While most undergraduates look forward to spending a year or two in the dorms, those enrolled at the University of Karachi (KU) do not have the option to do so.
With almost 50 per cent of the university’s hostels being used by Rangers, the KU administration and Sindh department for youth affairs plan to construct another dorm to accommodate students. On Wednesday, Sindh Minister for Youth Affairs Faisal Ali Subzwari said that the 20-room hostel was being built at a cost of Rs25.25million and should be completed by September. “Visiting female student have difficulty finding accommodation,” he said. “This youth hostel will make it easier for them.”
However, for the students already enrolled at KU, this project will not really help as it aims to accommodate female students and visiting scholars for the cost of Rs500 per day. “In the past, students from other provinces used to visit the university all the time,” said Asim Awan, KU alumni who graduated in 1991. “They used to stay here free of cost.”
At the moment, the university has two hostels – the Aiwan-e-Liaquat Hostel for women and another one for international students. The hostel for women was built nearly 30 years ago with 104 rooms and can barely accommodate 250 students. The university recently renovated the dorm and added 60-rooms for female students enrolled for the MS and PhD programmes. Since there are no dorms for the male students, most of them rent apartments in the city. Those students who are unable to pay the rent and study at the same time drop out of the course.
In 1989, the Rangers were asked to step in and manage the law and order situation at the university and resided in a part of the International Hostel. By 1994, more than 1,000 students were using the university’s accommodation. “Before this we used to think that the deployment of a paramilitary force could be justified as an emergency measure, it seemed so logical,” said a former university employee. “But the irresponsible attitude and behavior of student organisations kept prolonging their stay and authority.”
According to KU microbiology department’s Prof. Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, the same year the former vice-chancellor Prof. Dr Abdul Wahab decided to shut down the hostel for male students and issued orders for every dorm to be vacated expect for the one used by women. By this time, two of the four hostels for men, including the Aiwan-e-Quaid-e-Azam, the building adjacent to the Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre, were also used by the Rangers as residence, while the International Hostel became their command and control centre.
The Aiwan-e-Iqbal Hostel, which used to have four residential blocks, is now used for academic purposes. Two blocks of the university’s Federal Hostel which were used as dorms for international students are now used as the department of Health and Physical Education.
Apart from KU, Rangers also have custody of a hostel at NED University of Engineering and Technology, a compound at the Federal Urdu University for Arts, Science and Technology’s Gulshan-e-Iqbal campus, classrooms at the Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, Sindh Medical University and Dow University of Health Science, academic and hostel blocks at the Government College of Technology, SITE and Jamia Millia, Malir. Apart from university dorms and rooms, Rangers also occupy the Mitha Ram Hostel which was built to accommodate students at the DJ Sciene College, they have also taken over the Sir Leslie Wilson Muslim Hostel, better known as Jinnah Courts and use it as their headquarters in the city.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 9th, 2012.
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