THE appointment of a Christian as Principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar, does not mean that the college is under the Church’s control, despite comments by the Bishop of Peshawar, the head of the college’s English department has said.
Founded in 1900 by the Church Missionary Society, the college has, for some years, been the subject of conflict between principals, the board, and the diocese (News, 25 April 2014; 8 July 2016; Books, 11 October 2013). The Bishop of Peshawar, the Most Revd Humphrey Peters, sought to secure a court judgment declaring it a private entity (News, 11 October 2019).
Last June, the Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld an earlier ruling that the college was to be governed by a board of governors formed by the provincial government (News, 11 October 2019).
Writing on Facebook on 4 January, Shunila Ruth, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, who has represented Pakistan on the Anglican Consultative Council, said: “We praise and thank God that the Edwardes College matter has been solved, and, under the chair of Shah Farman [the Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa], Bishop Humphrey Peters and the Board of Governors, Dr Sharoon Hanook has been appointed the new Principal.”
The next day, Bishop Peters was quoted in a media service for religious minorities, Kross Konnection, as saying: “The Church has finally regained its hold over the college. The change includes a Christian principal and the return of executive orders to the Church of Pakistan. We thank the acting Muslim principal Prof MS Zaki for his services.
“The identity of the college as a church body has been regained. We were struggling for this for the past several months and now we have 75 per cent control over the college. It’s time for thanksgiving.”
But several comments on social media emphasised that the appointment did not mean that the Church had taken control of the college. Professor Gulzar Jalal, the head of the English department at Edwardes College and a former member of the board of governors, said that Bishop Peters’s claim was wrong. The new Principal had been appointed by the board of governors, “in the light of the judgment of the superior court. It is a good omen for all that the honourable Bishop accepted the verdict of the court.”
Minutes of the Board confirm that it is chaired by the provincial Governor.
Before Ms Ruth’s announcement, four Church of Pakistan bishops held a press conference in Lahore, “demanding the liberation of all Christian educational institutes”, the Kross Konnection report said.
The Moderator, Dr Azad Marshall, said: “Our schools were never meant for profit. Christians remain marginalised because of this nationalisation. It has led to the commercialisation of education that resulted in the denial of quality yet inexpensive education to poor and vulnerable communities.”
The Pakistani newspaper The News reported concerns last month expressed by an anonymous member of the board of governors about the appointment process at the college: Dr Hanook had been “the lone eligible candidate from among the list of five of which only three appeared before the board for an interview”.