News Analysis |
There has been an ongoing protest in the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad with a strike action for the past six weeks by the faculty members against the Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr. Javed Ashraf. The protest is being led by the Academic Staff Association (ASA) over irregularities in the university administration. They believe that the incumbent VC is unable to govern a big institute like QAU and he should resign from his post immediately. A number of meetings have been held between the ASA and the administration but the faculty is adamant on its demand of resignation of the VC.
The VC Dr. Javed Ashraf released a press statement on 27th February and alleged that the faculty is holding this protest to get illegal promotions of two faculty members who are not meeting a set of criteria. He announced that if any allegation of the ASA is proved against him then he will resign as the VC himself. Dr. Ashraf claimed that he was a voluntarily low paid VC and during his tenure, QAU was ranked as the number one university in Pakistan by the HEC. He pleaded for the staff to return to duty because the future of 10,000 students was at stake.
The protest started during the semester break in QAU, the university was set to open on 12th March but the ASA announced to keep the university close on 11th March. The university has since not opened because of the boycott of faculty and lockdown on the university transport. Another meeting was held between the ASA and VC on 17th March but it failed to end the stalemate between the staff and the faculty.
Dr. Sohail told us they have only one demand that is the removal of the VC Dr. Javed Ashraf.
GVS contacted the General Secretary of the Academic Staff Association (ASA) Dr. Sohail Yousaf for his comments on the whole issue and the demands of the ASA. Dr. Sohail told GVS that they have only one demand, that is, the removal of the VC Dr. Javed Ashraf. He alleged that QAU has failed on many fronts in the past three and half years of Dr. Ashraf’s tenure. Admissions of PHD and MPhil were halted in the QAU and despite a letter from the HEC, the VC failed to take any action.
Dr. Sohail further alleged that the VC invested 6 million rupees in the Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) which is an A category bank, while the criteria for investment is at least an A-2 bank and the university has not obtained a single penny of profit from it. He also accused that the VC has not been able to obtain any funds for the university which is his chief responsibility.
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When GVS asked Dr. Sohail about the students being affected because of their protest, he claimed that the students will suffer either way since the regular fee of the school has increased from 27,000 to 60,000 during his tenure. Hostels are in poor condition even though they are earning 30 Crores per year from it. He alleged that there is a serious lack of regular faculty and most admin members are working on contract basis. The ASA President Dr. Aqeel Bukhari had already announced that the protest will continue indefinitely until the VC resigns.
GVS spoke to another member of the QAU, Dr. Zafar Jaspal, the Associate Professor of the School of Politics and International Relations. Dr. Zafar told us that the disharmony among the faculty and the VC started when the latter tried to sell 17 acres of QAU land to a private university. Even though the deal could not take place, a discord was created between the two. He affirmed Dr. Sohail’s accusation that the VC changed the minutes of the faculty.
Dr. Zafar highlighted the report of an inquiry committee by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) submitted to the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain on 28th February 2017. The committee was formed in October 2016 for administrative and financial irregularities in the QAU. Dr. Zafar pointed out that the first recommendation of the committee was to remove the VC but since he’s allegedly a friend of the president Mamnoon Hussain, no action was taken and the report was shelved.
He told GVS that a referendum was held in 2017 in which 80% of the faculty participated and 90% of the faculty voted against the VC. Dr. Zafar alleged that the management has been really poor for the past few years and the university has been closed several times during the last year because of internal fighting between the students and the administrations inability to resolve those issues. He lamented that the ranking will decline if the VC continues in his position.
Responding to the claims of the VC that he made the QAU Pakistan’s no 1 university, Dr. Jaspal said that the faculty contributed to it and QAU scored very low in the management side. He also responded to the VC’s allegation that the protest was held for promotion of some faculty members by stating that the VC does not have any right to promote or demote a member. Selections and promotions are made through a comprehensive multi-layered process. Even if a wrong promotion is made, it is immediately challenged in the courts so the allegations of the VC are baseless.
GVS spoke to some other members of the QAU who endorsed the opinion of the ASA and granted them the right to decide the situation on their behalf. We were not able to contact the VC or his staff for their comments on the issue. There is no end of the issue in sight since the government has not taken any action against either party. To avoid any clash or disruption of law and order, the government needs to hear the views of both sides and decide accordingly.