Will new VCs fine-tune post-corona varsity education?
With mixed feelings of relief and anxiety the educational circles in KP received the news that the much-awaited decision about filling the vacant posts of vice chancellors in eight public sector universities had finally been taken. Presiding over a meeting of the provincial cabinet on November 27 Chief Minister Mahmood Khan announced that his government had given formal approval to the appointment of vice chancellors. He said that the appointments had been made on merit in the light of the recommendations of the search and scrutiny committee. Dr Mohammad Idrees had been appointed the new VC of Peshawar University; Dr Iftikhar Hussain for UET Peshawar; Dr Bashir Ahmad for Bacha Khan University, Charsadda; Dr Zahoorul Haq for the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan; Dr Zafar M Khan for APS Martyrs University of Technology, Nowshera; Dr Shahid Mehmood Baig for Swabi University; Dr Sardar Khan for Kohat University of Science and Technology; and Dr Khairuzzaman was appointed VC for Bannu University of Science and technology. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) will notify the appointments after the governor (ex officio chancellor) gives approval. It may be recalled that the search committee headed by eminent educationist Dr Attaur Rahman interviewed the candidates over November 17-18 in Islamabad. The search and scrutiny committee received 200 applications out of which it shortlisted 60 candidates for the interview. The committee sent the names of three successful candidates for every university and gave the choice to appointment authorities to pick and choose the one that was most suitable. In June and July the tenure of the regular VCs expired. Since then, pro-vice chancellors had been conducting the affairs as a stop-gap arrangement. It was evident that most of them avoided taking any major decision. The community of Pashto writers felt saddened at the death of Pir Sufaid Shah Hamdard, who passed away on November 24 after a prolonged illness. He suffered from multiple health complications. Some three weeks ago he got admitted to a privately-managed hospital in Peshawar. His funeral prayers were offered near his residence located at the confluence of Shami Road and Warsak Road along the canal. As far as his life-history was concerned, he was born in pre-partition days of 1930 in village Kagawala adjacent to Bahadar Kalay, situated to the south-east of present Ring Road. These days the road leading to his village is called Umar Gul Road after the name of a former cricket celebrity. Incidentally, Umar Gul’s village Nawan Kalay happens to be in the same vicinity. After formal education Pir Sufaid Shah Hamdard started working as a reporter in various newspapers of his time. In those days Lahore and Karachi and Dhaka used to be the main press centres. Quetta, Peshawar and Rawalpindi lagged behind in this field. Daily newspapers appearing from Peshawar included the six-page English-language Khyber Mail with its offices located on the main Saddar Road. Similarly, the Urdu-language daily newspapers of those days included “Anjaam” and “Shahbaz”, which had their small-time offices in City near the historical Balahissar Fort. Apart from reporting, Pir Sufaid Shah tried his hand at feature-writing. Occasionally, he also contributed op-ed pieces to some of the available newspapers. During his early days in journalism he observed various sections of a newspaper from proofreading to editing. This gave him some measure of practical experience in the field. He put this experience to gainful use when during the 1970s he founded a daily newspaper in Pashto named “Wahdat”. This provided a platform for Pashto newsmen and writers. The owner of the Frontier Post, Rehmat Shah Afridi, also launched a Pashto daily named “Hewad” along with an Urdu newspaper “Maidan”. All three of Afridi’s papers by and large carried a progressive approach. When a political change came in Kabul in December 1979, society became divided. Lines were clearly drawn between two rival factions. On the one side there were the followers of kingship (King Zahir followed by King Daud). Pitted against them were the new rulers (Nur Mohammad Tarakai, Babrak Karmal). They belonged to the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). This was a coalition of the pro-Russia “Khalq” (masses) Party and the pro-China “Parcham” (flag) Party. Except for Kabul, Afghanistan was basically a tribal society. Similarly, NWFP (now KPK) was a deeply religious province. In this background, Pir Sufaid Shah’s “Wahdat” gradually made tactical gains. Its circulation and popularity started increasing both inside KP and outside of it. During the US-Russia proxy war in Afghanistan, demand for newspapers like “Wahdat” went up. After midnight Datsun vans full of early editions of “Wahdat” sped towards all directions including Jalalabad, from where very few unsold copies were returned to the main office. In view of Pir Sufaid Shah’s contribution to journalism, the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) and All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) gave him the lifetime achievement award. In one of its annual sessions the World Pashto conference bestowed upon him the title of “Baba-i-Pashto journalism”. The government also acknowledged his services by giving him the President's Pride of Performance Award and “Tamgha-i-Imtiaz”. To mourn his death, Pir Sufaid Shah left behind five sons and four daughters. Out of these his son Haroon Shah looks after the “Wahdat”. Other sons include late Colonel Daud Shah, Rehmdil Shah, Said Ali Shah, Amjad Ali Shah and Zafar Ali Shah (Director General PDA). Independent observers noted that Pir Sufaid Shah was one of the KP figures that appeared to be in the good books of former president late General Ziaul Haq. In press talks in the Governor’s House or cultural events outside of it he could be seen prominently seated on the front rows. After voluntary retirement from journalism he enjoyed respect as a community elder. In the messy world of mass communications he retained his piety and led a scandal-free life. The vacuum that he left after his death may take time in getting filled. ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������