Neither property of Church could be sold nor the principal of missionary college be appointed from Muslim community. Incumbent government (PTI) has started interference in the matter of Missionary College in Peshawar which is against the spirit of the law.
Edwardes College, Peshawar was established by the Church Missionary Society (UK). The classes for the College were started in 1900 in the Edwardes Collegiate (Mission) School in 1855 inside Kohati Gate Peshawar City (now Edwardes High School). The College shifted to its present location in 1910. The land and buildings were purchased from different owners while a plot was gifted by the Government to construct a college. The college remained with the Church under the Church management Bishop of the Diocese as Chairman of the College’s Board of Governors. In 1972, the decision was made to nationalize the private Educational Institutions but Edwardes College was not nationalized. In1974 suddenly a notification came and changed the whole structure of the College, the Governor was made the Chair of the Board of Governors and the majority of the Board members were taken from the Government then.
In 2016 The Peshawar High Court announced that the composition of a Board of Governors made in 1974 has no legal backing thus stands as illegal. The High Court decision was challenged in the Supreme Court but got further strengthened when it was dismissed in 2018 as not pressed. As per High Court and Supreme Court decisions the Bishop of Peshawar restored the original Board of Governors in 2019 as per the College Constitution 1943 after having informed the Government Official including the country’s President, the Prime Minister, the Provincial Governor, and the Chief Minister. The Prime Minister acknowledged the letter of intimation with best wishes. The original Board was restored as per the College Constitution 1943 as promulgated by the Church Missionary Society (UK) under the Diocese of Lahore in the Church of India, Burma, and Ceylon associated with the Anglicans (Church of England). The Jurisdiction of the Diocese of Lahore besides some areas in Punjab also extended up to NWFP, the Tribal Areas, and the Northern Areas.
In 1970 the Church of Pakistan came into existence and then in 1980 the Diocese of Peshawar was carved out of the Lahore Diocese covering the entire NWFP (now KPK), Tribal Areas (now merged areas), and the Northern Areas. After the creation of the Peshawar Diocese, all the Church of Pakistan’s Educational Institutions (including Edwardes College), Churches, Hospitals, Mother & Child Health Care Centres, Vocational Training, and Special Education School came under the management and administration of the Diocese of Peshawar.
The Bishop is an ex-officio Chairman (BOG) as per the College’s Constitution, whereas the action of the Governor of KPK in 1974 placing himself in place of Bishop is a violation of the resolutions of the Edwardes College Constitution of 1943.
The Governor placing himself as the College BOG Chairman is unlawful and unconstitutional. This is a violation and deprivation of the Pakistani religious minorities from their constitutional rights. This also disturbs the appropriate functioning of the Church-Based (missionary) services through the Church institutions in the country. This is also a contradiction of Articles 20, 25, and 36 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The Government of NWFP (Education Department) issued a Notification No.S.O.S.I/19-6/73 dated 10 January 1974 notifying a Board of Governors for Edwardes College Peshawar with an immediate effect with all the administrative powers of the college to be vested in the hand of the College Board. The Governor NWFP made himself the Chairman of the Board replacing the Bishop and putting him as one of the two Vice-Chairmen. This notification was without any legal reference High Court orders 2016).
The NWFP Government Notification already issued was not even in conformity with the Military Law Rule (MLR) No. 118 (Nationalized Schools and Colleges); it is based on a deceptive and misleading approach. The National Assembly of Pakistan on the 3rdof December 1974 already approved and issued a list Province-wise indicating the non-nationalized institutions in the different provinces. The name of Edwardes College, Peshawar is in the list of NWF Province clearly indicating as not a nationalized educational institution (Annex III National Assembly Proceedings).
It is further added that the Church possesses the land and is the exclusive owner of the buildings, which were purchased moreover other immovable property and the assets also belong to the Church. Therefore, it is not a suitable case for Nationalization even under MLR 118. The reference of the Supreme Court of Pakistan judgment CA No.253 of 1981 dated 15.10.1986 and National Assembly of Pakistan proceedings dated 3.12.1974 categorically indicate it.
