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Life vulnerable on campus

December 07, 2014


“My elder brother was innocent and my mother still keeps talking to my late brother in her dreams. I cannot tell you how brilliant my late Lala Aftab was. He wanted to become a scientist but his ill-timed death has shaken our whole family,” mourns Mahtab Alam with misty eyes.

It was October 21 when Aftab Alam, son of Alamzeb, a serving Pakistan Air Force employee, was gunned down at the Agriculture University, Peshawar.

A final year student of his entomology course, he was a resident of Tehkal Bala in Peshawar’s Mohallah Akazia.

Mahtab Alam says he’s stunned after he learned about the tragic death of his elder brother on campus.

“It is too difficult for me to put in words what my family feels about the killing. Parents are still in deep shock. I appeal to the university management and student leaders to stop violence on campus,” he says.

One can easily find unlicensed arms and drugs on campus, especially in hostels, but the administration is not interested in cracking down on them to save the future of students, say members of the University of Peshawar staff

According to him, it is not proper for a student to keep arms and if universities are not freed of armed men, people will continue dying on campus.

Bloody scuffles among students have been reported at many university chiefly due to arms and drugs.

In line with the Supreme Court orders, students are to sign an undertaking pledging to follow university code of conduct neither to take part in any political activity nor to keep weapons and use drugs but this practice is treated just as a formality by all.

Members of the University of Peshawar staff claim one could find unlicensed arms and drugs everywhere on campus.

According to them, weapons and narcotics have spoiled the university’s atmosphere for some years and that the use of drugs, especially hashish, and liquor is common among youth hostellers.

The most dangerous part of the situation is that the university’s administration is not interested in cracking down on them to save the future of students.

From 4,500 to 5,000 students live in 13 (eight boys and five girls) hostels of the University of Peshawar.

Following the killing of Aftab Alam, the administration of the Agriculture University conducted a search operation and hired services of a private security company on one year contract basis. Metal detectors are used for students entering the campus.

Two watchmen, two private guards and a policeman perform duty from 6pm to 10pm.

“We appreciate the administration for its efforts. We need a conducive study environment on campus. It is a good move that our hostels have been cleared of outsiders,” says Ihtishamul Haq, a student.

During a visit of this correspondent to hostels of University of Peshawar, University of Engineering and Technology and Khyber Medical College, watchmen at their entry points say around half of the hostel rooms are occupied by outsiders against the rules.

“Illegal occupants don’t possess room cards,” a guard claims.

Another guard says those illegally using hostels are not even students of any university or college.

On campus, especially at hostels, use of weapons and drugs is common.

Hostel wardens are helpless and even if they complain against students, the management and politicians come to their help.

According to students, activists of political parties’ student wings and cultural societies keep arms, especially pistols and Kalashnikov. They often fire gunshots in the air at night.

“Activists of student organisations or members of so-called cultural societies fire in the air at late night just for fun. It disturbs those either studying or sleeping. However, campus police don’t take action against them,” complains Hamza Ali, a student.

An official of the campus police station says the university has only 300 policemen for 80,000 students.

“We don’t have an emergency force. We’d written a letter a month ago to the home department to double our manpower but the response is still awaited. We immediately take action whenever firing incident or other illegal activity is reported to us. Under the law, carrying or keeping both licensed and unlicensed arms on campus is restricted,” he said.

There are also reports of hostellers subletting their rooms to students of private and government educational institutions.

Yasir Ali, a PhD student, claims most students living in hostels keep arms and use drugs and liquor supplied by a man from Karkhano Market.

According to him, the drug supplier hands over narcotics to a student at or near the university gate for own use or distribution among others.

However, the police rubbishes the claim saying police regularly patrol entry points of the university.

“We keep on an eye on everybody entering the campus. However, we suggest that only two gates be fixed for exit,” an official says.

Haji Farman of Pakhtun Students Federation tells Dawn he has written to the campus police and university administration for action against university students keeping or using arms and drugs.

“We believe no student activist could do anything unlawful on campus. We don’t support violence on campus,” he says.

Provost of the University of Peshawar Dr Alam Khan claims the management is taking necessary measures to evict outsiders from hostels and has made a strategy to ensure a studies-friendly atmosphere on campus.

“We are involving university teachers with good reputation to examine situation in hostels. Search operation will be conducted to evict criminal elements.”

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2014