One University for each “division” of Balochistan
By Malik Siraj Akbar
A sub-campus of the University of Balochistan (UoB) has been inaugurated in Turbat district, the capital of the defunct Mekran division. The inauguration ceremony was attended by UoB Vice Chancellor Dr. Masoom Yasinzai, the elected representatives of the area, senior bureaucrats, educationists and several notables of Mekran. This campus is expected to provide better learning opportunities to the students of Turbat, Panjgur and Gwadar who often find it difficult to travel a long way on the unpaved roads to travel to Quetta, the provincial capital, to attain higher education at the University of Balochistan.
The local people have widely welcomed the establishment of the university campus in Mekran by offering all possible assistance to the government in order to expand the campus in the future. For instance, Mir Zahoor Buledai, the elected member of the Balochistan Assembly from the area and the provincial minister for Gwadar Development Authority, has promised to give a grant of Rs. Five million to the university. Likewise, Mir Rauf Rind, the district Nazim, announced on the behalf of his father Senator Mohammad Ali Rind another contribution of Rs. Five million for the same project. On his part, the district Nazim vowed to construct a hostel for the female students of the university.
The overwhelmingly positive response of the local big guns should suffice to embarrass the ruling quarters in Islamabad that have been harping for decades that the local notables in Balochistan are opposed to education and other forms of development. The people of Balochistan have always extended full cooperation for any kind of development that is intended to benefit the masses of the country’s least developed province. If the government is determined to construct more schools, colleges or hospitals, one can confidently assure that the Balochs would welcome it to such a large extent that they would even be willing to freely offer their own lands for the construction of such projects.
The establishment of a UoB sub-campus in Turbat is a very belated decision which should have been taken much earlier. We do not welcome it on the grounds that Turbat justifiably deserves a full -fledged university, not merely a sub-campus. After all, the people in the area have been making this demand since 1988. Successive governments turned down this request for the obvious reasons of keeping the Balochs educationally backward.
There is no question about the fact that Mekran is the most liberal and progressive part of Balochistan. The area has a history of producing competent bureaucrats, excellent literary figures and renowned politicians. Another advantage Mekran has in its credit is the absence of a tribal set-up which is frequently as well as falsely cited as one of the reasons for the backwardness of Balochistan. One wonders why the government did not carry on with the construction of a university in Mekran where there were no so-called “anti-development sardars”.
Balochistan is the least literate province of Pakistan which needs urgent measures to be educated and brought at par with the rest of the federating units. Therefore, the government should pay focus special attention to the promotion of education and lower as well as higher level. If the government has the resources to establish cantonments in different parts of the province then why does it not spend the same money for a more righteous cause of imparting modern education among the young Balochs? Therefore, we would recommend the government to establish one university each for all of the six former divisions of Balochistan.
Historically, many students in various parts of Balochistan failed to continue their education after the completion of their graduation. They had to abandon plans to study further due to economic reasons. It is a wild dream for many in the rural areas of Balochistan to travel from their native districts to Quetta because the provincial capital is too far. Secondly, in the province’s traditional society, many people consider it inappropriate to send their daughters alone to another city to get education. Thus, traditions and lack of universities in the native towns entice these bright girls to permanently give up their education.
The government should stop confining Balochistan’s development solely to Quetta where majority of key educational institutions are located. Every division, if not district, should be given a small university but with all necessary facilities to start working. It is also hoped that the elected leaders of Turbat will not remain contended solely with the inauguration of the sub-campus. They should press the government to upgrade the campus to a full-fledged university as Mekran qualifies under any benchmark as a city deserving to host a university.