dailypeghamISLAMABAD: Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) have decided to form a joint task force to ‘work out’ a plan for permanent allocation of QAU land to the latter for setting up a campus.

PIDE, a subsidiary organisation of the Planning Commission, has been functioning in a building on a four-acre patch of QAU land since 1977. It has formally approached the university administration to allocate around 17 acres to set up a campus. The idea of selling or handing over land to PIDE, however, has faced strong opposition from many faculty members as well as the university syndicate.

A source in the university told The Express Tribune that the task force will consider the pros and cons of the proposal. According to the source, the task force will become operational by Tuesday or Wednesday and would finalise the terms of reference (ToRs) for the proposed PIDE Lease Relocation on QAU Campus deal.

QAU, which faces a financial crunch, tried to sell land to the institute last year as well, but rescinded after the syndicate opposed the move. Supporters of the deal say that the land would fetch around Rs500 million from the PIDE, which could be used to execute urgent projects.

QAU Vice Chancellor Dr Javed Ashraf recently said that a “deal between two government organisations should not be deemed a sale”.

PIDE has a ‘100-year free-of-cost lease agreement’ with QAU for its current location.

The QAU Academic Council has already approved the relocation of the PIDE campus within the QAU, but approval will require the syndicate’s nod.

Those favouring the deal claim that the land is not being sold and would in fact remain QAU property, while adding that critics were only out for “political point-scoring which damages the interest of the university”.

“QAU would get the current PIDE building and also receive the Rs618 million allocated to PIDE for a new campus in H-12/2,” said QAU History Department Assistant Prof Ilhan Niaz, adding that no property would actually be transferred to PIDE, which would relocate to a new area.

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“The proposed site for PIDE is adjacent to the transmission grid and a stream. It is vulnerable to encroachments and needs to be developed. The PIDE campus would block further encroachments if it is located there,” he said.

Those opposing the deal argue that granting the land to the PIDE would give other government and non-government organisations legitimate right to set up their campuses on the QAU land, already encroached upon by local villagers and an influential former senator. According to university officials, over 650 acres of QAU land are under adverse possession.

Similarly, many other institutions have set up their campuses on the QAU land and National Defense University has previously requested approval for a share of QAU’s land.

“If we sell to PIDE today, it would set a precedent as well as legitimate right for other organisations to purchase the QAU land,” said School of Politics and International Relations Associate Prof Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal. “By rejecting this land deal, we aim to protect the QAU land for its own academic growth and prosperity in the future”.

Opponents also claim that nobody was happy with the understanding and it was all being done at the whims of Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, who is also the chancellor of the PIDE.

“The PIDE chancellor is actively pursuing expansion of his institute, but the QAU chancellor and the president of Pakistan has preferred to remain silent,” said QAU Academic Staff Association President Dr Asif Ali.