FUAST scam: FIA asks Urdu university to take action against three officials



ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency has asked the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology to take action against its three officials for their alleged involvement in illegal transfer Rs150 million to a private account.

The scam surfaced at the Islamabad campus of the university in July earlier this year, but the top management has spent much of the time passing the buck.

The said amount was allegedly transferred from a university account to a private account without bringing it to the top management’s attention. Five university employees, involved in opening the bank account, were suspended following an inquiry. The accused have been staging a sit-in every day since then for having been ‘illegally’ suspended.

The FIA investigation report available with The Express Tribune states that the probe was initiated on complaint of the university’s registrar.

The report finds “no embezzlement” in the accounts of the university maintained in a bank in Sector H-9.

“However, Director Accounts Asim Bukhari, Deputy Registrar Shah G. Muhammad and Private Secretary of VC Rasheed Bangash were found responsible for signing the application for opening an account without approval from the VC,” the report states.

The report further revealed that Bukhari was found responsible for opening the account and allegedly had also given verbal instructions to the manager of a private bank to transfer Rs150 million. The said amount was transferred from the varsity’s day-to-day affairs account.

About the role of the three staffers involved in the transfer, the FIA found that all of them had jointly opened the account and let the bank transfer the amount without the approval of competent authority and the VC.

“It is recommended to take departmental action against the delinquent officers under intimation to this agency,” the report concluded.

When contacted, VC Zafar Iqbal said they would take action as per the ordinance of the university. “The action could be demotion, transfer or any other action recommended by the syndicate (governing body) of the varsity,” he remarked.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2014.


Campus blues: Urdu varsity’s internal tug of war taking toll on students



ISLAMABAD: 

The miseries of students of Federal Urdu University of Arts Sciences and Technology (FUUAST) are increasing due to the tug of war between the Islamabad and Karachi campus administrations.

The recent spat over graft allegations has taken a heavy toll on students as the accused staffers — most of whom were suspended — and their ‘well-wishers’ kept the pot simmering by holding sit-ins every day for the last two months.

Worst off are students of the engineering department, as the campus has yet to get accredited with the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC). The PEC recognises universities with engineering departments by inspecting laboratories, checking for availability of appropriate space and other prerequisites including availability of equipment.

The last PEC check was in 2010. Since then, there has been silence over the next visit. In the 2010 check, the PEC inspection team directed the varsity to clear the parking lot inside the cramped premises, and increase laboratory space.

Students of the four-year programme were optimistic, with the level of optimism increasing among first and second year students.

But the picture on the other side is not rosy, as senior students and teachers from the department said the management has yet to act on the PEC’s advice.

“We do not know whether we will be able to get accreditation as the campus in charge and head of department are also not giving satisfactory answers,” said a student of the department on the condition of anonymity.

The varsity building in Sector G-7 costs Rs25 million per annum in rent, while other charges bring building costs to Rs 30 million per annum.

The cramped building has compartmentalised classes and offices. Student also took to streets last summer when the unavailability of power generators led to suffocating environments in the classrooms during load shedding.

The varsity purchased 80 kanals near Chak Shahzad some three years ago, but due to internal wrangling, the management in Karachi balked at developing it.

Meanwhile, a house was recently rented in sector E-11 for which Rs385,000 was paid as rent for just the months of October and November. Campus sources revealed that the building is used as a rest house by senior staff visiting from Karachi.

To evade criticism, the management shifted the examination department to that sector early last week. However, no public or varsity transport facility is available for students wishing to go there.

After witnessing the mess on campus and the lack of effort to address problems from the top administration, the President of Pakistan, as chancellor of all federally-chartered public varsities, asked the university senate to meet him on Saturday (today).

Earlier this year, he had directed the HEC to formulate a probe body to investigate corruption charges against the vice chancellor, but the varsity challenged its legality and the case is pending with the Sindh High Court.

The varsity also has several other issues including improprieties in the contracts and recruitment of employees.

The Auditor General of Pakistan report for 2013-14 revealed that current campus in-charge Abdur Razzaq Memon was ‘irregularly’ appointed as a professor in 2011-13 without advertising the post and his salary was set at Rs300,000 without consultation from the Finance Division.

Memon and VC Zafar Iqbal did not respond when approached for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 8th, 2014.


Urdu must build its own empire of knowledge, advise experts



KARACHI: 

To withstand the challenges of globalisation, Urdu must build its own empire of knowledge. It has to create and disseminate knowledge in every field, with every important book from any language of the world translated into Urdu.

Urdu critics, writers and researchers suggested these precautionary measures for the survival of Urdu in a world where English is the lingua franca and another language is ‘murdered’ every two weeks. They were speaking about the problems faced by Urdu and its future at the second session of the Seventh International Urdu Conference at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, on Friday.

