Following protests by students in Lahore against on-campus exams, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Tuesday said he had asked the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to consult vice chancellors of universities to see if their demand of online exams "is possible given special circumstances this year".
His statement comes after protesting students were allegedly baton-charged by the police on Monday.
University students, mostly in Lahore, have been protesting against on-campus examinations for the past week.
According to the students, universities had conducted online classes due to closure of educational institutes because of the coronavirus pandemic. They also say that universities had not completed the syllabi of different courses but now the institute’s administrations were pressing for exams.
In a series of tweets today, Mahmood took note of the students' demands and said: "Some university students are demanding that their exams should be online as they have been studying online. This is a decision for the universities to make but I have asked HEC to consult VCs and see if it is possible given special circumstances this year."
However, he stressed that while making a decision regarding the matter, universities must ensure that all students will be able to sit the exams.
"Universities should also asses whether they have the technical ability to conduct exam for ALL students," he said. "No one can be left behind. It is also necessary to ensure that online exam system is not misused to get easy grades. Preparing good question papers/assessment is imp(ortant)."
Yesterday, student group Progressive Students' Collective (PSC) said that its Lahore president Zubair Siddiqui, who was leading a protest, was arrested by police from the University of Management and Technology (UMT).
The PSC later tweeted that Zubair and some other students were "critically injured and have been taken to ICU (intensive care unit)" after they were allegedly baton-charged by police.
For their part, police denied reports of baton-charge. Saddar Division SP (Operations) Hafeezur Rehman Bugti told Dawn.com that police "have not tortured [any students], and will not torture".
He added that no first information report (FIR) has been registered and police have asked the protesting students to hold negotiations with the university administration. The official also said that nobody was arrested.
On Friday last week, a number of students of various public and private universities had protested outside the Governor's House to demand cancellation of physical examinations. Hundreds of students had also protested outside Aiwan-i-Iqbal last week against universities' policies.
According to the students, institutes had closed their hostels and the students of other cities did not have any place to live and questioned how they could prepare and appear in examinations in the prevailing circumstances.
While commenting on the fees issue, the students said that private institutes had charged thousands of rupees as fees and had not completed the syllabi. They demanded that the universities be stopped from charging further fees and they did not have the capacity to pay it.
A protest was also held outside Aiwan-i-Iqbal on Tuesday last week and students also marched towards the Governor House later.