Last month, 40-odd senior professors of the University of Punjab — all of them retired but working on contractual basis — were removed without giving them any prior notice. The provisional Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Zafar Mueen Nasir was the person behind the move. His reason: the senior faculty was a financial burden. The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) reacted strongly to this, deriding this ‘unceremonious’ dismissal of the respected teachers without any performance audit or prior notice as “humiliating.”
“They are all renowned names in their own fields — and a national asset,” said Dr Mahboob, Secretary General FAPUASA.
A notification was issued by Prof Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan, Registrar, Punjab University, asking the professors to leave with immediate effect. It read: “On behalf of the University of the Punjab, I would like to express my felicitations on your services that you have rendered during the contract period after attaining the age of superannuation/retirement. In compliance with the relevant government rules, policy and the Punjab University regulations you are hereby relieved from your contractual appointment with the Punjab University with immediate effect.”
After receiving the notice, the professors stood up in protest. They even met the political bigwigs and government high-ups. Eventually, they were able to exert their influence, and the Vice Chancellor rolled back the decision.
The story doesn’t end here. Negotiations went on with the professors. A few days later, Prof Dr Naeem Khan announced that the PU administration would continue to benefit from the experience and services of the senior retired professors who were now being appointed as professor emeritus.
Another notification, issued by the PU Registrar’s office, stated that in recognition of their services, 17 retired vice chancellors and professors conferred as Professor Emeritus could continue to serve the university.
These included Prof Dr Rafiq Ahmed of Economics Department; Sheikh Imtiaz Ali, Law; Dr Khairaat Ibn-e-Rasa, Chemistry; Dr Zahoor Ahmad Azhar, Arabic; Dr Munawar S Mirza, Education; Dr Najma Najam, Applied Psychology; Dr Khawaja M Zakria, Urdu; Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi, Political Science; Dr Razi Abbas Shamsi, Botany; and Dr Jamila Shaukat of the department of Islamic Studies.
These professors shall also be able to continue with mentorship, thereby contributing to the academic life of the university to a great extent.
The PU Registrar rejected the notion that the university had relieved the said professors. He said, “A few other, more experienced professors are also being inducted as professor emeritus once approved by the PU Syndicate — the varsity’s highest statutory body.”
Apparently, the issue was resolved within days. As Khurram Shahzad, Spokesperson of Punjab University, puts it, “Addressing our teachers’ problems was one of the top priorities of the varsity VC.”
But it was the students’ lot that suffered a great deal in the entire episode. Zahid Hussain, a PU student, says, “Our students were badly affected. Our capable, seniors professors had been removed and the vacancies were never filled.”
Hussain also says it is the “elderly teachers [who] should be removed instead, because they are frail and do not have enough energy to manage the task. They should be replaced by competent youngsters who can take up to five lectures in a day.
“The appointment of professors post retirement actually hinders the induction of fresh blood, which is not fair. The old guard must make way for the new one,” he declares. “The retired [professors] can find jobs in private institutions, or they can write books, live off their pension money, and spend the rest of their life in peace.”
Zahid Hussain also talks of the aged professors’ attitude problem. “The students find it hard to communicate with them. This hampers an easy flow of information.”