20 May

"This feature article was originally published in TNS (The News On Sunday) on Nov, 2007"

By Asad Jan

When NWFP Governor Lieutenant General (r) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai first announced the setting up of a girls' section in the historic Islamia College, Peshawar, it created a lot of stir. Those opposed to the project even threatened to blow it up in a suicide bombing, as they believed that it was the first step towards introducing co-education in one of the oldest educational institutions of the province. A few days before the inauguration of the girls' section by the NWFP governor, it was demonstrated that this threat was not a mere hoax. However, the determined government did not pay heed to it and set up a committee to make the necessary arrangement for the opening of the girls' section on October 22. "We did feel a bit worried when we heard about the threat to our section, but we did not care as we enjoy the support of our families," a student of the newly established girls' section told The News on Sunday. They also dispelled the impression that the provincial government planned to convert Islamia College into a co-educational institution. "We have a separate building in the college," said another student, adding: "We are determined to work hard to pave way for girls to study in other male-dominated institutions too." Peshawar's Islamia College is rated among one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country, not only in the NWFP. Going back to the college's history, Haji Sahib Turangzai -- one of the heroes of the independence movement -- laid the foundation stone of a mosque-cum-madrassa at the turn of the twentieth century. By 1909, the idea of a college in the province was taking its rough shape in the minds of Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum and Roos Keppel. This idea was further strengthened by their visit to the Aligarh Muslim University the same year, as the students there donated generously for the project. Later, Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum arranged a meeting of the like-minded people on April 12, 1911, which was attended by Ghulam Haider Khan, Abdul Karim Khan, Habibullah Khan, Khushal Khan and Seth Karim Bakhsh among others. Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum moved the resolution for the collection of donations, which was instantly responded to by a cash donation of Rs 10,000 by Abdul Karim Khan. As a result of Sahibzada Abdul Qayyum's efforts, Islamia College was formally started in 1913. It is worth mentioning that the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, thrice visited Islamia College and also donated one third of his personal property to it. L Tiptang was appointed the first principal of the college, which started with only 26 students and 11 teachers. The first student of the institution, Sahibzada Khurshid, later became the first governor general of the province. The college now has over 3,500 student and 127 highly qualified teachers. Responding to the threat by extremists against the setting up of girls' section in the college, a renowned educationist said on condition of anonymity: "Everyone knows that Islamia College is one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, while there is no such facility for girls in the entire province." He termed the threat "nonsense" and against the basic principles of Islam, which grants equal rights to men and women as well as boys and girls. The educationist also urged the government to continue its struggle for imparting education to girls in the province. The girls' section has been established in a building adjacent to University Model School and teachers of Islamia College have been hired to impart education to students. However, during the inauguration ceremony, NWFP Governor Lieutenant General (r) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai promised that women teachers would be recruited at the earliest for the girls' section. He also announced an annual grant of one million rupees for the newly established section and assured that every year 15 scholarships would be awarded to the most deserving students on the basis of their academic results. The NWFP governor, who is himself a former student of Islamia College, also said the government was establishing a new section of the college in the Swabi district and it would have a girls' section too. This is good news, not only for girls but also for the overall development of the province. Talking to The News on Sunday, Islamia College Principal Professor Nisar Muhammad Nisar said the institution's door had been opened for girls to get quality education. Currently, 59 students are enrolled in the newly established girls' section -- all of them having secured at least an A grade in their matriculation examinations.

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