Interminable Economic Crunch In Universities Of Balochistan – OpEd


It is not the first time that the employees of universities in Pakistan particularly in Balochistan have been echoing their voices and striking in the universities for the fulfillment of their demands. The story is many years old and they have been deprived of their salaries for months. Again, the universities in Balochistan and Peshawar have been closed down owing to a lack of funding. These developments have hampered academic activities in universities. The question is why sane minds don’t resolve the financial crunch once and for all.

The failure of the government of Balochistan is unforgivable. The 18th amendment altered the constitution and devolved the federal HEC to provincial levels and called upon the provinces to form their HECs. Despite Sind and Punjab, who have formed their respective provincial HECs, the provincial government of Balochistan has failed to do so after passing 13 years yet. This reflects how the provincial government is keen on higher education in the province. While, at the same time, despite investing in research, innovation, and a knowledge-based economy the provincial governments have been busy investing in bricks-and-mortar projects annually where Rs 172 billion were reserved for provincial PSDP in the 2022 budget. This amount does not include the provincial share from the NFC which supersedes hundreds of billions of rupees annually.

The academics and lower staff in the universities of Balochistan are on strike for not releasing their salaries for the last three months. Although, as a result of the strike, the government provided half of their salaries but half still remain unpaid to the employees. When, the salaries are not provided with how can we expect investment in innovation, research, and enhancing a knowledge-based economy? The situation is pathetic, lustreless, and unacceptable.

Lack of funds has been a point of reservation for years. In the fiscal year 2022_23, the provincial government released 2.5 billion rupees for 11 universities from the total amount of 700 billion rupees that was allocated for the same year. It has been 10 months that the government has released only 35 percent of the allocated amount while the remaining 75 percent still hanging in balance before two months of ending of the current fiscal year. At the same time, for bricks and mortar projects there has been no issue of funding and the contractors are being provided with their funds at exact times.

Notwithstanding, the joint committee of the Federation of All Pakistan universities academic staff association (FAPUADA) has been raising its voices on the recruitment process of the VCs and registrars and alleged some appointments as they claim that they are based upon nepotism and political affiliation are further causing damage to the culture of meritocracy in the universities. They also have reservations over the process of promoting academic staff and allege that professors who lack political affiliation are deprived of promotion.

At the same time, although, the employees have been affected by the skyrocketing inflation on one side, and on the other side, they have been without salaries__ but on the flip side the sufferers are the students who are poor and belong to the far-flung areas of the province. Their educational studies have been halted for months due to strikes and suspicion of classes. This is regrettable. But, at the same time, the employees have been left without the choice rather pressurize the government by boycotting the classes. The employees have been demanding the fulfillment of their demands before the strike but the responsible authorities never paid heed and brought the situation to this stage.

Now the question arises as to what to be done. The answers are simple. Establish own HEC, allocate funds as per envisaged in the budget of 2022_23, resolve the grievances, secure Balochistan,s quota in the federal HEC, assure meritocracy in the appointment of the VCs, register, and promotion of faculty staff, and take pragmatic steps for allocating funds to research, innovation, and knowledge-based economy. Diverting a small amount of around 5 percent from the bricks-and-mortar projects for higher education will not be a bad deal. What is needed is will and a holistic approach which are missing in the authorities.

Balochistan is in the clinches of security issues. The geopolitical game played in Balochistan by international and regional players has deteriorated the situation. This should be an alarming sign for the authorities. Rather than resolving the genuine demands of the employee (The genuine demands), the authorities are pushing the employees and their families to the wall. This is balmy, unaccepted, immature, gloomy, and absurd.

Naseeb Ullah Achakzai

Naseeb Ullah Achakzai is a M.Phil scholar and writes as a freelance columnist.

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