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Scholarship holders left in the lurch

June 15, 2012

ISLAMABAD, June 14: Nearly 10,000 students on scholarships have not received their stipends from April to pay their boarding expense and tuition fee, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights learnt on Thursday.

The future of some 3,500 students availing university and Higher Education Commission (HEC) scholarships is particularly at stake who are studying in foreign countries, said Director Human Resource HEC, Wasim Hashmi.

“How can students focus on their studies when they have to worry about paying university fees or where their next meal will come from?” said Chairman of the committee MNA Riaz Fatyana describing the situation as a major human rights violation.

Wasim Hashmi further said that out of the 3,500 students on foreign scholarships, 1,500 were sent by universities and 2,000 by the HEC. And out of the total 10,000 students on scholarships, 2,000 hailed from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The students received between Rs12, 000 to Rs15, 000 stipends.

The meeting had to be cut short due to the on-going parliament’s session but MNA Riaz Fatyana gave directions to the secretary Ministry of Finance to ensure that the funds were released immediately and a report of the same should be submitted in the next meeting.

The committee unanimously suggested that HEC/universities should relax policies and wave off all charges including admission and examination fees to students from war/conflict-affected regions in the west of the country until peace prevailed.

“And it should not hurt money-minting private universities to induct a few students from the war-affected zones free of charge,” said MNA Riaz Fatyana.

It was also a matter of concern for the members that the universities’ faculty members had not received their pay despite two weeks into June. Riaz Fatyana described it a serious concern and said the recently held Vice Chancellors’ meeting also pointed out the issue.

The Ministry of Finance was yet to release Rs3.2 billion for the three months quarter from April to June.

MNAs Dr Attiya Inayatullah and Jameela Gilani urged the chairperson of the meeting to take notice of threats to Asma Jahangir.

All members expressed support and solidarity for the lawyer. The chair then directed that secretaries Ministry of Defence and Interior be called in the next meeting to brief the members on the situation besides inviting Asma Jahangir.