By Muhammad Zaheer Asghar
I was working as a doctoral fellow at University of Helsinki, Finland during the year 2014. A psycho path made a plan with his girl friend to have a massacre on a summer school gathering of the University of Helsinki. They managed weapons, maps and scheduled the time of attack. This plan was leaked out just one day before the planed time. Security agencies put them in prison with evidences of maps and weapons before it happened a massacre. The action of security agencies on a leaked out piece of information saved the lives of several hundred students. Now, let us look at the situation in our national context. The terrorists’ attacks being focused on educational institutions are alarming us about our security concerns. The death toll of the masses, students and teachers caused by terrorist attacks is acclaimed as sacrifices in political rhetoric merely to over shadow security lapse. Whether those martyrs willingly embraced such destiny or it was their lot, is a matter to be pondered upon.
Going into the statistics of academic institutions and their contribution in the buildup of nation, we will have to keep in account that there are 177 active higher education institutes available in Pakistan. 445000 graduates are produced annually by higher education of Pakistan to become scientists, social scientists, doctors, engineers, law and policy makers and so on. A very small number of graduates select academics as career. It takes at least 22 years to earn a simple PhD degree which is a basic entry in academics. Professors and senior academicians are not produced within a day after getting PhD. It is also a long journey of intellectualism, knowledge dissemination, teaching and research. Academicians get the status of professor after their life time experience of serving the nation. The academicians those are graduate from foreign universities have very good offers from abroad. It is there sacrifice to come back home land and serve national universities on minimum wages as compared to the status, quality life and remuneration.
We are in the state of war for more than one and half decade. The tragic demise of terrorist attack on Bacha Khan University, Charsada claiming the lives of 21 students including teachers is a big national loss. ISPR has also given statement that they were aware about security threats for universities then, it is beyond comprehension why they remained so negligent about security concerns for Bahca Khan University (BKU). Security measures should have been taken to ensure the safety of BKU to save the lives of students, teachers and staff before time. What about to take the responsibility of negligence in security measures which resulted in 21 casualties including Dr. Hamid a foreign graduate and a scientist? Would it be better for Dr. Hamid to stay there abroad instead of coming home land among non responsible care takers? Being brave and patriot he had to pay the price of patriotism. His sacrifice is worth admirable but will it suffice.
What is our job? Is it to count name upon names as numbers are increasing with every passing day. We do not do anything to eradicate this brutality, we just always end up making them heroes. Nation does not need dead heroes; nation wants them alive. For how many times these pseudo protectors of our country will hide their failure at the cost of intellectuals’ lives? Moreover, can singing a song, visiting and condoling of army chief and politicians bring back those precious lives which we have lost in Bacha Khan University incidence? KPK government is also talking about change with big mouth but is it a change that we were unable to save real change agents of higher education.
Unfortunately, it seems that sufficient security measures have not been taken into account for universities because these are not as valuable as those of uneducated ministers and so called VIPS. We can observe security protocols of rangers, army and police for bureaucrats, politicians, generals, even retired generals and so called VVIPs but poor academicians and universities are not on their priority.
We have learned nothing from our past experiences and BKU incidence as the proverb goes, “History proves that we learn nothing from history.” Universities have been opened on the next day of BKU incidence without providing any security by the government. It proves that academicians are brave enough to serve the nation without being terrified from terrorists and other enemies. But it is again a question that have we opened the universities without providing them proper security as an invitation to terrorists. It is claimed that government has insufficient resources available to provide security for each and every university. It is just a lame excuse to avoid responsibility and setting priorities. In the presence of 550,000 active and 500,000 reserve troops, rangers, and provincial police, how many of security personnel will be utilised just for 177 actively available higher education institutions in Pakistan? Deployment of a few hundred soldiers, rangers or police around 177 universities can save many precious lives. It will be like securing the intellect that is the real future of Pakistan. Universities are not provided sufficient budget to cope up with their security issues. For universities, it is not possible to manage self security within a meager amount of budget available. Academicians have spirit and courage to fight for their students but neither are they professional fighters nor is it their duty.
It is very ugly situation that less qualified army officers are serving as vice chancellors of some leading universities but for security reasons we do not have army or proper security plan for universities. The spirit of professionalism demands that academicians should be there to work as vice chancellors and army officers should be available to concentrate on security matters for which they are trained and paid for. But it is a strange country where army has to perform every task from foreign ministry to take care of universities’ administration. Let army concentrate 100% on defence and security matters by sparing them from extra activities of foreign ministry, NAB, universities’ administrations and etc. Academicians are working 24/7 for the development of nation through education, research and entrepreneurship. It is now responsibility of Pakistani government and security agencies to provide foolproof security to universities on top priority because it is importance of a scholar that Abdullah bin ‘Amr reported Allah’s Messenger’s (may peace be upon him) saying: “Verily, Allah does not take away knowledge by snatching it from the people but He takes away knowledge by taking away the scholars, so that when He leaves no learned person, people turn to the ignorant as their leaders…”
Government, security agencies and universities should collaborate to develop foolproof security plan for nationwide higher educational institutions. Universities should be provided with extra security budget to implement security plan. Provincial governments should provide police and security forces should deploy special troops and weapons to make sure the security of higher educational institutions in Pakistan.
(The writer is a Research Fellow at University of Helsinki Finland. He can be reached at: Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)