‘Taleem Aur Hunar Sath Sath’: Did GCU Really Promote Political Activism in an Academic Institute?

The ‘Taleem Aur Hunar Sath Sath’ orientation drive is an initiative of the Punjab Government that started on the 19th of September with the purpose of empowering the youth and building awareness about how they can balance skills with education.

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The events were open to all and were scheduled to take place in ten major cities across the province. According to the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB)’s website, the events would enable students to connect with notable influencers, speakers, and trainers who would engage them through visits to their respective institutions.

The second round of which was held in Government College University (GCU) Lahore, as a collaborative effort of the PITB and the GCU Lahore administration, on the 26th of September, 2022. The event organized in the Oval ground, GCU managed to garner much negative attention following a tweet by Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz Sharif claiming, “Strict action must be taken against Vice Chancellor Government College Uni for desecrating an educational institution by lending it to a Fitna & organising his jalsa on the premises”. Maryam Nawaz continued to argue that using “a seat of learning” for “political hate-mongering” cannot go without legal repercussions.

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Following this Governor Punjab, Baligh Ur Rehman took notice of the incident as the serving Chancellor for GCU and said that it is unfortunate for a famous educational institution in the country to turn into a political arena. Baligh Ur Rehman added that there is no room for political activities in universities. Meanwhile, Federal Minister of Education and Profession Training Rana Tanveer Hussain condemned the Vice-Chancellor (VC) of GCU and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leadership for turning an esteemed academic institute into a “political” arena.

Issuing a statement on the matter, Hussain argued that GCU grounds were being “staged” for PTI leaders to spread hatred against their political rivals.

Similarly, PTI leader and former Minister of Information and Technology, Fawad Chaudhry responded to the tweet with, “leaders from across the world go to the universities to express their thoughts. Though you (Maryam) are unaware of the ongoing trends in the politics and with the exception of conspiracy you (PMLN vice president) have no other strategy”.

Earlier, VC GCU Asghar Zaidi had taken to Twitter to announce the news that former Prime Minister Imran Khan would be participating in the ‘Taleem Aur Hunar Sath Sath’ event as the Chief Guest. Zaidi added that the event was organized in collaboration with PITB.

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After the event gained momentum following the tweet demanding action by Maryam Nawaz, VC GCU issued a message stating that the GCU administration had been informed in advance by the PITB. He added, “what the former prime minister chose to say on the stage today was his call and it was not in our control”.

He added that they did not object to the event for two primary reasons. Firstly, because the initiative was meant to advantage the youth and improve education standards for the country, and secondly because it is a common practice for political leaders to visit academic institutes and interact with students. Zaidi continued to say, “we do not discriminate on the basis [of] whether they are in the government or in the opposition.”

Zaidi further wrote in his message, “I neither ask for #WeStandWithVcGCU nor appreciate #RemoveVCofGCU. I have been an educationist for the last 30 years, and that is what I will always be. And as far as today’s event is concerned, it was not meant to be a political event at all.”

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The complete message was shared on the official Twitter page for GCU Lahore. The message was retweeted by Prof. Zaidi who thanked his students for supporting him.

Should Vice Chancellor Asghar Zaidi be lauded for following protocol and allowing students a wider viewpoint or should he be penalized for allowing an Opposition leader to address the youth? What do you think? Share your opinions with us in the comments section. 

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