ISLAMABAD: The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has expressed concern over the involvement of students in violent activities, after a former Karachi University student’s alleged involvement in a targeted attack on Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Izharul Hassan.

In a letter on Thursday, the HEC urged all universities to take measures to prevent opportunities for students and university employees to radicalised.

Earlier this year, a mob that included students from Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan lynched their fellow student Mashal Khan over allegations of blasphemy. Separately, Naureen Leghari, a student at the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, was also discovered to have received militant training.

On-campus religious or ethnic disputes between students are also common in universities as student wings of religious parties are active in some of the institutes of higher learning.

In a letter to vice chancellors, rectors and heads of universities, HEC Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said: “Some of the recent acts of violence and terrorism in the country have exposed involvement of university students in such disastrous incidences.

This is quite unfortunate and underscores that intolerance, radicalisation, and extremism is on the rise, and universities present no exception to this ominous challenge.”

Details of the letter were shared with the media by the commission’s media wing on Thursday.

It said the HEC has been sensitising universities’ leaderships to possible security threats, their manifestations and how negative potencies plan, approach and organise such brutalities.

Citing a Vice Chancellors’ Committee meeting held in May, the letter says connection and coordination with students should be strengthened and the visibility of faculty may be ensured in all social spaces of the university to eliminate disconnect between students and faculty.

“The radicalisation of students is a serious issue. This menace hit campuses during the last 15 years or so, but the positive thing is [that] following the guidelines of the HEC, universities are taking steps to curb the radicalisation of students,” Dr Ahmed told Dawn.

The letter emphasises mentoring and counselling for students so that it becomes a regular student activity.

“Any unusual behaviour must be carefully monitored and analysed,” the letter maintains, and calls for student directorates to be set up to register problems facing students and offering solutions to them.

The letter also calls for promoting tutorials, sports and extracurricular activities, and making them a part of universities’ routine business for constant engagement with students, and holding public lectures to promote understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2017