Education and internet facilities in Balochistan and Fata are not at par with the majority of areas of other provinces in Pakistan. This is something known to everyone but the Higher Education Commission (HEC) which has been insisting that all university students must attend online classes and appear in online exams. And when students express their inability to do so they are not even allowed to protest peacefully. We saw this the way the police arrested over two dozen male and female students in Quetta a few days back during a nation-wide protest by students against the HEC’s online classes policy. These students were simply protesting against the unavailability of the internet for online classes. But the response to them in Quetta at least was violence and intolerance. Although the students were thankfully released soon after, there is a lot that is wanting in how Pakistan treats its young.
There is no secret that most of Balochistan does not have broadband internet to enable students in areas such as Gwadar, Loralai, Noshki, Sibi, Pishin, Turbat, and even in Ziarat. The same goes for students in many parts of the erstwhile ‘tribal areas’ or Fata. People in these areas have been complaining for long that they can’t even check an email due to the extremely slow speed of internet – and in some areas no internet at all. The students of these areas who were studying in various private and public sector universities across the country had to get back to their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Once home, most of them were cut off from the outside world and unable to attend online classes. Finally they had to voice their concern because the HEC was unwilling to take into account their legitimate grievances.
This disrespect of our students and teachers alike must stop if we are to be counted as a civilized nation. We must respect our people’s right to free expression and peaceful assembly. Without respecting and protecting our students we can’t expect them to be responsible citizens of this country. The right to peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed and must not be violated under any pretext. Shutting out voices is not leading us anywhere, and no country can ever hope for progress without its students being taught how to think independently.