Former Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan at a lawyers convention in Lahore on September 21, 2022. In his address at the Oval Ground of the GCU, Imran Khan had publicly criticised the government, castigating the Sharifs particularly. Image Credit: AFP

ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan’s reccent address at the historic Government College University (GCU) Lahore has invited the wrath of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led coalition government that is seeing the event as a ‘sacrilegious’ act meant to turning educational institutes into political arenas.

In his address at the Oval Ground of the GCU, Imran Khan had publicly criticised the government, castigating the Sharifs particularly.

Immediately after the event, a majority of the students and netizens, not only condemned holding of a political event at an institute of GC University’s stature but also demanded removal of Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi.

Imran Khan’s arch rival and Vice President of the PML-N Maryam Nawaz is leading a campaign to condemn his harangue at the GCU demanding strict action against the Vice Chancellor for ‘politicising’ a prestigious institute of the country that has a history of the Raj Times (pre-independence).

In a tweet Maryam Nawaz said: “Strict action must be taken against the GCU VC for desecrating an educational institution by lending it to a Fitna & organising his jalsa on the premises. Using a seat of learning for political hate-mongering is a crime that should not go unpunished.”

She also shared a post by a netizen Wahid Zia according to which Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi had directed the students to attend Imran Khan’s Monday ‘public meeting’ at the campus at all costs. The post in fact quotes a student: “A student from the GCU DMed says we were told to attend the event at any cost.”

Punjab Governor takes notice

After Maryam’s tweet, Governor Punjab Mohammad Baligh-ur-Rehman took “strict” notice of a political activity held at the campus.

Taking to social media, the Governor expressed his disapproval and said that turning a prestigious institute such as GCU into a political arena is extremely saddening.

Students are an asset of a country and there is no room for their involvement in politics and political rallies. Unfortunately, GC University’s students were used politically and teachers were forced to ensure the attendance of students.

Govt removes VC from search committee

The federal government has also removed Vice Chancellor Zaidi from the membership of a search committee and replaced him with a co-opted member Dr Shoaib Mir.

Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Rana Tanveer Hussain expressed his annoyance at organising a political event at an educational institute.

GCU is considered as one of the oldest seats of learning and has unfortunately been made to serve as a stage for a hate mongering PTI Leader, said Rana Tanveer in a tweet. He has also ordered strict action against VC, said he in a tweet.

VC stands by his decision

However, while giving his side of the story, Dr. Asghar in a TV interview clarified that the event was allowed in good faith and purely for the benefit of the students. Students in top universities across the world get to hear different political narratives at various forums in their institutes.

The VC further said the Punjab Information Technology Board had organised the event and chose the guest list. “When the chief guest is speaking you cannot instruct him what to say and what not,” he said when asked why the university did not stop Imran from making political comments.

In his support he posted a tweet by a popular anchor Kamran Shahid who held the VC of a university not a head clerk or secretary of the government and we must respect his decision regarding the invitation of guests as intellectual freedom assures growth of knowledge.