KARACHI: Students of Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast) blocked University Road on Friday after the death of a sixth student in a road accident this month.
Five of the victims were Fuuast students while the sixth was a student of Indus University, Ghulamullah Khan, who was killed in Patel Para on a road that has been dug up for Green Line construction. As the authorities have dug up most roads across the city without providing alternative routes, road accidents have become commonplace.
With tears in her eyes, Aneela Sadaf held a placard demanding justice for her friends. She had said goodbye to her classmates, Amna Batool, Kiran Shehzadi and Rabia Batool, at the university gate at around 2pm on Thursday, shortly before the three girls had the accident. They boarded a minibus ‘Data’, whose driver was speeding and racing with another bus near Baitul Mukarram mosque when it overturned and took away their lives.
Sadaf was among the hundreds of students gathered inside the university to remember their friends, the latest victim of fatal road accidents that have claimed the lives of six students in the last 10 days.
However, the peaceful demonstration turned into outraged protest and sit-in against the Fuuast administration and the Sindh government after news broke that Hunza Farnaz, who was hit by a minibus F-11 outside the varsity gate a week ago, succumbed to injuries on Friday morning.
The students blocked both the tracks of University Road, disrupting the traffic and demanding the removal of the vice-chancellor.
University Road, which is used as the main artery of commute for more than 0.2 million students every day, has been dug up for the past several months with no viable alternative route. This road houses at least six universities, a college and several schools.
“This road has never been in good condition and now traffic accidents have become rampant,” complained one of the protesting students. “We have not been provided with a university transport system, which is why we have to travel on these buses and risk our lives,” she said.
The students demanded Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah ensure completion of University Road development work at its earliest and take action against the construction company that started work on both the tracks simultaneously. They also demanded action against drivers of vehicles lacking fitness certificates and licences.
The students will be boycotting their classes in protest for a week and will be protesting until their demands are accepted.
Officials swoop in
Karachi deputy mayor Arshad Vohra paid a visit to the students and announced the donation of two buses for university use. When University Road was dug up, an alternative route should have been defined, he said, adding that the workers should work day and night to complete it as soon as possible.
Criticising public transportation, Vohra said that the officials only make money in the name of fitness certificates while more than 90% buses cannot pass the fitness test in their current condition. “Karachi needs mega planning while the city government will provide help in any way they can to resolve the students’ issues.”
Describing the accident as the worst in the history of the university, Fuuast VC Dr Suleman Muhammad complained that the university was never allotted buses while time and again they have appealed to officials to donate transportation. “The students were our asset,” he said.
On behalf of Sindh CM, transport minister Nasir Hussain Shah said that the government will pay compensation of Rs0.5 million for the heirs of each of the deceased students. The accused bus driver will be asked to pay for the damages he has done and the amount will be provided to the affected families, he added.
Meet the students: One has to die when it is time, student says 30min before accident
Amna Batool and Kiran Shehzadi, two of the three students who died on Thursday, were second-year students of microbiology while Rabia Batool, the third victim, was a botany student. “The buses were overloaded as it was a day off for CNG supply,” explained the victim’s friend, Aneela Sadaf. “I asked Amna to wait for another bus but she had been waiting for 30 minutes and it was too hot so she decided to board it.”
When Sadaf warned her to be careful, Amna replied, “One has to die when it is time.” Sadaf cannot get Amna’s last words out of her head. “Her words are still echoing in my ears and not in my scariest dreams I imagined it will be true the very next moment.”
As for Kiran, she had been unwell and was not attending university for the last few days. She only came to attend a practical class on Thursday. “She was complaining that it took her a long time to get the bus in the morning as CNG supply was shut for two days and people have grabbed every possible spot on the bus to hang from it,” recalled Sadaf, adding that Kiran took an Uber instead.
Meanwhile, Farnaz, 29, was hit when she was getting off the bus to enter Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (Fuuast) where she was studying BEd. She was in coma for one week at Liaquat National Hospital and breathed her last on Friday morning. She leaves behind a six-year-old daughter, Anabia, and a four-year-old son, Hamdan.
After she met the accident last week, the university administration chipped in for her treatment. “The university has given Rs600,000 to the hospital and also requested the hospital give her the best of all facilities,” said Fuuast VC Dr Suleman Muhammad.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2017.
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