Along with ex-Vice Chancellor, Mr. Mujahid Kamran, four individuals of the university’s administration have been arrested including two former registrars – Professor Dr. Raas Masood and Professor Dr. Liaqat Ali as well as two current registrars – Professor Dr. Aurangzaib Alamgir and Professor Dr. Kamran Abid.
There are over 550 combined allegations of illegal appointments against all four of them. The charges also include granting scholarships on favouritism instead of merit, signing business contracts based on personal preferences and more. In addition, Mr. Mujahid Kamran has also been accused of nepotism for appointing his wife as the principal for the Punjab University Law College. The accused have been arrested and their testimonies have been recorded. Meanwhile, the National Accountability Bureau has commenced its investigation into the allegations.
On Friday, October 12, the accused appeared in handcuffs before an accountability court in Lahore, after which lawyers of the arrested professors vehemently protested against the NAB for making their clients appear in handcuffs before the court. They argued that officials from NAB had produced former Chief Minister, Shahbaz Sharif, before the same court without handcuffs and they refused to assist the court proceedings unless the handcuffs of the accused were removed. However, accountability judge, Syed Najamul Hassan, said the court had not ordered the NAB officials to put handcuffs on the accused persons.
Once the hearing resumed, the NAB Deputy Prosecutor, Waris Ali Janjua, argued that the accused had been involved in making over 500 illegal appointments at the Punjab University and that they had misused their power and favoured their own candidates when recruiting at the university. He asked the court to grant the accused a 15-day physical remand for further investigations into the charges.
On the other hand, the lead counsel for the accused, Advocate Mansoorur Rehman Afridi, argued that the NAB violated its jurisdiction by arresting the professors. He further denied the charge that Dr. Kamran had made any ghost or illegal appointments in the university, and went on to claim that the then governor and chief minister had, in fact, asked the accused to make those appointments.
In his own defence, Dr. Kamran told the court that the syndicate had delegated its powers to a committee to make appointments and that the syndicate included a sitting judge of the Lahore High Court, nominated by the Chief Justice himself. When asked if advertisement was not mandatory to fill contract posts, he claimed that advertisement was not necessary once the syndicate delegated its powers to the committee.
After hearing the counsels from both sides, the judge instructed the NAB to hold the accused in custody for 10 days and directed the bureau officials to produce them in court on October 22.
The hearing was attended by the Academic Staff Association members of the Punjab University in support of the former VC and other professors. They chanted slogans in favour of the arrested and termed their arrest ‘a disgraceful act’. They also demanded the NAB to interrogate ex-officio members of the syndicate which included a sitting judge, a bureaucrat and an MPA if there was any illegality in the appointments.
Soon after the arrest, people took to social media to share their own views about the arrest. Some appreciated the NAB for using its power to ‘nab’ corrupt officials:
While others reprimanded those who protested against the arrest of these ‘so-called’ educationists:
And others claimed that the situation was similar in other institutions as well:
However, many expressed their anger and dismay at watching respectable educationists appearing before court in handcuffs. They claimed that murderers were given protocol in court while the charges against these men had not even been proved as yet. They claimed that those in the ‘noble profession’ should not be treated like this:
And that it was ‘shameful’ to make them appear before court in handcuffs:
While still others urged everyone to let the law take its course, only to be told that there are hundreds of people in power who have been involved in heinous crimes, but never taken to task for them while those in the education profession are always unfairly targeted:
It is true that corruption exists in all institutions in Pakistan, especially in the public sector but only time will tell the fate of the accused in this case. All we can do is hope that if the allegations against them are found to be true, they are penalised accordingly and that the judicial system does justice to its role so that ALL institutions and people in powerful positions can mend their ways in the future.