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Alarming rise in violence at campuses in Pakistan

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By Ali Arshad

LAHORE: Violence at campuses has once again resurfaced in the country with clashes reported at the Punjab University (PU) in Lahore and at the Quaid e Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad recently with other gruesome events also being reported from other parts of the country.

Most recently, a clash between the Punjabi Council and Pashtoon Council took place at the QAU leaving around 16 students injured and admitted to the Federal Government Services Hospital. University administration, unable to control the students, called the police to handle the situation. The clash was a reaction to a fight between the two student groups a night earlier.

A similar trend of fights and clashes could be seen at one of the largest universities of the country, the Punjab University, where earlier in January students belonging to the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) and the Pakhtun Education Development Movement (PEDM) clashed with each other. The clashing students left the Electrical Engineering Department of the university on fire with more than a dozen injured.

More than 200 students got arrested after several protests at the university. Subsequently, terrorism charges were brought against the arrested students, however, the Punjab government later dropped the terrorism charges after serious concerns of Baluchistan government.

The rise in violence has not been limited to these two universities as other universities have also been victimized by violence throughout the campuses. Another high-profile case that got attention was that of Mashal Khan. He was a student of the Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan. He was lynched by a mob on the university premises.

The increment in violence at campuses across Pakistan is an alarming situation, where the academic circles and university managements, along with the provincial governments, seem helpless. On top of that, political pressures on the provincial governments and varsity managements also play an important, but destructive, role. In all of the cases, political parties played their roles albeit destructive roles to defuse the situation, while not giving a solution to end the continuation of violence.

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) also called a meeting of vice chancellors from public and private sector universities of the country to discuss the growing incidents of violence at universities of the country after the Mashal Khan case. A similar initiative was also taken by the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC). However, as more cases are being reported, no end to violence can been seen in the near future.

Punjab Minister for Higher Education has proposed recruiting 400 policemen for PU on the expense of the university. Besides increasing financial burden, this may add more woes to the university management.

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