PESHAWAR  - The removal of principal of Edwards College and delay in picking up another suitable person for the office has become talk of the town after the government formally advertised the post, a move being severely criticised by the Christian community which considers it meddling in the affairs of this institution.

The Christian community in Peshawar is of the view that appointing a local, not a foreigner, as principal of the college is against the law. The office of the principal Edwards College Peshawar had fallen vacant after the removal of Titus Pressler by the Board of Governor (BoG) in December last with the then chairman of the board and Governor Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Engineer Shaukatullah in the chair.

The board in the same meeting had formed a search committee under the chairmanship of Prof Dr Mohammad Rasul Jan to advertise the position and recommend a suitable name to the governor for appointment as principal.

Thus the post was advertised and April 10 was the last date for submission of applications. However, during this period, the governor changed and the process got slow.

According to sources, Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peter was not happy with the principal's removal and subsequent process to appoint a new principal. He considers it his prerogative to appoint the principal and take other key decisions about the institution.

Talking to The Nation, PTI District Coordinator Minority Fayaz Kanwal said that advertising the post of the principal of Edwards College by the provincial government was illegal and against the rules.

Diocese of Peshawar, Bishop, was the only authority to appoint or terminate the services of the principal of the college.

Fayaz said Articles 20 and 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan allow minorities to run their own institutions as per their wishes and aspirations.

"Follow bylaws, if it comes to appointing principal of the Edwards College Peshawar, that is one of the great seats of learning in the province, and the rules say that principal of the college should be a foreigner," Fayaz Kanwal explained.

He threatened to launch an agitation movement if the set rules were bypassed in this regard. Moreover, he appealed to the judiciary to take note of the situation.

The Bishop has been saying that only a Christian can be appointed as principal of the institution. However, member of the search committee said that there is nothing in writing in this regard.

"Shamshad, a Muslim, has already served as principal in the past," the member added.

A member of the search committee said that a list of the applicants would be scrutinised soon. Efforts would be made to improve performance of the college, which has been affected during the last several years due to prolonged absence of its former principal.

A few days back, All Saints Church Kohati Gate Vicar Incharge and Church of Pakistan Diocese of Peshawar Senior Vicar Incharge, Pastor Ejaz Gill had alleged that provincial education department was trying to take control of the college. This institution is an autonomous education institution of the Christian community and both education and law departments have already accepted its independent status.

He called for an immediate withdrawal of the advertisement for the appointment of principal to the college.

He said that the community had neither accepted the college's existing board of governors nor had it allowed the education department to step in.

Similarly, to condemn provincial government's move, PML-N's Minority MPA Fredrick Azeem Ghouri asked the government to cancel the advertisement forthwith. On the other hand, Chief of the United Christian Committee Tanvir Shirazi had alleged that the self-proclaimed bishop of Peshawar wanted to usurp the historic Edwards College.

When contacted, well-placed officials in the Higher Education Department said on condition of anonymity that efforts were underway to delay the appointment of principal Edwards College, besides ending the role of BoG and fully empower the Church to run all the administrative and financial affairs of the college.

In this regard, Bishop Humphrey Peter has recently met with Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, who after the meeting issued directives to the Education Department to slow down the appointment process.

The Edwards College was set up in 1900. Efforts were made in 1971 to nationalise it, but the then Governor Arbab Sikandar Khan Khalil and Chief Minister Mufti Mahmud foiled this attempt and constituted the BoG that has been running the college affairs since then.