It is a great privilege and honour for me to assume the charge of the prestigious position of Vice Chancellor, University of Peshawar. I still remember that day in August, 1975, when boarding a red double decker bus from GTS Station at Saddar, I stepped onto the Road # 2 on the university campus, seeking admission in one of the BS (Hons) programs at the University. Fast forward, August 7, 2017, driving from Gilgit , I culminated my journey at Road # 2 to reach the illustrious Administration Building to take charge as the Vice Chancellor of this alma matter. This journey of some 42 years holds a long history of my association with the University of Peshawar. I did my BSc(Hons) and MSc, won the Ministry of Education Merit Scholarship for PhD at the Imperial College London. Joining as Jr Research Fellow at the National Centre of Excellence in Geology, University of Peshawar, I progressed to the position of Professor 1998, tenured Professor 2007, and Director 2005-2014. It were only last 3 years when I had the honour of serving as the Vice Chancellor, Karakoram International University, Gilgit-Baltistan (2014-2017) that I remained outside the service of the University of Peshawar.
Despite my 34 years of service to the University of Peshawar, whereby I taught to hundreds of students, supervised over a dozen PhDs and over two dozen MS/MPhil students, helped in establishing world-renowned institutions such the National Centre of Excellence in Geology, I feel that I owe to the University more than what I could return. University of Peshawar (1950) is the third oldest university in Pakistan after Punjab and Jamshoro. It started as a comprehensive university with a great mix of basic and applied sciences, humanities and social sciences and professional disciplines such as engineering, medicine, agriculture, forestry, commerce, home economics and law. By mid eighties, the University of Peshawar was an education city rather than a university campus. It is still so though the professional disciplines have been clipped away as separate universities and institutions (Engineering University, Agriculture University, Peshawar Forest Institute, Khyber Medical College etc.). These universities and institutions have fortified themselves as islands but the University of Peshawar has kept itself open and vast as an ocean and still equally caters needs of students, faculty and staff on campus irrespective of their affiliation. In the process, the university has been facing all kinds of pressures ranging from security concerns, financial crunches and deteriorating academic standards. I have dozens of plans for enabling the University to regain its past glories. Yet, knowing that in a 3-year term I need to set my priorities. My focus is on four main targets; student services, teaching standards, research output and relevance to the society. I intend to ensure that students are brought back to centre stage in the university’s priorities. My first visit outside the Vice Chancellor office on the very next day of joining was a visit to the Hostel No. 1 that I found in a pathetic condition. The only encouraging sign was that despite miserable facilities, hundreds of students were using the hostel study room to its full capacity. May Allah help me generating resources that we refurbish these hostels, add further study spaces and provide high-speed Internet and IT facilities. I am a great proponent of teachers’ training as I believe that with advances in ICT, lecture-based classroom teaching has lost its relevance. We need to focus on learning rather than teaching and for that we need to adopt methodologies like group study, inquiry-based curriculum and flipped class rooms. On the third-day of my joining back at the UoP, I am honoured to be instrumental in arranging a workshop (August 10-11, 2017) on Teaching Effectiveness delivered by resource persons from the University of Utah, USA. The research culture at the University of Peshawar is well entrenched and dates back to many decades. Scientists like Professors R. A. Khan Tahirkheli, Mian Majeed, Marghoob Siddiqui, Ihsan Ilahi and M. Qasim Jan kept the university in the forefront of the research output in the country. In the recent times, University of Peshawar has the honour of having highest-ranking scientists in the fields of engineering sciences, earth and environmental sciences, chemistry and biology. This is despite the fact that the Academic Management at the University hardly facilitates the research students at the MPhil and PhD level. On average, PhD and MS/MPhil students experience wait for evaluation of their thesis after submission for over an year, which has set the research output by the university at its abysmal low. We need to not only facilitate the faculty and students engaged in research but also furnish them with respect they deserve. With little bit of extra care, I am sure that University of Peshawar has potential to compete with the best universities in the country in terms of research output, quality and relevance. Together with the Islamia College, the University of Peshawar has catered to the needs of the region at its best. Most of the provincial leadership in last half a century owes their education and training and ultimate rise to executive positions to the University of Peshawar. This role as the hatchery for future leadership of the province and the country needs to be not only upheld but also needs further strengthening to ensure university’s continued relevance to the society. In my opinion, the biggest challenge the University of Peshawar faces is the polarization and division caused by internal politics. Mediocres, especially those inducted through backdoors thrive on this chaos and division. I am determined to break this vicious cycle. My strategy to overcome this evil is by upholding strict merit; merit in admissions, merit in selection/promotion and ultimately merit in extending any benefits and rewards. With these words, I take this opportunity to invite the alumni, faculty, staff and the students of the University to join me in bringing the University of Peshawar back to the path of glory and excellence. We need to ensure that the University of Peshawar takes pride not only being the oldest university but also being the most modern, innovative and prestigious.