Muhammad Bilal Sethi
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman seems to be playing hide and seek with the masses in the province. The said leader has totally ignored the led from the day he has been in chair. Apart from missing tens of convocations, he has also mishandled several important cases of the higher educational institutions, during the past 1.5 years of his Governorship.
He turned down the University of Swabi’s request to chair the convocation, thus, the Chief Minister had to come to the forefront. Similarly, his delayed action in case of the famous Edwardes College left students in experiencing loss of time, intellect and motivation. Nevertheless, as he unveiled the truth in his presser, in this case, back in November 2019, made us believe that government knew ground realities but action was not taken in time. Responding to a journalist’s question he said that the government should do its job and Governor his, also confused liaison between the government and the Governor House. However, such a casual attitude and lack of interest has questioned PTI’s educational emergency.
There is no doubt in saying that higher education in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has crashed to ground in agony. Bankruptcy of three universities, lack of permanent Vice Chancellors in over 05 universities despite passing of years, poor management, time-after-time bans on recruitment and promotions, delayed meetings of the Boards that have had Governor in chair and protesting students justify this pain of the higher education department. Unlike its past tenure, PTI’s government did not nominate a minister for higher education for a long-while this time. During this period, the portfolio resided with the Chief Minister who used to abandon its meetings due to heavy workload on his shoulders. Thus, the Secretary had to appear in two capacities: as Minister’s representative and Secretary to Government on Higher Education.
Faculty members in Edwardes College remained on strike for sixteen days as Governor was not calling meeting of the Board of Governors (BoG). Here, it is important to remember that the Peshawar High Court had also observed in its judgment that the standard of Edwardes College had fallen and hundreds of students had migrated from this century-old learning abode to other institutions to “save their future”. The august court had directed the “concerned officials” to restore the glory of the college. Similarly, the staffers of the University of Peshawar also protested, demanding the Governor to lift ban imposed on promotions and recruitments in the varsity. Moreover, unrest was created by the workers in Islamia College University against government’s decision of allowing incumbent Vice Chancellor, Habib Ahmed to continue with his Vice Chancellorship despite end of tenure. This extension was later on declared ‘illegal’ by the honourable court of justice and government had to de-notify the decision. The hallmark of the event was that the said Vice Chancellor was given the permission because he hailed from same native village as Chief Minister’s i.e. Swat. During all these episodes, the group that suffered the most was that of students’, the youngsters, Pakistan’s tomorrow.
Every time the masses protested, they sought governor and authorities. But with time passing by, the governor and his aides would again “hide”. A deeply saddening and discouraging episode was witnessed when senior faculty members and students of a prestigious college were protesting outside the governor house but no-one was there to console. The then Secretary Higher Education appeared to happen at that time and confronted students. He went to the college to witness what was happening there. A saw everything and announced that things settle gradually and gradual settlement meant years to him as the group had been going through hard times over years.
If an action, pertaining to students’ future, is delayed for one year, means that two semesters of students have wasted. In BS programs, waste of two semesters means that 12 subjects have affected. This means that the students should be prepared to understand that their 25% of degree is in vain. As KP universities came across incidents that followed lack of interest at the end of Governor and the Government for longer spans i.e. even a year or above, thesehavecaused irreparable loss to the students. The government in no way can undo this damage. Itsshocks will appear in the long run. I wonder what product Khyber Pakhtunkhawa will contribute to the nation in such situation.
It would be a great injustice to the people in general and Pakistan in particular if emphasis is not laid on higher education, considering its significance in the modern times. Sincere leadership has to come to the front and lead this cause for the betterment of nation. The higher education needs ample share of attention. Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaaf chairman, Imran Khan spoke of “changing the system” and for that change people supported him and his party. If they also have to follow the traditions of “gradual settlement” like past governments, then PTI does not make any difference. A prompt response to problems is need of the day. As WhatsApp replaces letter-writing, tolerance level of people has reduced to a great extent.
The latter was a time-taking phenomenon and thus people were tolerant. I am discerning with the help of this metaphor that the PTI has to adopt itself with the shifts in the modern world; otherwise, it should expect no support in future.