ISLAMABAD, Nov 12: Two groups of students belonging to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) clashed with each other at the National Institute of Science and Technical Education (NISTE), H-8/1, on Sunday night.
Fearing further trouble, the administration on Monday closed the institute till after Muharram holidays and sent the students, numbering around 300, to their respective areas in Fata.
It may be noted that NISTE was established for imparting training to in-service teachers. However, in August this year, around 300 students were brought from Fata to impart them six-month computer training under a programme funded by the federal government. Sources said without security clearance the students were accommodated in hostels on the premises of the institute.
An insider told Dawn that the students belonging to Sunni and Shia communities started fighting each other after heated arguments Sunday night.
Abdul Qayyum, a student, told Dawn: “Around a dozen students of computer course were sitting in the courtyard of the building when they entered into heated arguments and then started fighting.”
He said within minutes, the number of students rose to 50 who started beating each other. They used batons and pelted each other with stones and bricks,” he added.
He said when he and some other students tried to pacify the fighting groups, they were also thrashed.
“Students belonging to Shia group were fewer in number so they ran to Jamia Al-Kausar on the opposite side of NISTE. In the meantime, police were called to maintain peace. Later, it was decided by the management that the students should be sent to their native villages.” The students were told that the institute would open after the Muharram holidays.
Ali Haider, another student, said: “no one has the right to speak against anyone’s religion.”
Abid Shah, from Waziristan, said some people always tried to hatch conspiracies due to which there had been tension in the institute for the last three months.
Saqibul Hasan, of Orakzai Agency, added: “there are just a few students who have been spoiling the atmosphere. The management should resolve the issue amicably”.
Mehmoodul Hasan, a computer networking teacher at NISTE, observed: “In the classrooms, all students show good behaviour but I don’t now why they fought each other”.
Ijaz Kathia, an official of the institute, said: “As soon as I heard about the incident, I reached the spot but by then one of the rival groups had moved to Jamia Al-Kausar.”
An official of NISTE requesting not to be named said although the institute trained in-service teachers, the management had started the “Fata student training project” just because the government had allocated Rs18.4 million for the programme.
“The six-month-long project includes mechanical, civil, electronics and computer courses. As many as 300 students belonging to the seven agencies of Fata are taking part in the programme,” he said.
He alleged that the management had failed to handle the situation. “At the moment, four directors - Shahid Muqeem Khan, Ilyas Qadeer Tahir, Abid Hussain and Malik Zafar - have been made OSD by the management and lower cadre officials are working in their places. These officials cannot handle such kind of situation. The management even did not bother to have security clearance of the students,” he said.
When contacted, NISTE Director General Mohammad Salman Khan said: “We have announced holidays for Muharram to avoid further clash among the students. Hopefully, after Muharram the students will come and complete their courses. Police were called but there was no need to lodge an FIR,” he said.
In reply to a question, Mr Khan said in the past NISTE was only used for the training of teachers but last year on the request of BISP, some students were provided training. Now the computer training programme for the Fata students has been started.
An official in the Industrial Area police station said on the call of the NISTE administration, police reached the institute on Sunday night to maintain peace.
“The students were sent to their native villages in police supervision. An FIR was not registered because the NISTE management had not filed any written complaint,” he said.