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By Malik Siraj Akbar 20080716
Slug: BUITMS students for change in admission policy; July 12, 2008; 15:05pm-MSA 

By Malik Siraj Akbar 

QUETTA:  Jeopardizing their future, two Baloch students from the Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences (BUITMS) sat on an unto death hunger strike in front of Quetta Press Club on Saturday to protest the admission policy at their university. While the final year examinations are scheduled to kick of after two weeks [on July 21st], the Baloch students, who claim to enjoy the support of around 400 university fellows, are also boycotting their classes besides sitting in a hunger strike camp. 

Qambar Baloch, who is heading the hunger strike camp, told Daily Times that the purpose of the camp was to protest the admission policy of the BUITMS which aggressively believed in 'open merit'. The Baloch students, on their part, want the open merit to be devolved at the district level so that the representation of students from all districts of the country's largest province is equally ensured.

 

The admission policy statement of the university states: "Balochistan University of Information Technology and Management Sciences is an equal opportunity institution and admission in all our programs is purely on merit without any distinction of race, religion, color or ethnic origin provided the learner meets the entry requirements in various programs. However, being a public sector University, it is created to serve particular needs of the Balochistan province by virtue of its location." 

Thus, the six-year old university provides seats on open merit to 70% students of Balochistan while 30% open merit is fixed for the whole country. Around 3000 male and female students are enrolled in the university which offers courses in five faculties Information Communication Technology (ICT), Engineering, Management Sciences, Biotechnology and informatics, and Environmental Management . 

"Our objection is that this policy discriminates the Baloch from attaining higher education," whined Qambar, who elucidated that only 9% students admitted to the Spring 2008 Program of the BUITMS were Baloch. "Though 70% open merit is fixed for the entire province, 62% of the seats were grabbed by the students from Quetta city only. In and around Quetta city, the majority of population is that of non-Baloch elite from other ethnic groups."

Qambar argued that if 70% open merit system in the admission policy was not revoked, it would deprive the 70% of Baloch districts of higher education. "Children of the elite in Quetta, where the Baloch are in minority, have access to top grammar schools and private colleges. They will, understandably, beat the students from the far-flung Baloch districts. We are not opposed to the idea of open merit. What we want is that such tests and interviews to select students on merit-basis should be conducted at district level while keeping in view the ground realities of the province," he suggested.

Khurshid Baloch, the other companion of Qambar for the unto death hunger strike, said the admission policy, based on open-merit, at the Bolan Medical College (BMC) and the Engineering University in Khuzdar, both technical colleges just like the BUITMS, had been devolved to the districts. Therefore, such admission policy had blocked to way for students from Quetta city to grab all the seats of these universities. "If these universities are meant for the people of Balochistan, then they should give equitable representation to all the districts of Balochistan. It is unfair to keep the other districts backward. The current admission policy of the BUITMS is favoring the non-Baloch people who have the advantage of better schools and tuition of Quetta." 

He noted that the number of recognized public universities by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) was 38 in Sindh province, 36 in the Punjab, 21 in North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) but the number of public universities in the large province of the country was only five. "Even if you look at the Sindh University, it has rural and urban quota fixed for the aspiring students. Why can't the same be applied in Balochistan?" he questioned. 

The Baloch Students Organization (BSO) and the Baloch Republican Party (BRP) are also supporting the Baloch students' demand for the change in the university admission policy. Qambar says they would continue the strike camp until a copy of the demanded notification issued by the government is handed over to them which announces the district-based open merit system at the BUITMS. 

A representative of the BSO, Abdul Qayyum Baloch, told Daily Times, that his organization would fully support and cooperate with the students for their demands. According to him, the very basic objective of establishing an information technology university in Balochistan was to equip the Baloch youths with technical education in order to run the Gwadar Port. 

"We don't understand why institutions are established on our name but we are deliberately denied access to them. The largest beneficiaries of the BUITMS are the non-Baloch students coming from the Punjab, NWFP and the settlers of Balochistan," he remarked.  

Mr. Baloch, who is also the president of BSO Quetta zone, said the state of education in rural Balochistan was so deplorable that students cannot speak Urdu and use computers. As a matter of fact, the government should have firstly ensured better education at the school and college level. Now that a university has been established with hefty costs, there is no justification of the government allegations that the Baloch are incompetent, he added. 

The students said they hoped that the new democratic government, which had promised to resolve the problems of Balochistan, on priority basis, would take the matter into consideration. 

Ahmed Shah Durrani, the director of students' affairs at the BUITMS, was not available for comments despite repeated requests from Daily Times. However, another official of the University, requesting anonymity, said the Baloch students were unjustified in their demands as they were painting the whole issue as an ethnic matter. "We don't understand why the Pashtoon students have no problems with our admission policy. Even, competent Baloch students manage to secure their seat at the university on open merit," he said.