Supreme Court ordered VC of three universities to step down

LAHORE:23 April: A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Sunday ordered vice chancellors of three public sector universities to step down and removed the woman vice chancellor of Lahore College for Women University after she declined to resign, remarking that the state of education in Punjab was in complete disarray. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, resumed hearing of suo motu notice of reports that the vice chancellor of Lahore College for Women University (LCWU), Prof Dr Uzma Quraishi, was appointed to the post without merit, at the Lahore Registry on weekly holiday. The bench was also seized with the issue of appointment of vice chancellors at other public sector universities. The CJ issued orders to the Punjab government to fill the posts purely on merit, through newly-constituted search committees. He remarked that the Supreme Court could not tolerate any appointment without transparency as the state of education in the province is in complete disarray. The vice chancellors of Fatima Jinnah Medical University, Faisalabad Medical University and Rawalpindi Medical University resigned in compliance with the court orders without any delay. However, Dr Uzma Quraishi, while appearing before the bench, insisted that her appointment had been made on merit, saying her career would become tainted if she resigned. The chief justice responded that he was fully aware of Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s role in her appointment. However, Prof Quraishi, clarified that Ahsan Iqbal had no role in her appointment and her appointment was made purely on merit and in a transparent manner. Responding to a query, she conceded that Ahsan Iqbal had been a student of her father. “Attempts have been made to malign me,” she added. Her insistence not to step down compelled the CJ to issue order of her suspension and removal. Punjab Health Minister Khwaja Salman Rafique, Secretary Najam Shah and Higher Education Secretary Nabeel Awan were presented in the court. Punjab Higher Education Minister Syed Ali Raza Gilani also appeared on the court orders. Minister Raza Gilani informed the bench that Quraishi’s appointment was not made during his tenure, adding that the inquiry of the matter was forwarded to him for which a committee had been formed. The chief justice directed the education minister and secretary to reconstitute an inquiry committee after having consultation with chief minister to decide pending complaints against Prof Quraishi regarding her research work. The chief justice questioned how seniors were sidelined in the appointment process. “Is this the Punjab government’s (efficiency),” he asked. “Who is responsible for over two-year delay in the appointment of the Punjab University vice chancellor: secretary, minister or chief minister?” asked the chief justice and observed, “It shows incompetence of the government.” The chief justice directed the education minister and secretary to appoint the senior-most professor of the university as acting vice chancellor till the appointment of a regular VC. The chief justice also asked them to constitute new search committees for appointment of VCs to three medical universities. The secretary education informed the court that a search committee formed for the Punjab University VC could be asked to recommend names for the LCWU as well. The court accepted the suggestion. During the course of proceedings, the CJ was irked after the secretary education stated that the appointment of a regular VC to Punjab University could not be made before August 5. He was of the view that a large number of candidates had applied for the top slot of the largest educational institute of the province. And their scrutiny needed sufficient time. The chief justice chided the secretary and remarked that he had never come across a DMG officer like him, who was leaving no stone unturned to protect the interest of a political government. The CJ directed the secretary to make appointment of a regular VC to the PU within six weeks. The Punjab advocate general informed the bench that a search committee had been formed which comprises Razzaq Dawood, Zafar Iqbal Quraishi and Umar Saif. Chief Justice Nisar approved the body members and remarked that the committee will recommend names for appointment of VCs to the public sector universities. Former PU VC Prof Zakria Zakar, who had resigned a day earlier on the court orders, turned up and sought mercy from the court in his case. He said he had been serving the university for 28 years with unblemished career. He said he made one mistake and was punished. CJP Nisar came down hard on him saying, the court was fully aware of his financial affairs. “If you want to challenge the court, we can refer an inquiry to the Federal Investigation Agency,” the chief justice told Prof Zakar. Before concluding the proceedings, the chief justice asked Health Minister Salman Rafique that his presence was not required at every hearing, unless the court summoned him. Addressing Khwaja Salman, the CJ remarked in a lighter vein, “Tell your brother, (Railways Minister) Saad Rafique that anything can happen anytime”. Hearing another suo