Balochistan students protest against admission policy

By Malik Siraj Akbar

QUETTA: Three students from the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS), whose condition worsened on Wednesday due to a prolonged hunger strike demanding district-based merit at their university, were brought to the Balochistan Governor’s House in stretcher.

Hundreds of Baloch students, who held placards and banners in their hands, staged a sit-in in front of Governor’s House and chanted slogans against Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, who is also the chancellor of the IT University. They also blocked the main road that leads to Governor’s House. Despite a delegation of senior BUITMS teachers and administration staff urging the students to abandon their hunger strike, the students have refused to end their strike.

Around 400 Baloch students from BUITMS are on strike against the current admission policy. All Baloch nationalist political parties, including the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, the National Party, the Balochistan National Party-Awami, the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) and the Baloch Students’ Organisation (BSO)-Azad are overtly backing the demands of the Baloch students.

The students, led by Qambar Baloch and joined by pupils from other educational institutions, are demanding that the admission policy at BUITMS should be reviewed and the merit system be devolved at district level. Currently, 70 percent merit-based seats are fixed for the entire province, but the Baloch students argue that the largest beneficiaries of such a system are the non-Baloch students living in the urban parts of the province. They are demanding that admissions should be granted on a district-based merit system.

Jan Muhammad Buledai, a central leader of the National Party, told this writer that the current movement of the students was not against the merit system, nor did it target a fixation of quota for each district. Instead, he said, they wanted tests and interviews to be conducted at the district level so that students from all districts could gain admission. “The students who have staged a hunger strike do not have personal interests because they have already secured their seats at the university. They are only struggling for the future of future generations,” he said, adding that the Baloch political parties wholeheartedly support the struggle.

Meanwhile, the BSO announced a boycott of all educational institutions today (Thursday) to press the government to meet its demands. Shahzab Baloch, a BSO leader, said that the BUITMS had been established to provide better education to the Baloch, adding that if they were denied entry into the varsity, they would block the door of these institutions for non-Baloch as well.

As the strike gains momentum, it appears likely that the government may give into the protesters’ demands, as university exams are scheduled for next week.

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