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Islamia College Parachinar campus project on the back burner

Islamia College Parachinar campus project on the back burner

PESHAWAR: Despite availability of building, qualified human resource and dire need for education in Parachinar area of Kurram Agency, the prestigious Islamia College has yet to open campus in tribal areas apparently due to the lack of political will.

Official sources have told Dawn that around five years ago, the plan to set up a campus of Islamia College was initiated enthusiastically.

They said not only the people but the political administration and most importantly then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Owais Ghani also approved the idea that a campus of Islamia College, which was later upgraded into a university, should set up in Kurram Agency.

Kurram Agency, one of the most developed and literate among the seven tribal agencies, was considered an ideal place to have a campus of the university as there were willingness among people to donate land, while educated people were interested in teaching there.

Ajmal Khan, vice chancellor of the Islamia College University, himself went to assess the situation in Kurram Agency just three months before he was kidnapped by the Taliban.

He told Dawn that he went to Parachinar after getting a go-ahead from the then governor.

He said the political administration not only handed over an empty building but also donated 0.5 million rupees, which were used to repair the building.

“Even a board on which the model of the Islamia College Parachinar campus was painted was installed on the building overnight,” he said.

Ajmal Khan said posts were advertised and it was decided that local qualified teachers would be hired to ensure presence of staff on the campus.

“We were surprised when we received 102 applications of qualified people from Kurram Agency,” said the Islamia College University vice chancellor.

Unfortunately, just three months after this fruitful visit to Parachinar, Ajmal Khan was kidnapped by the Taliban and he spent around four years mostly in tribal areas.

Ajmal Khan, who taught the Taliban militants’ children during captivity, said he realised that there was a dire need to set up more and more educational institutions in tribal areas to bring them into the national mainstream.

His captivity or what Ajmal Khan calls a long leave from work threw a spanner in the works as for the establishment of the Islamia College Parachinar campus.

However, after returning home safe and taking charge of the office of the ICU vice chancellor, he began to strive to materialise the project.

To his utter disappointment, this time ‘political will’ seemed to be lacking.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Sardar Mahtab Ahmad Khan, who administers Fata as the representative of the country’s president, has not yet shown interest through actions in setting up higher educational institutions like a campus of the university or the proposed Fata University.

There is a growing feeling among the people of Fata that the governor is not interested in setting up the Islamia College Parachinar campus in a Pakhtun populated tribal agency, which is evident from the fact that any campus anywhere in Fata of any higher education institution has not been set up so far.

Normalcy has returned to many tribal agencies and people in Parachinar had been enthusiastic about the Islamia College campus project but the Governor’s House seems to be lacking touch with the wishes of the people in Fata.

Ajmal Khan, the only person pushing for this idea here in Peshawar, was also ‘silenced’ that he must concentrate more on strengthening Islamia College University than setting up the university’s campus elsewhere.

Observers say though apolitical himself, Ajmal Khan first spent four precious years of life in the Taliban’s captivity during the anti-Taliban government of Awami National Party just because he was related to ANP leader.

And now once again, it seems his Parachinar campus project and even the proposed Fata University has again fallen victim to politics.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2015

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