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Collateral damage

March 04, 2013

THE fallout of the terrorism that has been visited upon Quetta of late seems to be having an ever-widening effect. Now 310 ‘O’ and ‘A’ level students in the city, including 250 from nine private schools and 60 private candidates, have been told their final exams will not be held in Quetta as scheduled in May and June. Instead, students will have to travel to Karachi, Lahore or Islamabad to take their exams. The British Council, which conducts these, says it has taken the decision in light of the law and order situation in the city. To help defray some of the expenses that the measure will entail for parents, it will refund one component of the exam fee and cover the cost of another. It is also exploring options to help students secure affordable and secure accommodation in the city where they choose to sit their papers.

Given that Quetta has witnessed two horrific terrorist attacks this year amidst prevailing lawlessness in general, one can understand the British Council’s concern. However, its efforts to minimise the impact notwithstanding, this step will unfairly penalise the students by putting them to enormous inconvenience at a crucial point in their academic careers. Moreover, it seems a rather excessive reaction. After all, local board exams continue to be held in Quetta despite the law and order problems. As some parents have suggested, perhaps comparatively secure locations such as the Quetta Cantonment or a secure hotel could serve as an exam venue. The number of students is also small enough to be accommodated in either of these two locations, provided their administration is amenable to the idea. Ultimately however, it is the Balochistan government’s duty to assume the responsibility of providing security to its students and it must step up to the plate.