Peshawar   -  While the authorities have started appointment of the vice-chancellors to the universities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, big guns have plunged into the field to install their favourite candidates, well-placed sources told The Nation.

The authorities have called candidates for interviews on November 17 and 18 to appoint regular vice-chancellors to eight universities. The interview process for several other universities would be held once the ongoing appointments are done.

A well-placed source in the academia told this correspondent that even speaker National Assembly has tried to influence the members of the Academic and Search Committee. He said the candidates’ links with the CM House, Governor House and other government leaders would prove important in the ongoing appointments.

It may be mentioned here that the KP Academic and Search Committee for VCs is headed by Dr Atta-ur-Rehman as convener, while the members include Prof Dr Shoaib Ahmed Khan, Chancellor Sir Syed CASE Institute of Technology Islamabad, Prof Dr Ghulam Abbas Miana, Rector Riphah International University, Islamabad, Dr Akram Sheikh, former deputy chairman Planning Commission, and advisor NUST Islamabad, Prof Dr Arif Nazir Butt, dean Business Management Studies, LUMS, Prof Dr Anwar Hussain Gilani, Vice-Chancellor, University if Haripur, and Dawood Khan,  Secretary Higher Education Department, KP.

One senior member of the Academic and Search Committee, the name being withheld, has even expressed his annoyance and said that the appointment process is likely to be politically influenced.

The ongoing process of interviews is meant for appointment of VCs to the University of Peshawar, University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, Kohat University of Science and Technology, University of Science and Technology, Bannu, Bacha Khan University Charsadda, University of Swabi, Shuhada-e-Army Public School University of Technology, Nowshera and Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan. 

The positions of VCs at several universities, including Islamia College University Peshawar, Fata University Darra Adamkhel, Khyber Medical University Peshawar, Chitral University, Buner University and Women University Mardan would be filled later as their scrutiny is also underway.

The tenure of a vice-chancellor is three years. It may be mentioned here that Dr Imtiaz, who served as VC of University of Swabi as well as Women University, himself hails from Swabi district, to which the Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser also belongs. Similarly, a former VC of Islamia College University Dr Habib and VC Gomal University Dr Iftikhar are from the native area of the Chief Minister in Swat district.

Similarly, Dr Razia Sultana, acting Vice-chancellor of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University, has also completed her tenure as VC previously and now serving on acting charge basis as VC. Dr Razia, who hails from Nowshera district, had been appointed VC in the provincial government of Pervez Khattak, who also belongs to Nowshera. Later, PHC struck down her appointment as VC after other candidates approached the court. Later, the Supreme Court set aside the PHC verdict and restored her as VC in the year 2016.

The vice-chancellor of Women University Mardan had once completed her tenure and after that she also served for another two to three years on acting basis. The vice chancellor is the wife of a senior officer, who earlier also served as the principal secretary to governor, who is chancellor of universities in the province.

According to the rules, a pro-VC should be given the charge of acting VC once the VC of a university completes the three-year tenure. However, in absence of pro-VC, the VCs can be assigned the acting charge.

A former VC of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM), Dr Khurshid Ahmed, who was brought from the overseas and appointed VC reportedly by the PTI leadership, later left the university and returned back to the UK. He left a message for the university colleagues, telling them that he left before completing his tenure because the UK has asked its nationals to return to the country amid the Corona pandemic.  Later an audit of the tenure of Dr Khurshid unearthed embezzlement Rs2.5 billion. Besides other irregularities, the audit report revealed that Dr Khurshid Khan was illegally allotted university guesthouse in Islamabad. A sum of Rs1.012 million was incurred on account of guesthouse during 2017-18, which was unjustified and also recurring loss to government.

Meanwhile, Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association president for KP, Dr Sartaj Alam, told this correspondent that the appointment process should be on merit. “Universities are seats of learning and if here the merit is not followed, what the society will expect from other sectors,” he said, adding that candidates must be appointed without any political affiliations.

Discussing the ongoing appointments of VCs, Special Secretary Higher Education KP Ali Qadir said that the Academic and Search Committee are independent in their decisions. “Dr Atta-ue-Rehman, who heads the committee, is himself Advisor to the Prime Minister, his portfolio is that of a federal minister, while other members are also independent, this is why they can’t be politically influenced,” he added.