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July 20, 2020

No end of Fuuast’s administrative crisis in sight as varsity again ends up without vice chancellor


July 20, 2020

For the past several years, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast) has been facing severe administrative chaos, a major reason for which has been politicking by teachers of the varsity and groupings among them for occupying administrative posts.

Last week, another mess was observed at the varsity when its acting vice chancellor (VC), Dr Arif Zubair, who had been appointed for a period of six months by President of Pakistan and Fuuast Chancellor Dr Arif Alvi, completed his ad hoc term.

There is a general perception among the staffers that instead of teaching and research, many faculty members of FUUAST are focused on grouping and lobbying to control the affairs of the varsity. Meanwhile, the process of appointing the new VC has hit snags due to the COVID-19 lockdown and other reasons.

At present, around all key administrative positions of the varsity are being run on an ad hoc basis. Resultantly, many issues that need to be addressed hang in the balance and no serious efforts are being made to fix such problems.

The administrative set-up

On December 10, 2019, the Fuuast senate — one of the top decision making body of the varsity — in its 40th meeting appointed Dr Zubair as the acting VC. The senate further recommended formation of a seven-member search committee to select appropriate candidates for the position of a regular VC.

Initially, five members, who included two nominees of the chancellor’s office and three nominees of the senate comprising two senators and one educationist, were inducted in the search committee. However, the seats of two members who had to be nominated by the varsity’s syndicate remained unfilled at the time of the 40th senate meeting.

The reason behind the two vacant seats was a decision of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that had removed last permanent VC Prof Dr Altaf Hussain from his position, after which convening a meeting of the syndicate was not possible as the body could not meet in the absence of the VC. It was also decided in the senate meeting that the syndicate meeting would be called as soon as possible to nominate the remaining two non-senator members of the search committee to activate it.

After approving Dr Zubair as the acting VC, the senate restrained him from appointing, terminating and promoting any of the employees.

At the 40th senate meeting, Dr Zubair had assured the body that he would not apply for the post of the regular VC, saying that he would only run the caretaker setup until a regular VC was appointed. However, in its 42nd meeting, the Fuuast senate on Dr Zubair’s wish allowed

him to apply for the post of the regular VC.

Without a VC

The syndicate of Fuuast approved the induction of lecturer Dr Asghar Dashti and Dr Iftikhar Ahmed Tahiri as two non-senator members in the search committee. The appointment of the former met with criticism by some teachers as he had earlier faced plagiarism charges.

The minutes of the syndicate meeting were brought in the 42nd senate meeting for approval. Last week, the Fuuast chancellor approved the minutes and Acting Fuuast Registrar Dr Sajid Jahangir notified the search committee for the appointment of a regular VC.

However, by the time the search committee was notified, the six-month tenure of the acting VC, during which a regular VC was supposed to be appointed, had already lapsed.

On July 7, the federal education and professional training ministry informed the Fuuast acting registrar that the tenure of the acting VC had ended and asked him to provide the latest status of the acting VC and proceed the case as per the Fuuast ordinance through the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

However, three senators of the varsity, in order to deal with the administrative crisis in the absence of any regular or acting VC, formed an emergency committee on their own on July 6 to find some way out. The three senators declared that until a meeting of the senate was convened, the current administrative setup would continue looking after the affairs of the varsity.

However, some of the teachers are of the view that such an emergency committee has no legal basis as it has not been officially formed by the senate. They are of the view that there are no provisions for any emergency committee in the FUUAST Act CXIX 2002.

Fuuast Senate Deputy Chairman Javed Ashraf Hussain also believes that there is no legal basis of the emergency committee. He said only the senate could extend the tenure of Dr Zubair as the acting VC.

Pending inquiry

Meanwhile, the acting VC has been surrounded by a controversy regarding his eligibility for professorship.

On March 21, 2016, one of the varsity teachers complained to then Fuuast vice chancellor that Dr Zubair was not eligible to be appointed as a professor as per the required criteria published in the advertisement back then. In response to the complaint, the syndicate, in its 32nd meeting, constituted a seven-member committee and tasked it with submitting a report within 15 days. However, no report has been submitted by the committee till date.

The 38th syndicate meeting that was held on February 20, 2019, made changes in that inquiry committee due to the retirement of some of its members. However, since then, the inquiry committee failed to even hold a single meeting to investigate the matter.

Now, some of the teachers have raised questions over the candidature of the Dr Zubair for the post of the regular VC. They say if Dr Zubair becomes a regular VC and the inquiry committee submits its report against him, the varsity would suffer another administrative chaos like it has faced in the past.

A sad saga

Unfortunately, Fuuast has been facing administrative crisis since its inception with only one of its VCs completing the full tenure throughout its history.

When the Urdu College was converted into a varsity, 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, till September 29, 2004.

Later, Prof Dr Iqbal Mohsin was appointed as the second permanent VC of the varsity 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 acting VC Prof Dr Syed Kamaluddin. Later, Prof Dr Muhammad Qaiser assumed the vice chancellor’s office on January 22, 2008. Dr Qaisar was the only head of the institute who completed 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. Prof Dr Zafar Iqbal replaced him as the Fuuast VC on February 1, 2013. After two years, Dr Iqbal 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.

On August 12, 2015, the Fuuast senate decided to make Prof Dr Sulaiman D Muhammad as the acting VC of the varsity. He served at the varsity till September 14, 2017. His tenure became controversial after reports of 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 acting VC on December 7, 2017. Later he was appointed as a regular VC, but the IHC in October 2019 terminated his services and declared that Dr Hussain did not fulfil the criteria for VC at the time of his appointment.

After the removal of Dr Hussain, the varsity has been running without a regular VC. On January 7, 2020, Dr Zubair was made the acting VC for a period of six months that ended on July 7. Since then, the varsity is being run without a VC.

Vacant key positions

Currently, almost all the key administrative positions in Fuuast, including those of the registrar, treasurer, auditor, controller of examination, director admissions, director evening programme, director planning and development, director quality assurance cell, director office of research, innovation and commercialisation, incharge Islamabad Campus, deputy registrar Islamabad, deputy treasurer, deputy controller of examinations Islamabad, and director research and publications, are vacant.

Some teachers claim that each of the acting administration appoints blue-eyed employees to run these posts on an ad hoc basis to protect their interests and this game has been running for last many years.

Administration’s viewpoint

When The News contacted the acting VC, acting registrar Dr Sajid Jahangir, Senator Dr Irfan Aziz and Search Committee member Dr Tahiri, they all agreed that the Urdu University was facing a severe administrative crisis. They also pointed out many issues that were resulting in mismanagement at the varsity.

Dr Zubair confirmed that he was a candidate for the post of the regular VC and claimed that his opponents were slandering him. “I tried to resolve the problems but unluckily lots of problems which were inherited from the previous administration are still unaddressed.”

Dr Jahangir was of the view that the present administration was focused on running the varsity effectively. However, the fate of the current administration would be decided in the next

senate meeting, he said.