SHABQADAR: Two years after militants had stormed its ground killing 22 people and injuring 20 others — mostly students, the Bacha Khan University campus looks a little more secure.
The sole entry gate to the sprawling campus is now manned by security officers and there is a walkthrough gate which everyone has to pass through. All this, though, has been unable to erase the cries and gunshots fired that day from the minds of students, faculty and staff.
The road leading to the university from the main Mardan road is narrow and surrounded by sugarcane fields, students find themselves exposed. In the absence of security on the kilometre-long road, most students opt to take a rickshaw to the main gate of the university.
Once at the gate, students can take a sigh of relief. The gate has been secured by guards while an officer inspects identity cards of students and visitors are directed to submit their CNICs at the gate.
Moreover, the university administration has raised the height of all the walls surrounding the campus, and fitting razor wires on the top to prevent anyone from jumping over them. Further, watchtowers have been built along the boundary of the university to keep a watchful eye on intruders.
But for those inside the university, a monument built outside the administration block to pay tribute to faculty and students who had lost their lives in the attack claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan remains the most moving spot on campus.
With pictures of those martyred in the attack prominently displayed and names etched in Urdu and English, anyone entering the varsity is immediately reminded of that tragic incident.
Students, though, concede that they do feel more secure on the campus.
Rafiullah, who is pursuing a Masters in Sciences in Chemistry at the varsity, said that the administration had beefed up security at the campus and that he does not feel insecure.
“Sometimes, the university does not look like an educational institute, rather it resembles a military base with guards at the gate, on the boundary walls and in the watchtower looking at potential hostiles on the road, and at times even in the classrooms,” he said.
But this sense of security has come at great cost for the varsity’s administration. Over recent months, the varsity has been forced to either terminate several contract employees or has reduced the salaries of such staff. This has resulted in a tug of war between the vice chancellor and the faculty.
When asked about the economic crisis the university was suffering from, Vice Chancellor Professor Dr SM Saqlan Naqvi curtly explained that the varsity is bearing the burden of 200 ‘extra’ employees which had been appointed by the previous administration.
He further complained that some staff members were not cooperating with the university’s administration.
The faculty, when asked about Dr Naqvi’s comments, disagreed vehemently. They pointed out that most of them were on contracts and were fearful that if they gave an unfavourable comment they may be terminated.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2018.
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