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Gomal University 3

Fayyaz Baqir

March 1st, 2017

 

 

 Pushtoon politicians in Peshawar were not very happy with the way the Gomal University was run. A few months after the classes started at the university a point of order was raised in the Provincial Assembly about the competence of the academic staff hired by the Vice Chancellor (VC). VC offered the Chief Minister (CM), Inayat Ullah Khan Gandapur to personally visit the university and assess the situation himself. CM first heard the lectures in the classes during the day time and then called the remaining lecturers to deliver lectures in the Circuit House in the evening. CM expressed satisfaction over the quality of presentations and approved all the appointments. One young lecturer who talked back to the CM was scared to hell by the VC and packed off to Lahore in the middle of night. To keep his mouth shut, his younger brother who was enrolled as a graduate student was given full fee waiver and scholarship for 2 years. Another senior Professor was also packed off the same way with the help of some right-wing henchmen of the VC. VC accepted us as a necessary evil but he had no complaints about our academic performance. After 2-3 years something led to change of Prime Minister’s mind and Nawab Sahib was replaced by Ali Khan as new VC. Perhaps he wanted to neutralize the Pushtoon pressure.

 

Ali Khan was Bacha Khan’s son but a highly respected professional and an apolitical administrator. He was very accessible but had the reputation of a person who meant business. He strictly followed merit and carried an aura of authority and power. People were generally scared of him. He used to wear militia cotton Shalwar Kamees suit and drove around in Willy’s jeep. One day he was sitting in his office when he heard some commotion outside. He rushed outside and saw someone attacking university’s peon with a knife. He ran after the attacker, grabbed the knife and gave him a good thrashing. Then he very gently brought back the peon and assured him not to worry a thing. The attacker was handed over to the Police. This sent a loud and clear message to anyone who was anyone to deal with the VC with extreme care.

 

In our first meeting with him, I behaved very rudely and started smoking without asking his permission. A senior professor signaled me to stop but I ignored his advice. Ali Khan figured out that there is something wrong with this young lecturer. For face saving, he said to me “Professor Sahib, I am allergic to smoking. Could you step out and return after you are finished”. As I stepped towards the door he said just stay at the door and keep hearing what we speak”. The match ended in a draw. It was much later that I realized the gravity of my rude interactions with Nawab Allah Nawaz Khan and Ali Khan. Ali Khan, however, was not a rigid or biased person. He respected competence and merit and was a very courageous man.

 

He used to live at university’s New Campus and passed by our department during his evening walk. University’s Administrative Officer (AO) Jabbar and his dog used to accompany him. One day in the late afternoon the Jabbar knocked at my door and dropped in. He was very excited and said Khan Sahib sends his thanks to you and wants you to see him in his office this week. I asked him about the background. He said that VC passes by your office regularly (my office was situated on the first floor) and he saw the light on in your office. He was very upset and asked me to check which professor did not switch off the lights before leaving. I came here twice and saw you studying. When VC heard about this, he was very pleased. He did not expect that someone would be sitting in the after-hours to quietly study. He, however, was not aware that I used to study Capital, not any textbook, in my office those days and preferred to stay at the office as there was no privacy at home.

 

This was beginning of a relationship of mutual trust and respect between me and Ali Khan. He was so protective of hard working and competent staff members that he protected them against any threat. Once, the Mullahs of DIK announced to lead a march to the university against me and Barkat. Ali Khan announced that if any procession is brought against my staff I’ll meet them at the gate and see who dares to enter the university premises. I can deal with my staff; it is nobody else’s business.

 

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