VCs should review security forces’ deployment in varsities: Senate body

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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Friday observed that deployment of security forces in university campuses was not conducive as it added to the general climate of fear.

“Vice-chancellors of all the universities in Pakistan should review deployment of security forces within university campuses. The VC of University of Balochistan is directed in particular to meet IG Frontier Corps and IG police to reassess deployment of security forces inside the campus, preferably only at entry and exit points and places of prime importance,” said Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights Chairman Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

He had called the meeting to discuss the issue of harassment and blackmailing of students by the staff at Balochistan university.

Senator Khokhar also asked the Balochistan varsity vice-chancellor to re-evaluate the necessity of security cameras.

“Remove excess CCTV cameras that do not serve any purpose. Security cameras should be installed with the consent of students,” he said.

Recently, CCTV cameras, showing male and female students intermingling, installed around the Balochistan university for security purposes had been used by its staff to extort money and sexually harass female students. Protests followed as students took to the streets, including in Islamabad and organised sit-ins in the universities across the country.

Discusses harassment of students by staff at Balochistan university

The vice-chancellor of the University of Balochistan has temporarily stepped down from his role following the launch of an investigation into allegations of harassment on the campus.

The meeting was informed that while the Federal Investigation Agency was investigating the issue, the varsity’s VC Javed Iqbal had stepped down. Though Mr Iqbal has denied involvement in harassing students, the members held him responsible for ‘grave’ violations of rights of the students as head of the educational institute.

Students, who were present in the meeting, told the committee members that the university gave the feeling of a prison instead of an educational institute.

“Fifty vehicles patrol the premises in a single day. We feel like inmates,” said one of students whose name cannot be mentioned at the request of the committee chairman.

Dr Mohammad Anwer, who currently is the acting vice-chancellor of the varsity, conceded that security on the campus was stringent. He said three law enforcement agencies were responsible for his and his family’s security.

While Chairperson of National Commission on the Status of Women Khawar Mumtaz recommended revisiting harassment laws, the members felt that the Higher Education Commission had failed to instill confidence, values and ethics in students.

The Senate Human Rights Committee will meet soon at the Balochistan university to better address the issue.

Coming to the support of the 225 laid off employees of the recently-dissolved Pakistan Medical and Dental Council under a controversial ordinance, the Senate committee recommended their reinstatement.

“They have been wronged and their rights have been violated,” said the committee chairman.

President Arif Alvi signed the controversial Pakistan Medical Commission Ordinance 2019, which stipulates that a uniform minimum standard of medical education, training and recognition of qualifications in medicine and dentistry should be implemented.

Offices of the PMDC have been closed for a week and medical records sealed by the government. The PMC has been directed to begin operations within the week. The laid off employees have been protesting the new ordinance. During the meeting, most of the members also criticised the ordinance.

“The President’s issuing ordinances does not make sense especially when there is a parliament in place,” said PMLN Senator Ayesha Raza Farooq.

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