“Out of the 7,106 languages in the world, only 300 to 600 will survive by the end of the 21st century,” said critic Dr Nasir Abbas Nayyar, quoting Unesco figures about languages in his speech ‘The Case of Urdu in International Society’. “The danger posed by English in the era of corporate globalisation is far more dangerous than the threats it levelled at the time of imperial globalisation; not only does it have the support of the US now, but also of consumerism.”

This was not to say that Urdu was in danger of dying out, he went on to assure. “Most of the dying languages are from Africa and only spoken by a few hundred people, but globalisation is still posing serious challenges to Urdu,” Dr Nayyar said. He criticised the ideology connected with Urdu that has infused the language with conservatism, barring it from adopting modern words. “Urdu has to fight this conservatism and open its doors to the knowledge that is part of globalisation, while preserving its own culture and identity,” he said.

Dr Nayyar also commented about the trend of the unnecessary amalgamation of English words within spoken Urdu in Pakistan, particularly in electronic and print, calling it the remains of colonialism and a manifestation of ‘captive thinking’.

Although Urdu is the national language, no university provides education or conducts research in it, lamented Dr Najeeba Arif of the International Islamic University, Islamabad, in her monograph ‘Contemporary Problems of the Urdu Language and the Role of Universities’. “The only degrees given by the universities are for Urdu literature, and as a result, the students cannot even write a proper application in Urdu,” she said, insisting that linguistics should be separated from literature.

“We consider written language to be most important, but the rest of the world believes that the spoken word is the real face of any language,” claimed Dr Arif. She suggested that a standard should be created for Urdu in accordance with the condition of Pakistan, specifying its alphabets, pronunciation, transcripts and sentence structure.

Urdu fiction writer Intizar Hussain, presiding over the session, said that the leaders of the Pakistan Movement who had decided to make Urdu the national language had actually damaged it. “They did not take the situation of Pakistan into consideration when making this decision, and they showed no flexibility when the Bengali issue emerged,” he said. “Urdu exists in India and Pakistan on its own strength; no government or organisation has done anything for it.” He added that although globalisation was a challenge, nothing could stop Urdu from progressing on its own abilities.

“When there are five children being born in every house in the country, there is no danger to religion or to Urdu,” quipped writer, journalist and broadcaster Raza Ali Abidi, sounding optimistic about Urdu’s survival.

Meanwhile, noted scholar Dr Qazi Afzal Husain, from Aligarh, India, stressed the need for Urdu critics, scholars and lovers to fight for the language themselves instead of looking to the government for help. “If we can run an Urdu-medium university in India, what is stopping you from establishing an Urdu department?”

Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2014.


7th international moot: Launch of Yousufi’s fifth book marks the start of Urdu conference



KARACHI: 

The fans of Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi have been savouring his four celebrated books for the past 24 years, enjoying every page and taking delight in each sentence. The iconic nonagenarian humour writer has now come up with a fifth book to add to ‘Ahd-e-Yousufi’ [the Yousufi era].

The launch of his book, Shaame-e-Shair-eYaaran, was the bang that started the seventh International Urdu Conference on Thursday evening. The ceremonial launch of the author’s book will help remember the conference in Urdu literary history for hosting the one-of-a-kind event of Ahd-e-Yousufi that stretches back 53 years when the author published his first book ‘Charagh Talay’ in 1961.

For the first time in his life, Yousufi, who is now 96 years old, had allowed to hold a launch ceremony for any of his works, which also include Khakam Badahan (1969), Zarguzasht (1976) and Aab-e-Gum (1990). Expectedly, the lawns of the Arts Council of Pakistan were jam-packed with his exuberant admirers who gave a standing ovation as the ceremony, presided over by poet Zehra Nigah, started.

The writer, who, in Nigah’s words, makes his readers’ eyes twinkle and their faces glow when they go through his writings, sat silent owing to his ill-health at the ceremony, save his eyes that spoke of immense gratification for all the love and respect that he received. “Neither Yousufi sahib, nor any of his books will ever get old,” she said. “They are timeless because they will continue to make their readers feel happy.”

Nigah’s brother, celebrated satirist Anwar Maqsood, commented in his peculiar way that every person who knows Yousufi is fortunate than the author himself. “Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi is living in the era of Pakistan Muslims League-Nawaz but we are living in the era of Yousufi.”

While writing, asserted Nigah, the humorist had to be watchful not to criss-cross the fine line between quality humour and jesting, and Yousufi had always been cautious about his craftsmanship and diction.

