ISLAMABAD: The brawl at Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology on Tuesday that landed over a dozen students in hospital and later in the police station was the result of a plethora of the issues piling up at the institute over the last few years.
The incident came as no surprise for senior professors and other staff, who distanced themselves from campus politics.
On Tuesday, clashes broke out between two groups — the Pashtun Students Federation (PSF) and the Seraiki Students Federation (SSF) — over a petty issue. The end result was a brawl that led to gunfire and brick-hurling among the groups, before a police baton-charge to subdue the situation.
The campus at Zero Point has several student federations, some with strong political backing, which have made the university a hub of ‘tough guys’ who use their political affiliations to get admission or appointments as temporary faculty and low cadre staff.
Construction of the varsity’s permanent building is still a distant dream, as the fate of land purchased seven years ago is still hanging in balance due to political wrangling, staff rivalries and frequent changes in top management.
The backside of the university has designated corners marked with the names of the PSF, SSF, Muslim Students Federation, and other groups.
The situation is so volatile that students from one federation cannot even borrow chairs from other student wings.
Last week, an order was passed by the administration urging students to shun political activities, but the order was withdrawn soon after to avert any backlash.
“Yes, we issued the order, but students from a federation came and threatened us if we did not let them continue their activities,” said an official in the management who did not want to be named.
“On many occasions in the past, senators from a particular group would visit the university and meet students of a federation. This is where the problems started,” said an electrical engineering faculty member.
Similarly, nepotism and favoritism in appointments of certain staffers and the admissions process have become norms, he added.
The varsity has witnessed a sharp decline in the number of new students this year, with the management dropping merit for admission to 45 per cent marks.
Meanwhile, the Accountant General of Pakistan Revenue raised objections last year regarding certain top level appointments at the campus.
A few weeks back, Vice Chancellor Zafar Iqbal was sent on forced leave for four months after being accused of corruption and misuse of power. A number of court-related issues add to the problems.
Students have been on the receiving end of this chaos. Current campus in-charge Sulman D Muhammad said the issue was an attempt by the previous management to disrupt academic affairs, while adding that the student federations have their own excuses to defend themselves.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2015.