A violent protest by a group of students not only sabotaged an ongoing international conference, it also forced the management of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) to shut down for a week.
The protest started early in the morning as students blocked the main road leading to the university. They discouraged participants from entering the conference hall, but the administration managed to let them in through the back door.
The students were demanding increase in the number of university shuttles, reduction in fees, installation of internet services in the hostels, withdrawal of FIRs against some students registered last month, improved meals in the hostels, legal status for the newly-formed Quaidian Students Federation and provision of more books and computers at the library.
Armed with sticks and stones, about 100 students overpowered the security guard and stormed into the conference hall. The second session of the conference had to be cancelled. The guard was sent to Polyclinic Hospital, where he was discharged after first aid.
The university management sought Secretariat police’s help, who gave an ultimatum to students to vacate hostels till Friday midnight. The police also booked twelve students leading the protests.
The secretariat police said some of the booked students were already wanted for involvement in acts of violence in the university and belong to students’ unions. No arrests were made till the filing of this report. Police said the vacated hostels will remain under custody of city administration until order is restored to the campus.
After initial investigations, police determined that the students were provoked for the protest by a group of teachers who wanted to get the current Vice-Chancellor (VC) removed from his post. “These teachers wanted to get [a certain professor] installed as the VC of the university,” said a police official. He said the university administration had already approved some of the students’ demands, while others were currently not workable.
“One such demand was to keep the campus canteen open at night,” he added.
The booked students are: Aslam Pervez from Hunza Nagar, Muhammad Qasim from district Kalat, Amjad Ali from Hunza, Shaukat Hussain, Qadir Bux from Karachi, Hamid Riaz, Kafaitullah from Gujrat, Muzafar Hussain, Ishtiaque Qureshi, Mabool Ahmed, Abid Shah and Mansoor Ali.
The students claimed that they were thrashed by security officials as well as faculty members. “We will fight against the inefficient administration till [our demands are met],” said Amjad Khan, a student who was spearheading the protest. He added that VC Dr Masoom Yasinzai had used abusive language when the students went to discuss their issues with him.
Faisal Ahmed, another student, said, “The conditions of hostels are deteriorating, but the administration is not bothered.”
The angry students vowed to continue their protest and also disrupt the university’s convocation planned for May 3 if their demands were not met.
‘Trying our best’
QAU Registrar Dr Shafiqueur Rehman said they are working on the students’ demands and some of them have already been met. He added that students had disrupted order in the university and damaged the university property, which is unacceptable. “We will definitely take serious action against the lawbreakers.”
Meanwhile, faculty members and some students condemned the incident. “It is the right of everyone to lodge their protest. But that doesn’t not mean they break the law, smash doors and harass the participants of an event,” said a professor of the history department.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.