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December 10, 2019

Fuuast senate meets today to appoint acting vice chancellor amid lobbying by various groups


December 10, 2019

The administrative chaos at the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science & Technology (Fuuast), which has never completely subsided since its inception, has emerged again with full force due to the tug of war between faculty members, non-teaching Fuuast senators and political circles – all of them trying to appoint a yes-man as the acting vice chancellor (VC) of the varsity.

The post of VC at Fuuast has been vacant since the last month after the Islamabad High Court (IHC) nullified the appointment of Syed Altaf Hussain as the VC.

The Fuuast senate, which is the supreme decision-making body of the varsity, will be meeting today (Tuesday) at the Sindh Governor House for the appointment of an acting VC.

Since Fuuast’s establishment, only one VC has been able to complete his full tenure of five years; whereas, all the other VCs were fired for various reasons, including corruption charges, mismanagement, misuse of power and others.

A number of key positions, including those of the registrar, controller of examinations, finance director, academics director, and others, are also currently lying vacant at the varsity, due to which its administrative affairs have been in a mess.

President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi, who is also the chancellor of the varsity, will preside over the meeting through video link. It is expected that senators will also make recommendations for the appointment of a permanent VC and streamlining the university’s administrative affairs.

The vision of Fuuast

Fuuast was established in 2002 by the federal government under an ordinance promulgated by then military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf. The varsity was founded to fulfil Baba-e-Urdu Maulvi Abdul Haq’s mission of imparting higher education in the national language.

Two colleges at that time – the Federal Urdu Arts College in Saddar Town and the Federal Urdu Science College in Gulshan-e-Iqbal – were merged to form two campuses of the varsity. These colleges were set up by Baba-e-Urdu in 1949.

However, the university has its principal seat in Islamabad as per the ordinance. At present, there are a total of three campuses of Fuuast, including the Abdul Haq and Gulshan campuses in Karachi and the Islamabad campus. The varsity also has the mandate to establish its campuses in any province of Pakistan.

Fuuast VCs

As per the varsity record, then president had appointed Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui as the first VC of Fuuast on November 13, 2002. Dr Siddiqui, however, resigned on January 5, 2004. Later, Aftab Ahmed Khan served as the administrator of Fuuast from January 7, 2004, to September 29, 2004.

Prof Dr Iqbal Mohsin was appointed as the second permanent VC of the varsity by a search committee on September 30, 2004. However, he resigned on June 8, 2006, over differences with then Fuuast Senate deputy chairperson Dr Jamiluddin Aali.

On June 9, 2006, the administrative affairs of the varsity were given in the control of incharge VC Prof Dr Syed Kamaluddin. Later, Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser assumed the office of the Fuuast VC on January 22, 2008. Dr Qaisar has also been the only head of the institute who was able to complete his five-year tenure from 2008 to 2013.

Upon the completion of his tenure, Dr Qaisar took charge as the VC of the University of Karachi while Prof Dr Zafar Iqbal replaced him as the Fuuast VC on February 1, 2013. After two years, Dr Zafar was sacked by then president of Pakistan over corruption charges on March 10, 2015, after which Dr Qaisar headed Fuuast as its acting VC from March 11, 2015.

Afterwards, the Fuuast senate decided to make Prof Dr Sulaiman D Muhammad as the acting VC of the varsity on August 12, 2015. He served at the varsity till September 14, 2017. His tenure became controversial after his allegedly plagiarised PhD thesis and research articles made headlines.

On September 15, 2017, the IHC allowed Dr Zafar to join the varsity again. The court, however, directed the Fuuast senate to convene a meeting and hear him.

On October 6, 2017, Dr Zafar refused to appear before the senate. In the aftermath, the Fuuast senate recommended the chancellor to appoint a permanent VC, after which Prof Dr Syed Altaf Hussain was appointed as the new VC on December 7, 2017.

Present administrative chaos

The appointment of Dr Hussain brought some stability in the administrative matters of the country but it was short as the IHC overruled his appointment on October 30, 2019, on a petition filed by Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal who argued that the VC did not fulfil the qualifying criteria for professors set by the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) and meet the required qualifications mentioned in the advertisement.

Dr Muhammad Iqbal submitted that it was mandatory for a professor to have 15 research publications with at least five publications in the last five years in the HEC-approved journals. The petitioner said Dr Hussain did not fulfil even that criterion for a professor.

Tug of war

The post of VC at Fuuast is vacant since the IHC’s decision. To have some yes-man appointed at the acting VC, various groups, including faculty members, non-teaching members of the Fuuast senate and political leaders, have started lobbying.

Commenting on the Fuuast senate meeting convened today (Tuesday), a teacher of the varsity said top office-bearers of the senate want to appoint Dr Qaisar as the acting VC, whereas, some teachers are lobbying for Prof Dr Muhammad Ziauddin who is currently serving as the dean of faculty of arts at the varsity.

The teacher added that some politically influential persons also want a person from Islamabad to become the acting VC. The Fuuast senators have, however, agreed that the acting VC would be bound to sign an affidavit at the time of joining in which he would declare that he would not apply for the post of the permanent VC whenever an advertisement for it appeared in the newspapers.

Some teachers also predict that Prof Dr Arif Zubair, who is the most senior faculty member of the varsity, would be chosen as the acting VC. At present, Prof Rubina Mushtaq, Prof Dr Muhammad Zahid, Prof Ziauddin, Prof Dr Masood Mashkoor Siddiqui and Prof Dr Fatima Imam are the most senior faculty members at Fuuast.

Where’s the fault?

On December 6, 2019, two Fuuast senators, Assistant Professor Dr Irfan Aziz and Prof Dr Tausif Ahmed Khan said in a joint statement that the chancellor of the university should constitute a special committee to review the Fuuast ordinance.

The only paragraph that comes to the rescue in the absence of the VC of the university in the ordinance is 12 (7) which reads: “At any time when the office of the Vice Chancellor is vacant, or the Vice Chancellor is absent or is unable to perform the functions of his office due to illness or some other cause, the Senate shall make such arrangements for the performance of the duties of the Vice Chancellor it may deem it.”

They said all the key positions had been filled with some temporary arrangement and no full-time appointments had been made for the last many years. Practically, a federal university with three campuses is being run by nobody who meets the standards set by its own charter, they claimed.

They lamented that during the past decade, Fuuast’s ad hoc administration was able to neither hold a convocation nor fully constitute the selection board for the faculty. Likewise, more than 70 per cent of teaching posts at the varsity are vacant, they added.