A world class university in Balochistan

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Much of the good work by dedicated individuals, groups and institutions often gets buried under the rubble of bad news about Balochistan. There is also the fixation of the media and public intellectuals, unfortunately, with bad news that blinds them to positive changes taking place there. Balochistan, like other provinces and the rest of the country, is composite in terms of ethnicities, social groups and social movements. For the same reasons, it is equally diverse in terms of social and political commitments, ideals and pursuit of interests and objectives. Therefore, no single template or view can explain Balochistan.

Right in the heart of Balochistan, there are islands of excellence in education, service to the community and devotion to nation-building. Unfortunately, they don’t get media attention or national recognition. The commitment of these men and women so devoted to the development of Balochistan needs to be acknowledged. My visits twice to the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), Quetta, over the past two years, reveal a very different Balochistan than the picture we usually get about the standard of higher education or about the institution-builders in our most backward province.

The university is merely 12-year-old. It is amazing to see how this institution has transformed itself into one of the outstanding places for learning in the country. The university, first housed in an abandoned textile mill on the outskirts of the city, has re-engineered and converted the buildings into an architectural marvel. Words cannot explain this change that houses some of the best facilities, laboratories, classrooms, auditoriums and sunlit corridors, lobbies and halls. Important as they are, the physical structures tell very little about the human development they facilitate.

Having visited so many of the universities in Pakistan, old and new, BUITEMS makes a lasting impression of positive change taking place in Balochistan. First, it has highly qualified faculty members, mostly with foreign degrees, and opting to serve in their home province. The congenial atmosphere of the university also continues to attract teachers from other provinces. Just to give you an idea, it has 49 PhDs working and 137 more enrolled in some of the best universities abroad. Second, it has 7,523 students from various parts of the province with representation from other provinces and Afghanistan, facilitating provincial and national diversity. Third, more than 33 per cent of the students receive financial assistance from the university. It is refreshing to see that BUITEMS is free of disruptive student politics that have ruined a good number of national universities in Balochistan and other provinces.

It is the vision, commitment and hard work of the faculty and the Vice-Chancellor, Engineer Farooq Ahmad Bazai, who have contributed to the rise of this university that offers hope and opportunity to young men and women in Balochistan to excel. There is more. Starting with the University of Balochistan, the first-ever university to be established in the province in 1972, Balochistan now has six universities in the public sector with a lot of support from the Higher Education Commission for infrastructural development and scholarships for training of faculty in foreign universities. The present Balochistan government of Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has shown far greater commitment and ownership of public education than any government in the history of the province. It now spends about 26 per cent of the budget on education.

The point is that the usual prism and the lenses we often use to look at Balochistan and the country require some dusting and realigning. Fixed views and fixed lenses never help grasp the reality of change anywhere.

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