Aitchison principal resigns amid controversy over student’s readmission


–Michael Thompson resigned after Governor Sarwar ‘unilaterally’ formed probe committee on former MNA Kashmala Tariq’s complaint

–Mediator holds ‘miscommunication’ responsible for circumstances leading to principal’s resignation

–Kashmala Tariq says principal trying to politicise issue


LAHORE: Aitchison College Principal Michael Thompson has resigned from his position following a controversy over readmission of a senior school student who happens to be the son of a former parliamentarian, Kashmala Tariq.

The controversy began in April this year when 12 students, including Kashmala’s son Azlan Khan, were involved in a minor scuffle during mock exams for O-levels. Taking disciplinary action, the school decided that all 12 boys would not be allowed admission to A-levels.

However, when the school reopened after the summer holidays, it was reportedly revealed that out of the 12 boys, only Azlan had been refused admission to the next class.

Sources privy to the issue told Pakistan Today that Kashmala Tariq had moved a complaint against Principal Thompson to Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar soon after he took oath last week. The Punjab governor also holds the chair of the Board of Governors of Aitchison College.

Sources said that Kashmala had accused the principal of unfairly denying her son readmission to the school despite her requests for an impartial inquiry into the incident. The governor reportedly sought a report on the issue from Thompson and also formed a three-member committee to investigate the case.

Objecting to the chairman’s ‘unilateral’ decision of launching a probe against him, Principal Thompson resigned from his post, saying he could not “work in such circumstances”.

Interestingly, Principal Thomson had already communicated the ongoing tussle with Kashmala Tariq in writing to the Punjab governor but it had somehow failed to reach him.

Ali Salman, who is actively involved in the issue, told Pakistan Today that the three-member probe committee was formed due to a “miscommunication” between the chairman and Principal Thompson.

“The principal’s letter regarding the issue did not reach the chairman’s desk, therefore, he was not aware of the situation beforehand. When Kashmala Tariq filed her complaint, the governor set up a three-member committee to probe the matter and report back to him,” he said.

Ali Salman added that efforts were being made to resolve the issue amicably between all the parties involved. “We are hoping for a breakthrough on Thursday,” he said.

Sources said that a delegation of old Aitchisonians had also visited Governor Sarwar on Wednesday to urge him not to accept Thompson’s resignation.

“The delegation acknowledged the principal’s hard work for the institution and urged the BoG’s chairman to persuade him to withdraw his resignation,” the sources said.

However, Principal Thompson has reportedly dug in his heels despite Governor Sarwar’s insistence, sources said, adding that his Pakistani visa was also expiring and it was not yet clear whether he would be able to get an extension or not.

Neither the principal nor the school’s spokesperson were available to comment on the issue by the time this report was made.

Kashmala Tariq, who is currently serving as the federal ombudsperson for protection against harassment of women at the workplaces, denied she had influenced the governor for action against the principal.

“I filed a complaint as a concerned parent whose son has been penalized without due inquiry,” she said, adding that she had twice met the principal in this regard “but he turned a deaf ear” to her pleas.

Kashmala said that she had filed a complaint with Governor Sarwar soon after he took oath on Friday.

“The governor formed a committee which will now probe the issue,” she said, hastily adding that she had also filed a petition in the Supreme Court (SC) against the “targeting of her son by the school’s management” after he was denied participation in a major sports event on Tuesday, over which the chief justice had sought a reply from the principal.

“Azlan is a star swimmer and one of Aitchison’s top athletes yet he was denied permission to take part in the inter-school sports competition held on Tuesday. When our pleas to the principal failed, we moved a civil court and obtained a restraining order against the principal’s decision. But even the court’s order was ignored by the principal,” she said.

Commenting on Thompson’s resignation, Kashmala said that the principal was trying to give a political colour to the issue whereas she was only seeking justice for her son.