Sir Syed Ahmed Khan must be in agony

Qammer Abbas Anka

WHILE walking across a busy road in Islamabad, I stopped for a while captivated by a golden tomb on the flanks. The attractive tomb drew me closer to the building. As I stepped closer to the building, I was amazed to see the billboard of Sir Syed Memorial Society. Name of Sir Syed took me back to the memories of a great personality who was a stalwart educationist, a reformer and founding leader of Pakistan. The supreme interest of Sir Syed’s life was education in its widest sense. He wanted to create a scientific temperament among the Muslims of India and to make the modern knowledge of Science available to them.
The next scene portrayed the realization of Sir Syed’s dream of education; a board showing name of an educational institution and a state-of-the-art research and development centre. The Centre for Advance Studies in Engineering (CASE) has huge credentials in field of education in Pakistan and has contributed significantly in adding renowned scholars and scientists in Pakistan. CASE is a leading and prestigious institution of higher learning that has remarkably outstanding and unparalleled contributions.
So far CASE has produced more than 50 PhDs, over 1800 Masters and some 850 bachelor level professionals in the fields of Engineering, Computer Science, Management and Business. Presently 1300 students are enrolled in 13 versatile programmes of these disciplines. The institution has over 70 highly qualified teaching staff including 23 PhD level professors. The institution has brought several laurels to Pakistan by winning 26 national and international awards. CASE has been ruling in the field of Robotics by continuously winning national robotic championship for last seven years and representing Pakistan in a number of international events beating Russia and India.
As I walked close to the building, I was shocked to see the closure notice of the Centre by CDA. For a moment, I felt the tall figure of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan in extreme agony with tears soaking his beautiful beard. His dream and vision for education looked tarnished and broken. His own saying flashed in my mind which says, “When a nation becomes devoid of arts and learning, it invites poverty. And when poverty comes, it brings in its wake thousands of crime”. Curiosity grew in my mind and I decided to explore the entire puzzle. I dug out old records and consulted old luminaries of Aligarh Muslim University. Something had gone wrong somewhere. The deep investigation revealed interesting facts. It will be pertinent to share these findings with those who accord highest priority to education and educators.
In 1984, ‘Central Aligarh Boys Association’ consisting of ex-students of Aligarh Muslim University and mostly retired army personnel, educationists and bureaucrats conceived idea of establishing Sir Syed University in Islamabad. Later in 1986, the association approached Islamabad administration for allotment of land for educational purposes. In 1987-88, in response to the written request of the then President of Pakistan, a piece of 24 kanal land, situated at 19- Ataturk Avenue was allotted by CDA for educational purposes. The main purpose was to construct reading rooms, library, auditorium and a museum for history of Pakistan in order to initiate education activities. In 1989, Central Aligarh Boys Association was transformed into Sir Syed Memorial Society (SSMS) and was formally registered in Registrar’s Office, Chief Commissioner Islamabad. The dream of the founding members of SSMS was to establish Sir Syed University, Islamabad, on pattern of Aligarh Muslim University in India.
In 1987, SSMS, with a view to paying tribute to Sir Syed, accorded honorary membership to Mr Syed Ahmed Masood, his great great grandson who was not a former student of Aligarh University. Hence award of this membership was purely a gesture of affection to the descendent of a great national hero. In 1999 COMSATS arrived as a tenant to conduct its classes in the present building of SSMS. During the same period Syed Ahmed Masood had attained the position of President SSMS and was running the affairs of society. Renting out of SSMS’s building to COMSATS was also decided under his president-ship through necessary procedure and under prevailing rules. This educational venture could not last longer.
In 2003, CASE was engaged by SSMS and was brought in existing building as tenant. This engagement was purely on non profit basis and was fully in line with the objectives of SSMS constitution. Later in 2006, SSMS and CASE signed an agreement to establish Sir Syed CASE Institute of Technology (SSCASE IT) with an ambition to transform this institution into ‘Sir Syed University, Islamabad’ when the resources allow to do so. Looking at the excellent performance of CASE, HEC awarded NOC to SSCASE IT in 2007. Presently said institution is in final stages of getting its charter.
A few years after working as President of SSMS, Syed Masood lost focus of the main objectives of the Society and started pursuing his personal business objectives. He had already established his private business office in SSMS building against the rules and regulations of SSMS considering it as his personal property. Not contended on this, he managed to spend Rs 80,000 out of Society’s funds to furnish his aforementioned private office. The Executive Committee strongly condemned this act of running private business in Sir Syed Memorial building in a formal meeting on October 25, 1999 and advised him to refrain from running private business besides returning Rs 80000 to the Society. Syed Masood maintained that he did not do any wrong and that his actions were in the best interest of the Society. The Committee members did not concur to his explanation and asked him to move his business and staff from SSMS premises.
In response Syed Masood resigned from his president-ship as well as the membership of SSMS. His resignation was unanimously accepted by the Executive Committee. Unfortunately the said amount has not yet been returned by Syed Ahmed Masood, who still claims to be the patron and member of SSMS whereas he does not hold any portfolio. Moreover, he did not have any role in establishing SSMS and was awarded membership and presidentship purely on discretionary grounds by the members. Now Syed Masood is maligning present Executive Committee. Present founding member and an extremely loyal member (Retd) Brigadier Iqbal Shafi is main focus of his malicious campaign. Brig Shafi, now in his late 80s, has devoted his entire life to serve SSMS. The propaganda of Syed Masood has forced Brig Shafi to defocus from his primary duties and engage in unnecessary litigation initiated by Syed Masood. Brig Shafi is an excellent educationist and a diehard member of SSMS. He had been a tireless worker in Pakistan Movement for which he was awarded Gold Medal also. He is a professional soldier who has actively participated in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars. For his meritorious services in Pakistan Army, he was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz (Military).
Another development took place in 2016 when two employees of SSMS were dismissed on charges of misconduct. These employees who were members of SSMS Executive Committee since 2005 had started drawing pay as employees. SSMS Executive Committee reminded them that as per rules, members of the Committee could not draw any pay so either retain membership or stop drawing pay as employees. These employees were adamant to retain the both. These expelled employees have now joined hands with Syed Masood against the SSMS. Today Syed Masood is leaving no stone unturned in maligning SSMS through his links with Govt officials and notables from the city. His vendetta against SSMS is unnecessarily tarnishing good image of a prestigious organization and is hindering educational activities of CASE.
Sir Syed had a passion for education, his followers, the members of SSMS, are carrying his mission forward. If you cannot help them promoting Sir Syed’s mission, at least do not create hurdles in their way. Let no one say, “I am sorry that kinship was not enough to make you successful in a position for which you were never really qualified”. I can only say to Syed Masood to carry forward legacy of his grandfather and refrain from encashing his name.
— The writer is freelance columnist.

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