REPORT: Amjad Mehdi
Pashtun Students Council Multan members did a protest march from Multan to Quetta followed by a protest camp near Press Club Quetta to demand restoration of their scholarships in different universities of Punjab. Today, marks the 4th day of their protest camp but no one from Balochistan government has approached the protesting students.
Scholarships for the students of Balochistan in the public universities of Punjab province were introduced by the federal government under the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package in 2012. This package made possible admissions of a considerable number of Balochistan students in the universities of Punjab with compete fee waiver. In BZU alone, every year 175 Balochistan students secured admission with at least 600 of them currently enrolled based on reserve seats. But with the start of this academic year these scholarships were revoked by the universities; initially by Bahauddin Zakaraiya University, Multan.
Protests against the scholarships cuts began earlier in September soon after Bahauddin Zakariya University decided to end free reserve seats for the students of peripheral areas. Few other universities in Punjab also followed BZU; eventually Islamia University Bahawalpur and Punjab University Lahore also reduced reserve seats. Baloch and Pashtun students set up a protest camp in front of BZU main gate from September 1, 2020 to October 10, against scholarship cuts for 40 days. Starting on 10th October, Baloch students are on their 800KM long march from Multan to Islamabad via Lahore.
Meanwhile, Pashtun students marched to Quetta and sat in protest to ask Balochistan government to resolve their scholarship issue. “We are sitting here for four days but the government officials have ignored our issue” says Muhammad Irfan a student of BZU and chairman Pashtun Council Multan. “We demand reserve seats in the universities of Punjab as before. We’ll continue to protest until the universities reinstate our seats.” he added.
Talking to TSH, Muzammil Khan Convener Student Action Committee said that students’ concerns have not been dealt properly. “ Students have raised their concerns but the governments are unable or unwilling to understand the issue” he accused.
Anum Khalid of Progressive Students Collective Multan told TSH that their organization stood in solidarity with Baloch and Pashtun students from the day one of the scholarships issue. “PSC supports Pashtun students march to Quetta and shows solidarity with Pashtun students camping in Quetta for restoration of Scholarships”, she added.