Once envisioned as the competitor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Indian Insitute of Technology (IIT), the site for the main campus of Information Technology University (ITU) was turned into a cattle market for this year’s Eid-ul-Azha for the residents of Lahore.
Former Vice-Chancellor of ITU and Chairman of Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB), Dr. Umar Saif, highlighted the sad state of affairs on the eve of Eid.
Taking to Twitter, Dr. Umar penned that the land for building Pakistan’s MIT was allocated in 2013. ITU had all the ingredients of becoming the equivalent of India’s IIT. However, ITU’s main campus site was turned into a cattle market, adding that those responsible should be ashamed of themselves.
Dr. Umar had envisioned building a university in Pakistan having the academic infrastructure of MIT and the academic excellence of IIT in 2002 during his time at MIT. He made headlines when he was named among the top 35 young innovators in 2011 by MIT Technology Review (TR35).
Following his nomination, the then Chief Minister (CM) Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, met him and offered him to lead the PITB. Dr. Umar also briefed the CM about his plans of setting up a world-class IT university in Pakistan.
Two years later in 2013, ITU was established and Dr. Umar was appointed as its founding VC. He also became the youngest VC of any national higher education institute.
Till 2016, ITU researchers had won over Rs. 700 million in competitive research grants. ITU also set up a startup incubator called Plan9. The incubator proved as a launchpad for Pakistan’s startup ecosystem as it launched hundreds of startups.
In 2013, 183 acres of land on Barki Road in Lahore was allocated for the main campus of ITU. However, the state-of-the-art main ITU campus never materialized. Sadly, the land site ended up serving as a cattle market on the occasion of Eid.