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December 13, 2019

‘My son and his memory were missing from NED University’s convocation’


December 13, 2019

Muhammad Taha at a speech competition. Photos by author

All he wanted was a few words of condolence – and just a moment of prayer – for his son at the NED University of Engineering and Technology’s convocation which was held a week ago.

Abdul Sattar’s dream to see his son wearing a mortar board and graduation gown had already been shattered nine months ago when he saw his son’s body wrapped in a burial shroud. Muhammad Taha, 23, a final year student of the NED University, lost his life in a road accident on March 8 this year. His motorcycle was struck by a rickshaw on the thoroughfare between Jauhar Chowrangi and Pehlwan Goth.

An eyewitness told his family that Taha died while trying to save a woman who had suddenly come in front of his motorcycle. As he made a swerve, he was hit by the rickshaw. “I wish I could have been there to hold his hand so that he was not alone,” said Sattar. “Perhaps, Taha was born to save the life of an unknown woman. He was a caring son and he would respect the women. The reason was when he was just three years old, his mother passed away,” the father said.

A brilliant student

Sattar recalled that Taha was a brilliant student having a good academic record. He had won many awards and merit certificates.

Since his childhood, he was a good speaker and Lt Gen (retd) Moinuddin Haider had awarded him a merit certificate at a speech competition in the Hamdard Naunehal Assembly in 2012. He was also the vice president of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers NED chapter. “I was expecting that one day Taha would become a brilliant engineer, but the accident took his life”.

‘Ruled it out’

“Is it too much to ask for a moment of prayer for my son at the university’s convocation?” sighs Sattar, grieving at the age of 70 for his youngest child’s demise. He has another son and five daughters.

“Firstly they [the university] refused to confer an honorary degree on my [deceased] son. They said there were no rules which allowed this. Secondly they turned down my request to issue a letter of appreciation for Taha,” groans Sattar as he takes out from a thick folder of documents a copy of his son’s final semester fee voucher which Taha submitted to the university hours before his death. “Then, they even denied my request to have a moment of prayer for him at the convocation. Which rules kept them from uttering a sentence of condolence for him at the convocation ceremony?”

Taha's father, Abdul Sattar, showing his identity cards.

“Not everything is defined in the rule book. Organisations and institutions do accept requests on humanitarian grounds and this is what I was expecting from them [the university],” the father laments. Instead of receiving ‘a letter of appreciation’ for his son, Sattar says the university sent him a letter for cancellation of his son’s admission.

According to the university’s standard procedure, a letter for cancellation of admission is issued to students who drop out of the university or pass away during their degree programmes. “The letter [for cancellation of admission] wasn’t even an expression of condolence,” complains Sattar.

‘We did whatever we could’

Vice Chancellor Sarosh Lodhi says the university will withdraw the pervious letter sent to Sattar and that a letter of recognition will be soon issued to appreciate his deceased son, who was a final semester student at the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

The university has also returned Sattar his son’s security deposit of Rs7240 and his last semester fee.

But the vice chancellor says the university could not entertain Sattar’s request to confer a degree on Taha as he had not completed his degree programme. The VC, however, did not have a satisfactory answer to what stopped the university from presenting a certificate of appreciation to Taha’s family at the convocation.

The university had earlier arranged a condolence reference for Taha in a seminar which was also attended by the Motorway Police additional IG, asserts the vice chancellor. However, Sattar alleges that the university just included a session on Taha “in an already-scheduled seminar”. But Sattar affirms that he attended the session and was given a chance to speak on the occasion.

‘I just wanted respect’

The father says he has submitted an application to the Sindh chief minister, informing him about “his emotional distress”.

“Taha’s mother passed away when he was only three years old. I was both his father and mother. I just wanted respect for my son. But they [the university] behaved like heartless machines,” complains Sattar. “I demand of the authorities to make it sure that parents of deceased students are honoured at the university’s convocation. If they can have time for all those speeches, why can’t they have a moment of silence for the departed souls?”