New Delhi: Not all big plans to build research institutes materialise — and in some cases, they take on a whole new avatar. In 2013, Pakistan decided to build an IIT-like institute, believing it to be the reason behind India’s success story. The government even allocated land in Lahore to build the main campus of Information Technology University, or ITU. For local people in Lahore celebrating Eid-ul-Azha this year, that land is doubling up as a cattle market.
And yes, there is no sign of a Pakistani ‘Indian Institute of Technology’.
ITU’s former vice-chancellor and chairperson of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Umar Saif posted an image of the land that has now become “a Bakra Mandi”.
In 2013, we set out to build a little MIT for Pakistan. It had all the ingredients of becoming the equivalent of IIT in India.
… and today, the site marked for its campus has been turned into a Bakra Mandi.
شرم آنی چاہیے ہم سب کو pic.twitter.com/1HLzJRY1mv
— Umar Saif (@umarsaif) July 9, 2022
Shehbaz Sharif was the Chief Minister of Punjab at the time and had nominated Umar Saif for the position of the head of the PITB. Umar spoke to Sharif about his grand plans for establishing a world-class IT university in Pakistan that would be at par with other top universities around the world.
Two years later in 2013, Umar established the Information Technology University. As the youngest vice-chancellor of any national higher education institute, at the age of 34, he had a vision to expand the University “to advance scientific research, innovation and entrepreneurship in Pakistan,” he writes.
In response to a Twitter user, Umar said he had “no intentions of working for the government again”.
Sir I have no intentions of working for the government again, especially after seeing the destructions of all the work we did by petty people in big offices.
— Umar Saif (@umarsaif) July 10, 2022
Reports from Pakistan suggest that a lack of funding is pushing many Pakistani universities to the brink and thus they are faced with the threat of closing down. With rampant and drastic cuts in grants by the Pakistani government, over 140 public sector universities are suffering.
A report in The Express Tribune said education experts in Pakistan have warned against cuts in funding, saying “it would even become difficult to meet the overall expenses required to run universities”.
Spread over 183 acres on Barki Road in Lahore, the ITU campus land is currently crowded by Eid shoppers.