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Students urge demilitarization of Balochistan University; FIA to submit report on 27

Hundreds of students are currently sitting in front of Balochistan University’s main gate to protest a blackmailing and harassment scandal on the campus surrounding installation of hidden cameras at the women’s hostel and then using the recordings to harass and blackmail students.

The scandal, which initially involved UoB’s security in-charge and surveillance officer, is deepening by day after reports suggest there is more to it than the eye sees.

The pressure is increasing, especially from the students. Hundreds of angry students from different universities of Balochistan, and from the Punjab University, have been protesting over the issue for over a week now. The vice-chancellor has been forced to step down, albeit temporarily, and calls are getting louder that over 700 paramilitary officials of the Frontier Corps (FC) currently stationed at the campus be immediately expelled.

The Baloch Students Organization (BSO) today presented a seven-point charter of demand to the registrar and the acting VC, demanding “armed personnel”, a euphemism for FC personnel, and CCTV cameras be removed from inside the campus.

The other demands include formation of anti-harassment cells at the university and other education institutions, and inclusion of students’ representatives in the ongoing investigations into the scandal.

The registrar assured the protesting students that the culprits would be brought to justice. He confirmed the FIA had confiscated dozens of footage recorded secretly by the university administration.

The FIA is to submit its findings to the chief minister and governor on October 27.

A 10-member parliamentary committee formed by the Balochistan Assembly to probe into the scandal is yet to begin work after a political fight erupted over who is going to be its chairman. The treasury and the opposition both want their respective representative to lead the body. Its first meeting, held on October 18, ended up in vain as several members were absent and those present could not agree on a chairman. They are expected to meet again tomorrow, October 23.

Even before the Balochistan University scandal came to the limelight earlier this month, Pakistan’s independent media watchdog, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), had questioned the presence of over 700 FC personnel at the campus. In its latest fact-finding report on Balochistan, the HRCP urged the authorities to demilitarize the province’s education institutions.

Thousands of paramilitary troops have been deployed in Balochistan during the last decade to counter a Baloch separatist insurgency in the region. They have been often accused of, from engineering elections to running the affairs of universities.

Some say investigations into the harassment scandal are being derailed on purpose as they might lead to the involvement of the country’s powerful military establishment. Suspicions grew after the VC Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University was recorded threatening students of her campus not to participate in the ongoing protests over the scandal.

Separately, Senator Tahir Bizenjo claimed in a press conference held in Islamabad, along with PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal and others, that the Balochisan University VC had been suspended in 1992 over corruption and sexual harassment charges. He asked for his immediate removal and arrest.

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