The provincial law officer submitted that gthe SHC on Saturday had restrained the executing court from conducting any further proceedings regarding the award of possession of the Aisha Bawany College to its trustees till September 23.  However, the trustees violated the interim stay order on Monday by welding the college gates shut.

CM makes promise

Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that he would try his best to ensure the resumption of academic activities at the college in the shortest possible time. The problem was related to the education of some 2,400 students enrolled in both the shifts of the college, a statement issued by the CM House quoted the chief minister as saying.

The statement said the CM chaired an important meeting on the issue, and said that it was his own problem, “more than the problem of the students concerned”. He assured the affected students and their parents/guardians that academic activities at the college would be resumed at the earliest. “Please have trust me on this issue.”