The views mentioned above have further been authenticated and elaborated by the Ex-Governors especially by (Brig) Amir GulistanJanjua, (Lt. Gen.) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai (BOG minutes 13 December 2006), and SardarMehtab Ahmed Khan (BOG minutes18 June 2015). Their views are self-explanatory stressing no interference by the Government in the College affairs as it stands as a private/Church-owned institution. Christians in Pakistan and abroad are confused why the present Government through the Governor’s KPK is so keen to snatch total control of the College affairs that has never happened in the past. Why the sitting Government KPK opted to go against the Church in the High Court.
The Bishop of Peshawar Diocese had to face legal proceedings vide W.P. bearing No.105-P/2015 filed by Petitioner (Malik Naz) under section 12 (2) CPC challenging the authority of the Bishop as Chairman, Board of Governors of the college. The case was decided favorably vide judgment dated 22.3.2016 by the Divisional Bench restoring the earlier position of the composition of BOG as per the Constitution of 1943 of the College. The case was thoroughly heard and a decision given on merit.
Different petitioners taking the same ground challenging the composition of the College Board of Governors filed another Writ Petition (WP)No.2764-P/2019 with different Criminal Miscellaneous (CM) U/S 12 (2) CPC even after a lapse of almost three years. As a matter of fact, as mentioned above, a similar application was filed earlier in W.P. of 2015, which was decided in 2016 favorably dismissing the plea of the petitioner Malik Naz in 2016.
The Diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the judgment of the Peshawar High Court, Peshawar dated 1.10.2019 in WP No.2764-P of 2019, which is decided in favor of the Government of KPK on 7 May 2021 though the Notification No. S.O.S.I/19-6/73 dated 10.1.1974 of Government of NWFP, Education Department is unlawful / without any legal reference, Mr. ZeeshanYaqub, Minority Rights Peshawar based activist expressed.
Mr. James Iqbal, Member National Assembly, Jameet-e-Ulma Islam said that the incumbent Governor with the understanding of Provincial Government administration decided to proceed ahead to restore the BOG of 1974. Proceedings were initiated through Advocate General KPK to obtain a decision from the Honourable High Court in their favor through a CM. The Honourable Court using its powers decided the case in favor of the petitioner (The KPK Government against the Bishop of Peshawar, Head of the Church in KPK) suspending the earlier judgment passed by D.B. against the notification of the Government of NWFP dated 10.1.1974. As mentioned the notification itself was invalid/unlawful/illegal and unconstitutional not even to any legal reference relating to MLR 118.
Throughout the history of Edwardes College, the position of Principal remained from Christians, but the Governor used his illegitimate powers and appointed a Muslim Principal, hauled the spirit of the Christian Institute, in the regime of PTI Government that has hijacked the College by presenting deceptive deceiving arguments both in High Court and Supreme Court. He also said that my political party JUI wants Edwards College to remain a Christian Institute and ready to challenge the imposed decision of PTI turning it to nationalize institute.
Bishop Humphrey Sarfraz Peters, Bishop of Peshawar Khyber Pakhtunkhawa Church of Pakistan, said furthermore it is clarified that all the assets including land and buildings belong to the Church. The College is meeting all its educational expenditures just like any other private education institution. Due to all these realities, the College cannot be nationalized as also clearly reflected in the proceedings of the National Assembly of 3.12.1974.
Decisions in CM’s in WP No. 2764/2019 are based on deception simply relying on the Notification of NWFP Government dated 10.1.1974 even that does not show Edwardes College as nationalized. The present Government has no right to control the affairs of the College their plea in the Court was taken after having concealed the facts of the proceeding of the National Assembly of Pakistan.
Bishop Humphrey SarfrazPeters said, “it is humbly requested that the rights of the Pakistani religious minorities and sanctity of the Church in our beloved country Islamic Republic of Pakistan should be accorded. The Church is already extending its efforts in bringing the standard of education, health, and other humanitarian services. The protection of the minorities’ rights are already been fully guaranteed through Articles 20, 25, and 36 of the CONSTITUTION OF PAKISTAN moreover ISLAM also provides full protection to the minorities (the weaker ones) and their possessions through the Convents.
Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights and Member of National Assembly Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf(PTI) Lal Chand Malhi, said I was in the meeting with PM when Shanila Ruth talked to PM about the issue of Edwardes College, PM had directed to resolve the issue, said Lal. He said the government needs to pay attention to their institutions rather than having an eye on missionary institutions. He said that PM was interested to run this institution by the Christian community. Shunila Ruth had raised this issue in parliamentary committee as well, said Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights