ISLAMABAD: Baloch students at the Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) are up in arms against the varsity’s administration, faculty, and the syndicate committee after the latter refused to restore rusticated and expelled students.
At a news conference on Sunday, the Baloch students said they will continue their strike even though all other ethnic student councils —including the Sindhi, Punjabi, Pakhtun, Seraiki, and Baltistani — had decided to call off their strikes after negotiations with the authorities.
Even though the university administration announced on Sunday that the varsity — which has been closed since October 4 — will reopen on Monday (today) following assurances from district administration, the Baloch students vowed to keep it shut come what may.
“We will keep the university closed tomorrow. We have no other option left but to protest,” said Kamran Baloch, president of the Baloch student council.
He said that eight Baloch students were rusticated while two others were expelled by the university following armed clashes on the campus on May 20. The violent clash, between the Sindhi and Baloch students, had left several people injured and had prompted the varsity to call law-enforcement agencies to conduct an operation in the university’s hostels to purge it of violent elements. Even though around 26 students (11 Baloch and 15 Sindhi students) were booked for their part in the violence, the authorities left it to the university’s discipline committee (UDC) to probe and take action against the students. The UDC subsequently penalised around 42 students.
However, Kamran maintained that it was the Sindhi students who had attacked the Baloch students and that they, the Baloch students, merely reacted in self-defence.
His narrative was corroborated by an FIR lodged by the police after the May 20 clashes. “On May 20, we requested the university’s Resident Officer, the Provost, as well as the SHO of the Secretariat police station and sought their intervention to protect us and to stop what was going to happen, but nobody responded,” Kamran lamented.
He blamed the Sindhi students for the violence, noting that the police had also recovered a pistol, used in the clashes, from a Sindhi student.
The Baloch students said during a meeting between QAU students, the VC and the district administration on Thursday night, it had been agreed that the varsity’s syndicate in its meeting on Friday would hear the students’ version.
The students said that they kept sitting outside the meeting venue for five hours, waiting to be called in, but in the end, the meeting concluded without granting the students a hearing.
The Baloch students later staged a demonstration outside the National Press Club, chanting slogans against QAU Vice-Chancellor Dr Javed Ashraf, and the teachers union.
The university’s syndicate, during its meeting on Friday, had categorically and unequivocally refused to undo the punishments.
But it had decided to form a three-member committee to review the process adopted by the varsity’s disciplinary committee when awarding the punishments.
“The punishments awarded for May 20 incident will not be affected,” an official release had said .
The three-member committee was directed to submit its report within two weeks.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2017.