British Pakistani Christians protest about the nationalization of Edwardes College Peshawar. (Photo supplied)
Pakistan’s top court has handed over the management of the oldest missionary education institution in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province to the local government.
Three judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on June 3 rejected a petition filed by Church of Pakistan Bishop Humphrey Peters of Peshawar seeking a review of a Peshawar High Court 2019 order that declared Edwardes College Peshawar as a nationalized educational institution.
However, the property remains owned by the Church of Pakistan’s Diocese of Lahore.
“We are afraid that the contention of the petitioner is not correct. The government of KPK shall propose the criteria for appointment of the principal, Edwardes College Peshawar,” stated the Supreme Court order.
“The same shall be conveyed to Diocese of Lahore … Edwardes College shall be run and managed strictly on professional lines under the overall supervision of the board of governors headed by the worthy governor, KPK.”
Officials of Peshawar Diocese condemned the move. “We shall protest and organize a press conference; this is injustice. The order dissolves the church-headed board of governors led by Bishop Humphrey. The assets of religious minorities are not safe,” said Yasir Bhatti, a Church of Pakistan activist.
Recent research ... blamed the nationalization of Pakistan's private schools for low literacy levels among the Christian community
“Dark day of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Implemented dictator’s law in democratic government after 50 years to take Edwardes College Peshawar. A property of church mission society,” stated Azeem Masih, a UK-based Pakistani Christian, in a tweet.
Recent research by the Center for Social Justice blamed the nationalization of Pakistan's private schools for low literacy levels among the Christian community, weakened church institutions and for creating fear among them.
The report, titled "Lessons from the Nationalization of Education in 1972," claims 118 missionary institutions remained nationalized by June 2020. The study confirmed that among these schools in Punjab and Sindh only 50 percent had been denationalized as of November 2019.
The findings explored fallout from 1972 when the government seized control of all schools, colleges and hospitals held by Christians under President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's policy of nationalization.
In 2004, President Pervez Musharraf ordered the conditional privatization of minority educational institutions. As a result, 59 institutions were returned to churches without the offer of any compensation.