motu notice case regarding alleged irregularities at the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC), Lahore, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar directed for placing the name of member board PIC Afzaal Bhatti on the Exit Control List (ECL). Bhatti is also commissioner Overseas Pakistanis Commission, Punjab. The court ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Lahore Director General (DG) Saleem Shehzad to probe the case. PIC head Nadeem Hayat and others were present in the court. The chief justice asked as to how a dual national [Afzaal Bhatti] was appointed the overseas commissioner and PIC board member at the same time. The chief justice was informed that he was receiving an amount of Rs500,000 monthly as salary. At this, Justice Saqib Nisar remarked that how could he receive such a high salary when a chief secretary, who is at the top of the bureaucracy in a province, is receiving Rs180,000? “We cannot ignore favouritism in recruitments,” he said, adding that the matter would be sent to NAB for further investigation. “The court will get to the bottom of the PIC mismanagement case,” the CJP remarked. The chief justice summoned the Lahore NAB chief and ordered for placing the name of Afzaal Bhatti on the ECL. The court summoned all concerned in the case on April 28. Managing Director of Punjab Mass Transit Authority Sibtain Fazl-i-Aleem told the Supreme Court that the project of Orange Line Metro Train would be completed by the end of May. He said the government had set the target to inaugurate the project on May 10; however, it may be delayed till May 25. CJ Nisar told him to complete the project as soon as possible as it was causing a great dust on roads. “I think you would not take it beyond May 31,” said the chief justice referring to the deadline for upcoming caretaker set-up. Mr Aleem had appeared before the court being member of a search committee formed for appointment of the vice chancellor. Taking suo motu notice on lack of treatment facilities for children born with cholesterol, Justice Saqib Nisar ordered the Punjab Health Minister Khwaja Salman Rafique to obtain within 10 days the machine required to treat patients with high cholesterol. The chief justice wondered as to why no hospital in the country had that machine, saying that if the government did not have funds, the court could get financial assistance from the rich people and get it on its own. However, the health minister assured the court that the machine would be imported and all relevant facilities would be provided. Punjab Health Secretary Najam Shah and some senior doctors present in the court told the chief justice that the children had been suffering from a rare disease since birth which keeps disturbing the cholesterol level in their body. The doctors said they never came across any such patient during their whole career. As the hearing commenced, the parents of a child said they were mistreated in a hospital and sought some other relief until the machine arrives in Pakistan. The chief justice said the children would be treated in Pakistan and the parents should not seek an excuse to leave the country. Dr Ayaz from the Services Hospital stated that the machine required for their dialysis like treatment was not available in Pakistan. He said the machine would cost Rs7 to Rs8 million if the government wanted to import it. The CJ observed that the Supreme Court was ready to arrange for the money for the purchase of the machine if the government had any financial constraints. “I can arrange the amount by this evening from any philanthropist,” said the chief justice. However, Health Minister Khwaja Salman Rafiq undertook that the government would import the machine itself within no time. The chief justice directed the government to ensure the best available treatment of the children in the meantime. Earlier, hearing a suo motu notice of security for unauthorised persons, the chief justice remarked that 4,610 policemen recalled from protocol duties by the Punjab government would save Rs38 billion public money a year. The bench observed that the amount didn’t include the cost of fuel and vehicles. “If the same money was spent on health and education, things would have been different,” the chief justice Nisar observed. Later, in a separate case, the CJP expressed serious concerns over non-payment of salaries to ladies health workers, observing that why these workers have not been regularised. Justice Nisar also said that the lady health workers had been protesting for two days, but their voice was not heard. The CJ directed the secretary to resolve their issues. He also suspended the transfer order of Assistant Land Record Iram Shehzadi from one district to another, with directive to DG Land Record to present the record on the next hearing. After hearing the cases, when the CJ left for his home and his vehicle came on the road in front of the Supreme Court Lahore Registry, a number of litigants came in front of his vehicle and stopped his car, pleading with him to hear their grievances. The CJ asked the litigants to appear in his chamber. He came back and heard the complaints of citizens.The news.

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