Poet Iftikhar Arif said he has never come across a writer so meticulous about the usage and application of words as Yousufi. “His works are not only the epitome of Urdu literary humour, but his books are the representation of Urdu literature’s optimum that a very few writers have produced.”

Talking about Yousufi’s fifth work, poet Fatima Hassan said that the book offers a glimpse into the writer’s childhood, which had never been discussed in his writings before. “Though people consider ‘Zarguzasht’ as Yousufi’s biography but it holds his memoirs of the time when he was embarking on his career as a banker.” The book, she added, was a selection of 21 unpublished essays that the writer had penned down at various stages in his life.

What took the book-launch ceremony to a fitting conclusion was Zia Mohyeddin impeccable recital of one of the Yousufi’s essays on how the Urdu theatre was being managed by the Parsis in Pakistan post-Partition. The unification of Yousufi’s prose with recital maestro’s voice had compelled the audience to burst out in feral laughter.

Conference begins

Earlier on Thursday, the seventh International Urdu Conference kicked off at the Arts Council of Pakistan, with a session presided over by celebrated writer Intizar Hussain. Literary luminaries from Pakistan, India and other countries are spending the next few days discussing the state of Urdu language in the contemporary world.

“There is no line of control between the relations knitted together with art and literature,” said Dr Huma Mir, referring to the diverse scholars on stage.

The conference has become a point of reference for Urdu language and literature over the past seven years, pointed out Prof Dr Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, poet and Ziauddin University vice-chancellor.

“The international pop culture has forced the society to forsake its priorities to the point that art, literature and language have lost the significance in our everyday lives,” he said. “If this trend continues, we would see a rapid decline in intellectual pursuits. Our writers and thinkers need to guard the society from this ongoing change.” Dr Qazi Afzaal Hussain, professor of Urdu at the Aligarh University in India, said that the situation in terms of good quality writers was even less encouraging in India as compared to Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2014.


Urdu short stories: Impact of social media discussed



A two-day workshop on “Impact of Social Media on Urdu Short Story” commenced on Monday at the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) where experts discussed the historical background of Urdu short stories, writing techniques, themes and impact of social media on the language.

The workshop is being jointly organised by IIUI’s Department of Urdu (Female) and University of Erfurt, Germany. On the first day, speakers including Mrs Bushra Malik from Erfurt university, IIUI Urdu Department Head Najiba Arif, Dr Sanahat Mushtaq, Dr Humaira Ashfaq, Summaya Shad and Shadab delivered lectures on various topics.

“Social media can be a source of meaningful change in society as it is the most vital way to disseminate voices for any objective” said Malik, who teaches Urdu in Germany and also heads the Young Women Writers Forum of Pakistan. She further said that societies which face dissociation from literature ultimately lose their social values. She also discussed the Egyptian revolution, role of social media in the Scotland referendum and its role in women empowerment. She stressed upon participants to deeply study classical literature in Urdu, saying it would be helpful for young writers to bring constructive literature in front of society.

Earlier, Arif apprised participants regarding the aims of the workshop, saying it would be a great opportunity for creative students to broaden their exposure.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2014.


Alleged embezzlement: FIA summons Urdu university staffers for quizzing



ISLAMABAD: Two of the five suspended Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology (FUUAST) Islamabad campus staffers accused of involvement in a Rs150 million embezzlement scam have been summoned by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

The FIA has summoned the deputy registrar of the varsity and the VC’s personal secretary on Wednesday. In August, the VC, who sits in the Karachi campus, forwarded the names and details of the accusers to the FIA for in-depth investigation and to fend off the accusations of taking sides and attempting to influence the probe.

Meanwhile, protests on campus by a group of employees against vice-chancellor Dr Zafar Iqbal over the “illegal” suspension of their colleagues continued.

The protesting staffers are of the view that the VC has “suspended innocent people” to avoid naming the actual embezzlers.

Protests at the Islamabad campus have been running for over a month-and-a-half from 9am to 1pm every day. The protests include boycott of official work, which is taking a toll on the whole varsity, with students bearing the brunt of the pain.

Other issues for the protesters include the alleged mismanagement and corruption of the VC, a lull in construction work at the Islamabad campus, and non-provision of medical facilities to employees.

Amid sloganeering, speakers said instead of taking notice of the mismanagement, the VC dismissed three employees and stopped salaries for several others.

They also claim the VC regularised 19 FUUAST Karachi campus employees, something they have been demanding for the Islamabad campus, but to no avail.

They also requested that the President of Pakistan, who is also the university’s chancellor, and the Higher Education Commission chairman take notice of the issue as no action has been taken against anyone in the last few months.

When President Mamnoon Hussain took action and established a committee to probe the issue, the VC approached the Sindh High Court, arguing that the body was illegal, and got a stay order.

