A tense situation unfolded at Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology Khuzdar (BUETK) on Tuesday as numerous police vehicles encircled the campus. Joined by the Frontier Corps (FC), the police arrested several student protestors who had gathered to voice their grievances.
The Students Grand Alliance, a prominent student group at BUETK, organized a boycott of exams on Tuesday, alleging that the university administration had failed to deliver on its promise to remove the controller of examinations. The controller was accused of blackmailing students, particularly female students, on campus. A significant number of students assembled to protest, demanding the dismissal of the controller, removal of unnecessary surveillance cameras from campus and hostels, restoration of scholarships, lifting of the ban on student gatherings, and reduction of tuition fees.
Reportedly, the university administration called upon law enforcement agencies to disperse the protesting students. Multiple police and FC vehicles swarmed the university, resulting in the arrest of numerous students who were manhandled, forcibly placed into vehicles, and taken away. As of now, the fate of the arrested students remains uncertain.
Late into the night, negotiations commenced between the students and the university administration. However, the students have resolved to continue their protests until their fellow students are released.
It is worth noting that a month ago, the students staged a large-scale protest with demands that included the removal of the controller of examinations, who they accused of engaging in malpractice and blackmail. The protest concluded when the university administration pledged to address the students’ concerns within a month.
Unfortunately, the month elapsed without the students’ demands being fulfilled. The controller of examinations, against whom the students protested, was still overseeing the university’s final exams. Feeling frustrated and betrayed, the students recommenced their protests but were met with arrests and incarceration.
Other student organizations have decried the “unlawful arrest” of peaceful protestors at BUETK, emphasizing that protest is a fundamental right for every citizen. When students are denied their basic rights, their only recourse is to express their dissent through protest.
The Baloch Students Action Committee (BSAC), another student group, strongly condemned the arrest of the student protestors at BUETK. The BSAC expressed alarm over the excessive use of force against peaceful students and highlighted the prevalence of blackmail, violence, and unlawful arrests within Balochistan’s universities.
BSAC lamented that universities in Balochistan are plagued by various issues, resulting in their closure for extended periods throughout the academic year. Students and teachers frequently take to the streets to protest for their rightful demands, but their pleas fall on deaf ears. Instead of resolving issues through dialogue and negotiation, the provincial government and district administration resort to the use of force.
Expressing solidarity with the protestors at BUETK, the BSAC pledged unwavering support for their struggle to attain their rights. They emphasized that protest is a fundamental right and condemned the suppression of dissent through the use of force. The BSAC further demanded the immediate fulfillment of the students’ demands.
This incident at BUETK is not an isolated event but rather the latest occurrence in an ongoing pattern. Similar cases have been reported in other universities as well. One particularly alarming case emerged in September 2019 at the University of Balochistan, where university officials filmed and photographed female students in compromising situations, subsequently using these materials for blackmail. The incident sparked widespread outrage and exposed the prevalent culture of blackmail and malpractice in Balochistan’s universities.
Balochistan’s universities often resemble garrisons, with frequent sightings of Frontier Corps vehicles patrolling in and around the campuses. The University of Balochistan, in particular, has gained notoriety for the presence of FC personnel at its gates and inside the campus. Students and outsiders face considerable resistance when entering the university, as they are required to present not only their student cards but also their ID cards—a practice deemed unusual for a university. In some instances, students have been subjected to harassment and physical violence by the security forces. Furthermore, external forces significantly interfere in university affairs and have even abducted several students from campuses and hostels.
Regrettably, the situation has worsened over time. On occasions when cricket matches between India and Pakistan take place, large numbers of security forces assemble outside universities. This response stems from students’ jubilant celebrations following Pakistan’s loss to Sri Lanka in the Asia-cup’s final cricket match in September 2022, which incensed the security forces and led to the arrest of dozens of students in Quetta.
Life for students in Balochistan is marked by hardships. Universities frequently close, disrupting academic activities, due to protests by students and teachers. Even minor issues prompt the university administration to summon the Frontier Corps, perpetuating a troubling trend where the use of questionable force has become the norm in Balochistan. The situation continues to deteriorate, with students unable to even watch a cricket match without the overbearing presence of security forces.