–USAID terminated project as part of “reprioritisation” by Trump administration
LAHORE: University of Agriculture Faisalabad’s (UAF) Centre for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security employees have been left distressed owing to the nonpayment of their salaries for the past one and half years, Pakistan Today has learnt.
According to the employees, the university administration and the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has done nothing for the 78 staffers of the project ever since USAID ended it.
“We sent repeated requests to the HEC and acting vice chancellors but to no avail. How can we ensure food security for the country when we ourselves are penniless? It is not a matter of one or two months. It has been a year and a half since we are without salaries. The university administration constructed buildings, set up laborites and other portions for Rs600 million but did not pay heed to the core issue of workers not getting their salaries. Right now 37 employees are working; 23 on contract and 12 on a permanent basis while others were terminated soon after USAID abandoned the project,” they said.
The employees appealed to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and Prime Minister Imran Khan to take notice of the situation and resolve their issues at the earliest.
UAF VC Dr Zafar Iqbal said the issue of salaries worsened due to the absence of a regular VC. “I took charge as the regular VC on September 4. It has only been a month since my appointment. I have given priority to the issue and will discuss it in the Syndicate meeting due on October 6 [today]. They will get their salaries after the meeting,” he told Pakistan Today.
However, Zafar said, a faction in the varsity was doing “propaganda” against him and was giving hype to the issue to malign him.
UAF administration, with the help of the HEC, had launched the five-year US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security programme in December 2014.
HEC was the guarantor of the Rs30 million project that the USAID terminated on July 21, 2017, for “reprioritisation of USAID internal budgeting”, a letter issued on July 21 said. However, the USAID continued sponsoring such projects in other provinces.
The project, aimed to build the capacity of UAF faculty and staff for innovative solutions to solve national and global challenges related to food, agriculture, and the environment through excellence in education, research, outreach and policy support, was terminated as part of reprioritisation by the Trump administration.