A Christian school which escaped the nationalisation programme of schools and colleges in Punjab Province instigated by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1972, but was later usurped ilegally by a later Governor of Punjab, is struggling in the face of threats to release itself from the shackles imposed on it by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkwa. The principal of the college had complained of threats to kill his family should he not conced the school to the provincial government.
Edwardes College was established in 1900 by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and was a private Christian College owned by Diocese of Peshawar, of the Church of Pakistan.
The Government of Pakistan nationalised all Christian schools and colleges in the Sindh and Punjab provinces under the Martial law Regulation 118 of 1971 (click here). At the time Christian schools were the highest performing schools in the country.
Edwardes College was not nationalised immediately as the Governments of Northwest Frontier Province (now known as Khyber Pakhtunkwa [KPK]) and Baluchistan which were under the Control of the National Awami Party in opposition to the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, did not want to discriminate against Christians who were already living a torrid, unequal life in Pakistan. This meant that Edwardes College remained a church property.
In 1974 however, the Province's new Governor Maj Gen Syed Ghawas who was from Pakistan's People Party established a board of governors for the college under his chairmanship, without any legal backing from the Government.
From 2004 under the regime of President Musharaf many Christian schools were returned into the ownership of their original church diocesan bodies. For some colleges and schools, the battle for a return to the principle owners, the church, took much longer and the famed Murray College in Sialkot and Gordon College in Rawalpindi won their freedom in 2015.
Edwardes College however was given a favourable decision a year later when Peshawar High Court ruled that the Provincial Governor established Board of Governors, was illegal. The provincial government of KPK filed a petition against this Judgement however delaying emancipation of the school, though the appeal was dismissed 18th September 2018.
The High Court further settled that, "Edwardes College Peshawar is a private educational institution funded by its own resources. It has independent financial as well as administrative status. Furthermore, it was adjudged that no administrative authority or power is vested with the government in relation to the administrative control of the institution or service matters of its employees".
After the High Court Judgement, the Bishop of Peshawar of the Church of Pakistan, restored the College's diocesan board of governors, but the KPK Governor's Secretariat and the KPK Government are still not recognising their authority and are continuously interfering in operational aspects of the school. There is a very clear attempt to ignore the legal decision and to maintain administrative control over Edwardes College through their own Board of Governors chaired by Shah Farman the Governor of KPK.
Additionally, the College Principal, Ret Brigadier, Dr. Nayer Fardows told BPCA that he is being continually harassed and threatened. Anonymous threatening calls are being made to his office and threats have indicated that his family will be killed if he does not handover the school to the provincial government. Rather chillingly those making threats are stating that they are from the government without revealing their name or designation.
The Pakistani Christian community are worried that usurpation of Edwardes College is a ploy to take control of the last remaining Christian college in the KPK province.
Ret Brigadier, Dr. Nayer Fardows, said:
"The threat is creating a sense of insecurity in the community and undermines the great contribution of Christians in the education sector of Pakistan."
Christian missionary organisations created some of the highest performing schools in Pakistan, before the ill-fated nationalisation programme, they were the best source for a quality education. However, despite the vaunted educational history Pak-Christians find themselves amongst the most illiterate in the country. In 2014, Dr. John Patrick, revealed that:
6% Pakistani Christians have primary education.
4% Pakistani Christians have High School education
1% Pakistani Christians have a College education
0.5% Pakistani Christians have a professional education
These woeful statistics are caused by a great many factors including bullying and harassment at school, which can lead to death (click here), Christian girls being kept out of school for fear of abduction, rape and forced Islamic marriage (click here), and of course the inability to pay for school fees or lack of access to any local public school meaning that children will often have to work from a young age to support the family household demands. Even worse many enslaved Christian children in the notorious brick kilns and carpet weaving factories of Pakistan are in a generational slavery contract and required to work when able (click here).
For more in depth information on the unequal dynamics of the Pakistan Education system, you could purchase our book The Education System In Pakistan: Discrimination And The Targeting Of The 'Other' at www.britishpakistanichristians.org .
We the undersigned call upon Imran Khan and his ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI) to bring an end to the threats and attenpts by the provisional Khyber Pakhtunkwa Government to usurp Edwardes School.
Christians face a torrid time in Pakistan and their eqality and human rights are undermined daily. Education is one way to thwart the persecution they face and they need their faith schools to gain a decent education. Please help immediately.
The Save Christian School from Pak-Government Nationalisation petition to Global was written by Wilson Chowdhry and is in the category Civil Rights at GoPetition.