The National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training is the top parliamentary body responsible for ensuring that to educational institutes become the pinnacle of excellence through necessary lawmaking and oversight. Irony however, has little regard for titles, as it emerged that members for the same institute are alleged of have subverted that duty.

While grilling a Bacha Khan University official about illegal appointments made at the university, Member National Assembly (MNA) Maulana Gohar Shah suffered an embarrassing turnaround, when the official alleged that the Maulana himself had got over a dozen people employed in the university and was pushing the management for accommodating more.

The matter soon devolved into a personal one; with the university accusing Maulana Gohar of impropriety and the present criticism in the committee a ploy to gain leverage over them to win further concessions, while the MNA continued to hold the stance that the university had hired employees illegally under the tag of “visiting faculty”. While this certainly seem like a personal tussle between the two, and not indicative of the wider education system; but such serious allegations being thrown about on the highest tier of educational oversight is condemnable.

That is because even if we don’t believe either one of the counter-narratives completely, there is still enough going on for us to deduce impropriety. Dr Ikram – the university official – accuses Maulana Gohar Shah of getting people employed illegally and has the documents to prove it, but does admit that the previous vice chancellor hired individuals without proper vetting on the direction of a politician. Similarly, while we do not for sure whether the university’s story is completely true or not, the Maulana has had enough contacts with the university to be deemed inappropriate – especially given his position in educational oversight.

While this embarrassing episode – for both the university and the MNA – will create more scrutiny and perhaps responsibility, it is deplorable that this scrutiny is not carried out by the institution responsible; only a personal spat can bring these irregularities to light.

Political appointments are the anathema of higher education; people appointed by politicians not only are inadequate for the important job of providing higher education, they are ultimately beholden to their political patrons, and will priorities the benefits of their party over what is best for the institute.

This practice must be rooted out – it was not long ago that ring of individuals associated with a political party wreaked havoc in another north-western university.