Baloch students sit in front of the Punjab Assembly building. — White Star
Baloch students sit in front of the Punjab Assembly building. — White Star

LAHORE: More than three dozen Baloch students who marched from Multan to the provincial capital for restoration of their scholarships and other academic demands set up a camp outside the Punjab Assembly at the Faisal Chowk here on Thursday.

As many as 40 Baloch students of the Bahauddin Zakariya University (BZU) Multan had started their march from Multan on Oct 10 and reached Lahore on Oct 21.

Their charter of demands includes restoration of scholarships for the students enrolled at the BZU on the reserved seats for Balochistan and withdrawal of a fee collection notification issued in this regard.

They also demand issuance of scholarships for DG Khan and Rajanpur tribal areas’ students studying on reserved seats at the BZU, Multan and allocation of more seats for them in other departments of the varsity.

Thirdly, they want resolution of issues faced by the Balochistan students studying on seats reserved for them in other universities of Punjab, besides restoration of such seats that had been abolished in Punjab University Lahore, Islamia University Bahawalpur, Agriculture University Faisalabad, Gomal University DI Khan.

One of the marchers, Jiand Jan, told Dawn that the government had not yet contacted them, but there were unconfirmed reports that the quota of the reserve seats had been extended for two more years.

He said they were marching to raise voice for the students of Balochistan and tribal areas, as they were “denied equal opportunities” in the past.

Jan said he and his fellow students would continue their march if the government did not solve their problems permanently. “We are asking for permanent reserve seats for the students of Balochistan and tribal areas of the Dera Ghazi Khan,” he said.

He said that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar had announced a quota for the students of tribal areas, but the order in this regard was not implemented so far.

He said the universities were charging fees from the scholarship holders and the scholarships given previously were also not implemented. “This situation forced us to stage the march, because no one even listened to our grievances when we had camped for 40 days outside the BZU Multan,” he regretted.

Meanwhile, different student organisations, including Baloch and Pakhtun Council of the Punjab University, Progressive Students Collective, People’s Students Federation (PSF), labour organisations and civil society members visited the camp to show solidarity with the marchers.

PML-N MPAs Azma Bokhari, Shaista Pervaiz Malik and Kiran Dar also visited the marchers to show solidarity with them.

Ms Bokhari on the occasion said the PTI government was following a policy of “developing conflict among the provinces” and that was the reason it had stopped the scholarships of Baloch students studying in Punjab.

She deplored that despite the students’ march from Multan to Lahore, Buzdar government did not take any step to address their grievances.

She demanded the Supreme Court should take suo motu notice of cancellation of the quota for Baloch students in Punjab’s educational institutes.

IJT: Islami Jamiat Tulba (IJT) held a press conference demanding reduction in students’ fees, and increase in education budget.

The leaders of the student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami also demanded the government to resolve medical students’ issues and revise the entry test curriculum as soon as possible.

They demanded the government should upgrade educational facilities and maintain autonomy of the institutions.

They said the government should set up a regulatory authority to monitor and control all private schools, colleges and universities as there was no check on these institutions.

They warned of a protest campaign across Pakistan if the government did not settle these issues.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020