The College under siege
By Malik Siraj Akbar
The Baloch Students Organization (BSO-Azad) took out a mammoth protest rally in Quetta city on Tuesday to protest over the illegal occupation of the Government Degree College in Quetta by the Frontier Corps (FC). The protest rally, led by BSO Shal (Quetta) zone, Shahzaib Baloch, was attended by a large number of male and female students-cum-political activists. They started their march from Quetta Press Club and stopped in front of the Degree College on Sariab Road for a demonstration.
Of course, the protestors may have had their political agenda to implement while taking out such a grand protest rally in Quetta. However, the students had a point to make. The protest rally brought in public attention a neglected grave issue that entails the occupation of a key college in Quetta by the Frontier Corps (FC). This matter should have been raised by the media, students and teachers associations much earlier to draw the attention of the Balochistan government towards another front where the FC is acting in an uncivilized manner.
The Government Degree College Quetta, which is the learning place for most of the lower middle class students from Quetta and some other neighboring districts, has been completely closed for the last many months. The sole odd explanation given for the closure of this premier educational institution is the forceful control of armed FC men over the college. The FC does not give any explanation for its forceful occupation of a college because FC in Balochistan, unfortunately, is not answerable to anyone. Starting from a pedestrian to the Chief Minister of Balochistan, everyone in the country’s largest but most oppressed province has one thing to say about the FC: “We do not know who controls this rogue force.”
Not only the college but also the hostel at the Degree College is in the control of the FC. Ironically, students coming from remote parts of Balochistan are compelled to pay exorbitant rents for lodging in different hotels, flats and guest houses in Quetta to prepare for examination. While deserving students of Balochistan (say the proverbial “sons of the soil”) have the doors of college shut and the gates of the hostel fully sealed for them, alien troopers coming from the North Western Frontier Province and Punjab rascally dwell on the campuses by dint of force. This is the worst thing that could happen to the education of Balochistan. This is also the highest level of arrogance exhibited by the security forces towards a province that lags behind in the domain of education. Where is democracy?
Basically, it was not the sole responsibility of the students to hold a protest against the forceful occupation of the Government Degree College by the Frontier Corps. The entire civil society, parents of the students, members of the Balochistan government should have joined hands to demand the reopening of the college and the hostel.
In the past, a similar situation persisted at the University of Balochistan for several months. With the university and the hostel in control of the FC, student faced daunting problems in the continuity of their education. Those who came from remote districts like Turbat and Gwadar had to encounter nightmarish problems in terms of finding accommodation in the wake of closure of the hostels. There is indeed no justification for deployment of security forces inside the colleges and universities of Balochistan under current normal circumstances.
The response of the Balochistan government towards such uncalled for attitude of the Frontier Corps towards the educational institutions has been disappointing. The provincial government has remained indifferent to such an extent towards this issue as if it had nothing to lose due to disturbance caused in the academic activities of the young students of Balochistan. Political situation aside, the educational institutions of Balochistan must receive uninterrupted education. When the security forces enter different educational institutions without any reasons or declared official justifications merely to find a ‘suitable place to stay’, this can only be described as a deliberate attempt to deny higher education to the youth of Balochistan.
We have opposed the deployment of the FC and all other paramilitary forces on the university campuses even during all times because major institutions already have their own police force to ensure the safety of the staff and students there. In addition, places of higher learning cannot thrive under the shadow of guns, tanks and highhandedness of the security forces. Colleges and universities are the places where students must be encouraged to think independently. They should be allowed to enter into rational arguments and do objective analysis of various matters. They should not be dictated to follow a certain line of learning at this crucial stage of their academic lives.
Many people, including the Governor of Balochistan and the Chief Minister, may have ideological differences with the stance of the BSO-Azad. Yet, they should admire the courage of these young men and women who stood up against the forceful occupation of Degree College by the FC for so many months. They should take notice of this serious issue and give (with the help of the federal government, of course) immediate instructions to the FC to vacate all educational institutions of Balochistan wherever it has self-deployed itself. Educational institutions look good when ruled by (wo)men with brain not boots.
The Baloch Hal is the first online English newspaper of Balochistan)