Fooling the World – Universities Ranking Game

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By Afshain Afzal

The recent sex and drugs scandal about claimed 5000 female students of a single Pakistani university has received attention in Pakistani and Indian media. No doubt, before every war or major operation psychological warfare against enemies, adversaries, and, rivals are launched to build popular opinion. Credit goes to many progressive-minded Pakistanis and their foreign associates, running highly lucrative Educational businesses in Pakistan, the tarnishing image of national institutions against the national interest. With the sole aim to eliminate Islamic ideology and spirit from Government educational institutions, the drama of sex scandal has been staged. Pakistani media and institutions have overreacted and tried to defame a Government or Public university, “Islamia University Bahawalpur” without looking into ground facts.

Islamia University Bahawalpur in Southern Punjab province began its journey as Jamia Abbasia in 1925, a religious university following the academic pursuits of Al-Azhar University in Egypt. Its existence is centuries before this date. Jamia Abbasia was upgraded to Jamia Islamia in 1963. In 1975, Jamia Abbasia was declared a general university and renamed as The Islamia University of Bahawalpur. Spread across 35,000 acres of land with a huge student population in five campuses; three in Bahawalpur as Abbasia Campus, and one each at Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan, the university offers more than 300 disciplines. A number of national and international agreements and Memorandum of Understandings were signed including Florida International University United States, Universiti Teknologi Mara Malaysia, and Sichuan Agriculture University of China for cooperation and collaboration in research activities and faculty exchange.

            The much-propagated sex and drugs scandal emerged from the arrest of a male and female couple by Baghdadul Jadid police station, Bahawalpur. Police seized 10 grams of ice and aphrodisiacs from Car Syed Ijaz Husain Shah, Islamia University’s Chief Security Officer, a retired Major of the Pakistani Army. Police claimed that acting on intelligence-based information, the Station House Officer Abid Hamid of Baghdadul Jadid police station carried out an operation and recovered ice and aphrodisiacs along with a number of objectionable videos of officials and students of the university from Syed Ijaz Husain’s two mobile phones. These video clips contain downloaded clips from Internet pornographic websites and some of the clips inside and outside the University by security guards and CCTV cameras edited clips of the university, which one security guard claimed was for deterrence and to maintain students’ morals.

Interestingly, the District Police Officer had already disclosed a month back that local police had full knowledge in June 2023, about group of professors, senior officials and other influential holding different posts that they are involved in drug peddling, drug using, conducting dance/sex parties at different farm houses. The fact cannot be denied that as per Police, Professor Abou Bakar while going on a car with a morally corrupt female student was intercepted at Naka Bandi Point and 6 grams ice and three sexual pills were recovered from him upon which, FIR No.1014/23 dated 28 June 2023 was lodged, under Control of Narcotics Substance Act. It is strange that University treasurer Professor Abou Bakar was initially arrested on 28 June 2023 and his mobile phones contained WhatsApp chats and contacts of high ranking, senior officials and others, then what was fun freeing him and again arresting him, involving a Pakistan’s top university without substance. One wonders what connection Islamia University Bahawalpur has with these stray immoral criminals.

If it was the case of ice and aphrodisiacs, the Police record shows a number of incidents of ice recoveries including on 5 July 2023, when the same police station arrested an individual namely Arslan, and recovered 25 grams of Ice but it was not dramatized. Similarly, on 9 December 2021, the same police station recovered 1248 grams of crystal ice from Rizwan but the news covered hardly a single paragraph in a single website. However, this time the excellent work done by Pakistani Police has earned fame for Pakistan as a nation and has also been appreciated by Indian media including India Today which reported in its story, “Drugs, sexual exploitation of students, teachers unearthed at Pakistan university” claiming the University treasurer “confessed that he along with a group of other teachers would purchase and distribute drugs through students and arrange dance/sex parties”.

It is beyond comprehension that despite Islamia University Bahawalpur Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Azhar Mehboob immediate action and constitution of two inquiry committees to probe cases registered against the treasurer and chief security officers of the university as well as a Press Release by the University, bearing No 291/23 dated 21 July 2023 in which it was revealed that it is a campaign against the University while Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Azhar Mehboob is performing well, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education, headed by MNA Makhdoom Syed Samiul Hassan Gilani started probing the matter; the university’s Vice Chancellor was summoned to its meeting on 24 July 2023, but he did not appear.

The drama of sex scandal has stayed to criminalize Islamia University's top-class performance. Ranking of Islamia University in the year 2021/ 2022 stood at 438 in UI Green Matric World University ranking, 653 as best global university in Asia, and 1746 in the world. It stood 1st in Pakistani universities in three Sustainable Development Goals, 3rd in “No Poverty”, and 5th in “Affordable and Clean Energy”. This year it was expected to get the top position in Pakistan. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed tried to lead the race and claimed international media was raising this issue and accordingly, a high-powered committee was being notified to investigate the matter while a special audit and performance audit of the Islamia University would be conducted in the near future. Without wasting time, the Punjab Higher Education Department secretary constituted a committee to probe the case registered against the chief security officer for “carrying/using the contraband substance” and purported recovery of objectionable material from his cell phone. Meanwhile, a petition has been filed before the Human Rights Cell of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, urging the court to take suo-motu action and establish a judicial commission to investigate a disturbing incident at Islamia University Bahawalpur. Representing the affected students and urging them to find their voices and stand against such heinous characters.

            Chairman HEC revealed this month that there were 253 universities, both public and private in the country. The announcement by the worthy Chairman that a special audit and performance audit of the Islamia University Bahawalpur would be conducted in the near future is surprising as the people of Pakistan under Article 19-A of the Constitution, “Right of Access to Information Act, 2017”, have the right to see the special audit and performance audit of all 253 universities on the official websites of all the official websites of Higher Education Departments in the provinces as well as Higher Education Commission. More so, it has been confirmed during investigations that the University treasurer, Chief Security Officer, and others in this criminal network have close relatives and contacts in India. As Federal Public Service Commission is the sole authority to appoint Government Servants including all public educational institutions, why their vetting and security clearance is not carried out? No doubt, if the state guarantees the privacy and dignity of every man and woman, then why permission for security guards and CCTV cameras inside educational institutions?

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