The University of Karachi and NED University of Engineering anmd Technology, two major public sector varsities in Karachi held meetings on Tuesday to brainstorm ideas on how to check trends of extremism and militancy in students in the wake of reports that a university student was involved in the attack on the leader of the opposition in Sindh Assembly on Eid day.
All deans of Karachi University as well as university syndicate and academic council members attended the meeting that was chaired by the varsity’s Vice Chancellor Prof Mohammad Ajmal Khan. A similar discussion was held at the NED University of Engineering and Technology. The meeting of NED faculty was chaired by VC Prof Sarosh H. Lodi.
Sources said the participants shared concerns over reports that the mastermind of the attack on Khwaja Izharul Hasan, opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly, was a KU student who was on the run following the attack.
“Everybody was visibly concerned over the report that they believed has damaged the university’s reputation,” a senior teacher who attended the meeting said on condition of anonymity. The teachers found the issue very challenging given the many gaps in security apparatus and the way Pakistani society was functioning, he added.
“The participants realised that there is a big question mark over their capacity, the ability of our law enforcement agencies as well as how serious the government is in addressing this problem,” he said.
The sources said some of the suggestions discussed during the two-hour deliberations included students’ clearance from police before their admission and registration of an FIR if any student was found guilty of submitting fake documents. However, some teachers said that police verification wouldn’t be fruitful given the low credibility of police department, said another teacher.
Admission committee’s role
The participants, the sources added, agreed to the point that the admission committee should be tasked with coming up with a list of recommendations on the issue that would be taken up in the next academic council session.
The meeting decided that the university would coordinate and take assistance from law enforcement agencies for students’ security, according to a press release issued by KU. “Reports that the records of KU students are being checked and that new students would be asked to get clearance certificate from police are completely false. No such decision has been taken yet,” the press release added.
However, Karachi University Teachers Society President Dr Shakeel Farooqi claimed that he had never observed a tendency towards terrorism in students during his 37 years of service. “Yes, there may be a few isolated cases reported in the media but even those need to be clearly investigated and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. In case of any incident usually the primary source of information is police. It is anyone’s guess how much we can trust the primary source,” he said.
The Kuts president said slums and illegally occupied land surrounding the university campus needed to be monitored.
Dr Farooqi said two KU professors had been killed in targeted attacks in recent years and the police later announced that the murderers were apprehended. But the main accused was acquitted by court due to lack of evidence, he added. “Universities and other academic institutions are no islands and whatever happens in this global village affects every corner of society. In fact universities are minimising such effect by engaging a large number of young students in academic and co-curricular activities,” he observed.
NED security plan
NED University teachers at a meeting held on their campus agreed that a sense of participation would have to be inculcated among students as well as the entire administrative staff if militancy threat was to be tackled successfully. “We ask students to report if they see any suspicious activity on the campus. Everybody needs to be involved in this process,” said NED registrar Prof Ghazanfar Hussain.
Sharing details of the meeting, the registrar said the participants discussed the pace and progress of the university’s security plan already approved in June.
“Last week, our security staff attended a training session in Malir Cantonment,” where proposals on how to engage students in healthy activities were also put forward by some teachers, he added.
A meeting of the Rangers’ commander would soon be organised with students in which they would be informed of steps that could help law enforcement agencies in tracking down criminals, he said.
‘Tackle it at state level’
Upon contact, Prof Sulaiman D. Mohammad, Vice Chancellor of Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology, said some agencies had contacted the campus security officer and sought administration’s help in the current circumstances.
“We are vigilant and fully support law enforcers. But I believe this situation needs to be addressed at the state level. The kind of students’ data we have is also available with NADRA.
“Besides, how can teachers monitor students’ activities the whole day?” he asked, apprehending that the media hype over the recent incident would die down with the passage of time.