By Syed Shams Uddin
SADLY ENOUGH, local media reports unfold that a PC.I with the envisagement of a hefty allocation of 88 crore, 70 lac and 24 thousand was approved in March 2015 in connection with establishment of engineering faculty at KIU. A vast area of land measuring 1692 kanals at Shilmischdas too was allotted to the varsity for the purpose but nonetheless, its handing-over process did not see the light of the day till today perhaps because of a dispute as a consequence of which the project implementation hangs in balance. It will be recalled that another project of crucial significance ‘establishment of medical college in Gilgit’ too met a similar fate despite its reportedly having been approved long ago. The only progress one can see so far is the erection of a signboard on the KKH at Sultanabad village in close contiguity to Gilgit city which all and sundry passing through the Karakoram Highway can see unfailingly. Ironically, entire Gilgit-Baltistan is currently shorn literally of the least facility of technical education and professional studies of the sort as there is no such single institution or institute in the public sector even not for imparting DAE level education and certification. This is primarily because no effort whatsoever, was ever made by the policy makers to establish such institutions during the last seven decades at a stretch – something pointing towards a lackadaisical approach of the planners. The way things are going underlined an unhampered implementation of above two iconic institutions besides contemplating others like establishment of more than one polytechnic institutes together with setting up Gilgit-Baltistan Technical Education Board but this remains an elusive dream here. As regards the faculty of engineering, Dr Attaullah Shah, the VC of KIU, on his parts, has been making strenuous efforts in connection with the materialization of the project. As the reports under reference suggest, he is now said to be constrained to seek transfer and establishment of the faculty in another district of the region where land may become available free of cost. This seems the last ditch attempt on his part to save the project from the snags it is running currently.
Quite surprisingly, all this is allowed to happen at a time when the present government in the centre is seized with plans aimed at maximal educational facilities to the citizenry especially the poor segments of society in the country. These priorities becomes very well discernible from conversion of the prime minister house into INU despite the fact that there is no dearth of universities in both public and private sectors in Islamabad. This is notwithstanding the fact that there are already a number of universities in both public and private sectors in the capital. Given this, it comes to the public mind why such serious steps are not being taken in Gilgit-Baltistan especially in seeing that similar buildings may be found here too for a similar dispensation in a similar fashion especially in seeing that the project under reference direly needs to be salvaged at this crucial juncture. It seems only will and determination of those at the helm of affairs is required to move ahead proactively and solve the problems encountered in the context of implementation of the project. This calls for immediate building of consensus between the federal and the provincial government in the matter of identifying a government building for the establishment of both the faculty of engineering and the medical college in the prime interest of the poor people of this region. All obstacles connected therewith can be easily overcome provided a survey of the local public buildings, residences of the high-ups is determinedly carried out to fix the problem as expediency demands it. This surely will pave the way as to which building may be found feasible for the establishment of the faculty as well as the medical college in a n unhindered manner.
Coincidentally though, the prime minister in his inaugural address to Islamabad National University (INU) the other day as reported by local pint media, expressed his firm resolve to do away with the last speck of colonialism and imperialism in governance and would reduce the distance between the rulers and the ruled. He said the conversion of the prime minister house into Islamabad National University was a step in this direction. Exhorting the youth of the country, he said the youth should raise their voice against any misuse of the tax money by the rulers. Referring to the palatial houses like the prime minister house, he said these are the vestiges of the colonial times to rule people with pomp and show and in a regal style. He said he has seen the towering walls of magnificent buildings like governor houses and the palatial mansions of rulers from his childhood. What nonetheless, brought about a transformation in his outlook was when he saw the residences of the rulers in Britain when he used to be there? He saw the house of Tony Blaire in a simple building at 10-Downing Street. Referring to the state of education in Pakistan, he lamented that no serious heeds were ever paid to it over the seventy years since independence. Strangely enough, at such a point in time however, is the state of affairs pertaining to the engineering faculty of KIU obtaining here in Gilgit-Baltistan with this very vital project is hamstrung merely for want of land. This fundamentally becomes ascribable to a lackadaisical approach adopted by those at the helm of affairs save the Vice Chancellor making lone efforts and ditch attempts to save the grand project from becoming a failure or shelved indefinitely. Had there been will and determination to have this materialized, alternatives could have been sought including establishing it in any palatial building in use of bureaucracy or other high-ups. It is high time that both the federal and provincial governments sit together to find an immediate solution to the problem with consensus while seeking extension in the timeframe for the implementation of the projet. It is to be recalled that in early seventies, the very first college for boys was established at what was then called the ‘boarding house’ – now comprising the directorate of education at Ghari Bagh, Gilgit until it was shifted later to the venue where KIU stands now. Given this, both the medical and engineering colleges here could be started in the like manner. Meanwhile, the Director General planning and development , Higher Education Commissioner may be prevailed upon to avoid the threatened exclusion of the project from the PSDP and instead extend make extension in the timeframe if at all the accommodation facilities as proposed are to be identified in the larger public interest. The media report under reference say that the HEC have termed the project as unsatisfactory for the fore-going reasons and decided formally to close it down. The HEC officials reportedly called the VC KIU to convey this warning in categorical terms. The HEC sources are related as saying that the DG planning and development division Mazhar Iqbal and the VC Engr Dr Attaullah Shah had an overview of the progress about the PC.I of sub-campuses , women campuses, hostel, sports stadium including engineering faculty project. The DG P&D took a strong exception to non-start of work on the project of engineering faculty for the last three years as to them, the KIU failed utterly to settle the land dispute. It transpired that during the last meeting of P&D and KIU, the latter was given a 2-week time for start of the work on the project and the inordinate delay in resolving the land dispute and start of work attracted the ire of the former, it is learnt. On his part, the VC KIU has reportedly been making strenuous efforts in this context but it is another matter that these have so far yielded no tangible results and progress connected with the project is stalled for the fore-going reasons.
The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He tweets@SayyidShams