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Friday, March 1, 2024

The growing financial crisis at University of Balochistan

Depriving academics and employees of their salaries at the University of Balochistan will serve the interest of external enemies of the country.

The University of Balochistan (UOB), Quetta, the largest and oldest university in the province, is mired currently in a deeply entrenched economic crisis. Over the last two decades, UOB has been witnessing a growing financial crisis. Both federal and provincial governments so far remain utterly failed to resolve the financial crisis of the university. Sadly, professors and teachers who were supposed to be in classes are now on the roads, demanding their salaries.

Being a President of the Academic Staff Association ASA, at UOB, Quetta, I intend to draw the attention of the provincial government of Balochistan as well as Dr. Shafiq-ur-Rehman, Vice-chancellor University of Balochistan, to address the financial crisis of the university.

The Joint Action Committee at the University of Balochistan has called for a strike and the strike has been going on for the last week. The bona fide objectives of the strike are to address the financial woes of the professors, lecturers and employees of the University. It is a matter of grave concern that they received only half their salary for July, 2022 and so far have not received the salary for August. Being the president of ASA, we want a permanent and long-term solution to the financial crisis of the university. It is the fundamental responsibility of federal and provincial governments to invest massively in higher education to make headways in science, technology, research and development.

As far as my sense is concerned, the bigger responsibility lies on the Vice-chancellor, pro-vice chancellor, treasurers including principal officers to exert pressure on the provincial government of Balochistan to grant salaries to the employees of the university. Granting salary is not a demand but a fundamental right. The VC should have arranged extra funds for the university.

The incumbent VC should send young teachers abroad for foreign scholarships with aim of bringing innovative ideas and knowledge to the university. He also completely failed in launching projects in the university that could have played a catalyst role in generating funds for the university. Unfortunately, we cannot think of foreign scholarships and initiations of the aforementioned projects. Instead, we are deprived of our salaries which is our basic right. UOB has been plunged into a deep financial crisis making the lives of professors, teachers, and employees miserable and painful.

It is worth mentioning here that the budget presented by the provincial government of Balochistan in 2022-23 comprised 700 billion rupees. Surprisingly, within 700 billion rupees only 2.50 billion rupees were released to 11 universities in the province in the shape of grants and aids. The meagre amount of 2.50 billion rupees for the 11 universities, by all means, is inadequate to address financial woes of universities. Meanwhile, the federal budget for 2022 was comprised 10 thousand billion rupees.

The federal government only issued 65 billion rupees for the recurring budget for all the universities of the country, which, by and large, are exceedingly insufficient in the era of science, technology, research and development. Excruciatingly, since 2017, the federal government every year releases merely 65 billion rupees for the recurring budget of higher education which lags Pakistan far behind in the race for higher education in the region.

Read more: Recent floods in Balochistan and its implications

Against this backdrop, VCs of the universities across the country are in deep slumber and are reluctant to take concrete steps to create funds and bring visionary steps to higher education. VCs and pro-vice-chancellors in the universities across Balochistan should have informed the provincial government about the financial crisis of universities. They were supposed to be with us in addressing and highlighting the financial conundrum of the universities. Surprisingly, they are oblivious and non-serious to mitigate our grievances.

I request the federal government to release 150 billion rupees recurring budget annually for the universities of Pakistan. I also request the provincial government of Balochistan to release nearly 10 billion rupees out of 700 billion rupees for the universities across Balochistan.

Releasing 10 billion rupees will address the financial woes of universities in the province and will win hearts and minds of professors, teachers and employees. They will certainly take extra interests in classes and research works that invariably will prove fruitful and instrumental for Pakistan in general and Balochistan in particular. Arguably, an insecure and uncertain professor and teacher amid inflation and uncertainty can never produce secure students. Balochistan requires a special attention on account of its geostrategic location and the growing rivalry of regional and international players in the region.

Depriving professors, teachers and employees of their salaries, making no progress in generating funds, and exacerbation of poverty and lawlessness in the province will create a vacuum to be filled by the external enemies of the country. The sooner the salaries are released with permanent solution, the better for prosperous and luminous future of Balochistan.

Professor Dr Kaleem Ullah Bareach (President of the Academic Staff Association, the University of Balochistan, Quetta)