Shahbaz Sharif grants 1,000 acres to Imran university in Mianwali

Posted on October 2, 2013 Articles

Shahbaz Sharif grants 1,000 acres to Imran university in Mianwali

ISLAMABAD: Deafening political rancour apart, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has approved “compulsory” acquisition of a huge piece of land, 1,000 acres (8,000 kanals), for the Namal College Mianwali of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan at a throwaway price but several key PML-N figures are loudly protesting the decision.

Top officials of the Punjab government and Namal Education Foundation (NEF), which runs the facility, confirmed to The News that the chief minister has sanctioned acquisition of 1,000 acres of land from local landowners under the 1894 Act, which provides for enforced procurement by the government.

The NEF has paid an astonishingly low price of Rs1,500 per kanal, meaning a total of Rs15 million including the essential acquisition charges for the entire piece of 1,000 acres.Way back in 2009, the Shahbaz Sharif government imposed a complete ban on compulsory land acquisition for societies, trusts, private companies etc, on the ground that some land grabbers were exploiting this permission.

An official said that as a special dispensation for Namal College the ban was relaxed by the chief minister as Imran Khan, at least twice, recently requested his personal intervention in the matter.

“Thus, Shahbaz Sharif and Imran Khan teamed up for the Namal College.”When contacted, a Punjab government spokesman said “for the chief minister furtherance of education is a noble purpose and has to be bipartisan. Hence, he ordered the provision of land for the Namal College, sponsored by the PTI chairman. Development and welfare has to be above politics in the same spirit as Nawaz Sharif had provided prime land for the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital Lahore when he was the chief minister of Punjab two decades ago.”

The NEF Director of Marketing Abid Hussain told this correspondent that the Namal College submitted the request to the Punjab government for land acquisition in 2008 and it was pending since then. He said the price of Rs1,500 per kanal was not very low because the land comprised hills and uneven tracts.

He said all the legal formalities have been completed and the district price assessment committee Mianwali fixed its cost that the Namal College has paid.Some PTI leaders contacted by The News for comments refused to speak on the subject saying that the Namal College has nothing to with their party.

The PTI chairman has been criticising the Punjab government for non-cooperation in this aspect. However, the chief minister got the land acquired at a break neck speed within a matter of days and got it transferred in name of Namal College.

The downside is that Shahbaz Sharif has attracted intense criticism of landowners and PML-N rank and file of Mianwali. They have conveyed their anger to the chief minister.Obaidullah Shadikhel, who was elected in the recent by-polls from NA-71 Mianwali, the seat vacated by Imran Khan, and former MPs Humair Rokhari and Ali Noor Niazi scoffed at the Punjab government for its decision to allocate a huge tract of land for the project.

They dubbed it as a “land grab” and said that the Atchison College Lahore is spread over 200 acres; Military College Jhelum over 100 acres; Cadet College Hasan Abdal over 120 acres; Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur over 150 acres; and LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences) over 170 acres. They questioned the provision of such a colossal piece of land to the Namal College and said this is the prime land due to its proximity to the scenic Namal Lake on Talagang Mianwali Road.

However, the criticism has not changed the chief minister’s mind.Since he refused to review his decision, the critics have approached a court of Mianwali and got stay order.They said the Punjab government has already given a 16-room hostel, a complete academic bloc, and 12 official residences of a government college to the Namal College.

A landlord of the area, Malik Akhtar Awan, who is also a practicing lawyer, told The News that the Namal College was presently functioning on 50 kanals while it has an additional 350 kanals of piece that is sufficient for its expanded activities. He said he was not associated with any political party, and claimed that 1,000 acres of land acquired for the educational institution at highly cheap rates has the actual price of billions of rupees.

Imran Khan’s message on the NEF website reads “in 2002, on a social development tour across Mianwali, I came across an appalling reality that haunts most of Pakistan — high level of unemployment amongst the youth. I resolved to set up a technical college so that the youth could become employable. However, two things made me change my mind and instead, I decided to build a world class university. First was the beautiful location of the site (donated free of cost by the villagers), which made me dream of a knowledge city like Oxford.

Secondly, when I was offered the Chancellorship of the University ofBradford, I realised that I had access to an enormous academic support to pursue this dream. I am under no illusion that it is a huge challenge to set up a centre of excellence in such a remote though beautiful location. It will require a huge amount of funds to make it a university of international standard. I want to see over half the students in the university coming from less privileged backgrounds through scholarships, who in our present elitist education system cannot dream of having access to high quality education. I once again look forward to your help to shoulder the responsibility of educating our youth and paving the path for their brighter futures.”

Namal College is located in Rikhi in district Mianwali. It is very near to Namal Lake. Imran Khan is poised to build the educational institution on the pattern of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital Lahore.