KARACHI - Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that he takes pride in the fact that he is a descendent of Khan Bahadur Hassanally Effendi and Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto.

Hassanally Effendi is the founder of the illustrious Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU) and Shahnawaz Bhutto is one of its finest students who dedicated his life to the fight for Pakistan, he said. “Today, as I stand here, at the threshold of one of the oldest institutions of modern knowledge in the subcontinent, I am both humbled and filled with pride,” he said.

Addressing students and faculty at the Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU) at Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto Auditorium of the university here on Friday, Bilawal said the Sindh Madressatul Islam University was the institution that educated some of the most renowned soldiers, dedicated educationalists, fine jurists and visionary leaders who went on to change the course of the history of this nation and its people. And not only that, they changed the very map of the world. For the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself studied at this campus, in addition to other luminaries like Sir Abdullah Haroon, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Khan Bahadur Mohammad Ayub Khuhro and Shaikh Abdul Majid Sindhi, just to name a few.

Talking about the students of SMIU, he said that seeing all these bright eyed young people who were currently pursuing their quest for quality higher education gave him renewed hope for a modern and prosperous Pakistan that could compete with bright minds anywhere in the world whilst simultaneously retaining pride in its own history and culture.

He was of the view that establishment of the SMI University in 2012 was in accordance with the Pakistan People’s Party’s vision of improved higher education opportunities for Pakistan’s youth through institutions that would open new doors for research-based knowledge, coupled with opportunities to practice their newfound skills and knowledge before applying them to the real world. “An educated nation is a progressive nation,” he said.

Bilawal said that he praised the efforts of SIMU Vice Chancellor Dr Mohammad Ali Shaikh for creating a learning environment conducive to growth and development of students, the teachers for providing an opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with the future generations and the students for dedicating their minds and practical skills for bringing Pakistan on a par with developed and modern nations.

Talking about the role of teachers, he said that today the role of the educator had become more important than ever in Pakistan’s history. “As we fight the extremist mindset within and outside our borders, it is up to our teachers to imbue into their students the true ideals of tolerance,” he said.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that SMIU was no stranger to prodigious achievers in its midst, having educated the likes of the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto and Sir Abdullah Haroon to name a few. He said that he was sure that with a history such as this and having embraced the provision of quality education along with imparting practical knowledge to its students, the institution was all geared up for producing new legends who would make the country proud of their success.

Later, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari inaugurated the Senate Hall at the SMIU and presided over a meeting of vice chancellors of various universities of Sindh. Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, members of his cabinet, members of statuary bodies of SMIU and senior faculty and officials of SMIU also attended the meeting. SIMU Vice Chancellor Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh briefed the meeting about higher education in Sindh.

During the interactive session, all vice chancellors talked about the issues of their universities and gave some suggestions. Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah assured the heads of universities that the problems of the universities and their employees would be solved on a priority basis.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited the Jinnah Museum and took keen interest in the relics of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Hassanally Effendi and other alumni of the SMIU.

Separately, Bilawal condemned the crackdown on peasants and farmers in Islamabad and termed it a dictatorial action by the Nawaz Sharif government.

Announcing his support for the protest and demands of farmers, the PPP chairman said that peasantry had been destroyed economically by the PML-N government, which had proved the worst enemy of agriculture, which was continuously registering minus growth under the current government.

He said that shelling and baton-charge on innocent farmers were part of the Sharif brothers’ anti-farmer policy, as they had been ignoring and even facilitating protests by banned organisations in the capital city.  “The brutal torture of farmers in Islamabad has again exposed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan as a remnant of dictatorships,” he added.

Bilawal said that farmers and growers always prospered during PPP governments, but Nawaz Sharif snatched their smiles. Farmers demanding jute bags for wheat in Islamabad have every right to exercise their democratic right to protest against the injustices, he added.

The PPP chairman said that his party would restore all rights of farmers after coming into power and would continue to promote and stabilise the agriculture sector.