Since reports emerged of a Rs150 million scam at the university’s Islamabad campus, the top management has spent much of its time passing the buck to other employees.

The money was allegedly transferred from a university account to a private one and then ‘invested’ in some private businesses, all of which purportedly occurred without the knowledge of the top management.

According to university sources, after learning of the illegal account, the VC set up an inquiry committee headed by newly-appointed campus in charge Lt Gen (retired) Shahid Aziz.

Five university employees involved in opening the bank account were suspended based on the inquiry report. But the VC later reconstituted the committee by removing Aziz for unspecified reasons.

The deputy registrar said they had just received the FIA letter to appear before a probe body and nothing was mentioned about the meeting agenda.

Campus In-charge Abdur Razzaq Memon told The Express Tribune that the protesters thought there was nothing to the corruption allegations but the summonses from the FIA proved that some fishy business did take place. “Let the committee decide and end this saga,” he remarked.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2014.

 


Alleged corruption: Urdu varsity staffers continue protest against VC



ISLAMABAD: 

Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology (FUUAST) Islamabad campus staff continued their protest against Vice-Chancellor Dr Zafar Iqbal for his alleged involvement in a Rs150 million embezzlement scam.

The employees are protesting for the last month against the alleged mismanagement and “corruption of the VC” and non-provision of medical facilities to employees.

Amid slogan-shouting, speakers claimed that instead of taking notice of the mismanagement, the VC has dismissed three employees and stopped salaries of several others.

To add insult to injury, they claim, the VC regularised 19 employees of the FUUAST Karachi campus. They demanded that employees of the Islamabad campus also be regularised.

Since reports emerged of a Rs150 million scam at the Islamabad campus, the top management has been passing the buck.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2014.


In Urdu: NBF publishes Bulleh Shah’s work



ISLAMABAD: 

The National Book Foundation (NBF) has published in Urdu the famous book “Bulleh Shah” for book lovers, said NBF Director Majeed Malik.

The translation has been done by renowned scholar Dr Amjad Ali Bhatti. Talking to APP, Malik said the translator has a vast and remarkable experience in performing the uphill task of translating the legendary poet, Baba Bulleh Shah’s work in Punjabi.

NBF has also embarked upon translation of books in regional languages into English. In this connection, the famous book, Bulleh Shah, a collection of selective poetry has been published with translation in Urdu.

The book consists of 168 pages and is priced at Rs120. It is a mission of NBF to provide rare, quality and important books to the readers at very cheap prices, he added. Malik said this was achieved by the sole effort of Dr Amjad Bhatti who worked on the translation of 65 selected Kafian and 20 Dohraas in Urdu.

The layout has been designed by Mansoor Ahmad, informed Malik.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 11th, 2014.


Rs150m scam: Urdu varsity staff continues protest against VC



ISLAMABAD: 

The employees of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology (FUUAST) Islamabad campus continued their protest against vice-chancellor Dr Zafar Iqbal in connection with his alleged involvement in a Rs150 million embezzlement scam.

The employees protested against the alleged mismanagement and corruption of the VC as well as the lull over the construction of the Islamabad campus and non-provision of medical facilities to the employees.

Amid slogan-shouting, speakers claimed that instead of taking notice of the mismanagement, the VC has dismissed three employees and stopped salaries of several others.

To add insult to injury, they claim, the VC regularised 19 employees of the FUUAST Karachi campus.

The employees said such ‘administrative actions’ by the varsity head would not be tolerated and demanded that employees of the Islamabad campus also be regularised.

They also requested the President of Pakistan, who is also the university’s chancellor, and chairman of the Higher Education Commission to take notice of the issue as no action has been taken against anyone for the last few months.

Since reports emerged of a Rs150 million scam at the university’s Islamabad campus, the top management has spent much of its time passing the buck.

The money was allegedly transferred from a university account to a private account and then ‘invested’ in some private businesses, all of which purportedly occurred without the knowledge of the top management.

Five university employees involved in opening the bank account were suspended following an inquiry report.

According to university sources, after learning of the illegal account, the VC set up an inquiry committee headed by newly-appointed campus in charge Lt Gen (retired) Shahid Aziz.

The committee found the VC’s Personal Secretary Abdul Rashid Bangash, accountant Hammad Kayani, audit officer Rana Asif, deputy registrar Shah Muhammad and another official involved in opening the new account.

The five were suspended immediately but the VC later reconstituted the committee by removing Aziz for unspecified reasons.

Sources at the university said Aziz was investigating the issue thoroughly and
that the names of senior officials from the university’s Karachi campus had also popped up during the investigation.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2014.