THE suicide attack by a burqa-clad woman at the Confucius Institute should be taken as a wake-up call for all the stakeholders directly or indirectly associated with Karachi University. Obviously, the attack was not a single woman’s job because the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has already claimed responsibility for it. How was it possible for someone to carry such a huge amount of explosive material and enter the largest public university in the country without any security checks?

This is because of bureaucratic and toxic organisational culture which has evolved at the university over the last 20 years. The university has been facing delays in results, harassment and assaults, power outages, insecurity, transportation issues, water shortage, poor administration, plagiarism, fake degrees, and now this bomb blast.

The security guards are at the mercy of senior teachers who use their influence every now and then on university affairs. One such incident occurred recently outside the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) main gate when an assistant professor from the Public Administration Department was allegedly beaten up by a security guard for misbehaving.

The said teacher is notorious for threatening both students and staff members that he would have them kicked out of the university. It is common to observe that the majority of the senior teachers and staff members act as if they owned the university.

On the other hand, the university administration neither has the capacity nor the resources to avert the rise of such high-profile, coordinated and well-thought-out terrorist attacks. Not only are the staff members rude and arrogant, they are inefficient and untrained as well.

The security failure at the university is largely due to ‘boss culture’ that has been created by the staff members who could allow anyone in the university by making a single phone call to the security officer deputed at any of the gates of the university.

The senior teachers in authority must be blamed for the incident as they have caused delays in beefing up the security and hiring new guards for years. They also failed to equip the existing security guards with gadgets and equipment that can ensure effective security. The same was communicated by the Confucius Institute to the vice-chancellor in a recent letter that no standard operating procedures (SOPs) had been framed despite official correspondence on the security of the Chinese faculty.

Besides, the security department is also facing a severe shortage of guards at the university. According to a recent report — KU staff town sees surge in crime amid insufficient security (March 6) — the university has less than 150 guards to secure the campus spread over 1,200 acres that has a daily influx of about 80,000 visitors, including students, vehicle operators, canteen contractors and many others.

How lax is the current security arrangement can be gauged by the fact that the main campus of the IBA located inside the university campus, has 60 security guards covering a premises spread over 50 acres. There are only 45 guards deployed in each of the three shifts at the Karachi University, making it a staggering 26.6 acres per guard per shift.

According to a former campus security adviser, there are 120 points where deployment is needed round the clock to have a functional network in place. There are about 40 posts for security guards that have been lying vacant for several years, while the process of outsourcing about 30 posts is lingering on for almost a year.

In the wake of this suicide attack, the university will have to take serious action to ensure the safety of all the stakeholders. The foremost thing the university can do is to end the autocratic culture that does not allow anyone to question or challenge the authority of either the teachers or the staff members. This suicide bombing at the university will only make things worse.

Farhan Ahmed
Karachi

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2022

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