Don’t Forget What Just Happened In Bahawalpur

Don’t Forget What Just Happened In Bahawalpur
Our reading buds are trained on such high politics that we often forget about mundane but more meaningful issues. Case in point is the recent sex and drug scandal at the Islamia University, Bahawalpur (IUB), where a group of teachers and administrative staff was involved in the sale of narcotics and the sexual exploitation and blackmail of female teachers and students.

The mayhem at the IUB got unearthed accidentally while the police was trying to stop the spread of a local politician’s son’s leaked videos of drug abuse and raves. Now, expectedly, the university administration and political bigwigs in the area are trying to brush the matter under the carpet for personal interests.

The nub of the matter is not sexual exploitation but rampant proliferation of drugs in Pakistan’s educational institutes and society – which leads to the exploitation of female students as a corollary of the larger issue. The Bahawalpur incident is more seriously about drugs, institutional mismanagement, lack of seriousness of those managing educational institutes, and the purposelessness of education and youth.

READ MORE: University Security Chief Busted With Obscene Videos of Students, Officials

Pakistan’s sad history with narcotics proliferation dates back to the 1980s when General Ziaul Haq’s opened up the doors to the Afghan conflict that brought in guns and drugs culture. About four decades on, the menace of crystal methamphetamine or ICE and numerous other kinds of psychedelic drugs is rampant in educational institutions.

This is an issue taken lightly by the state and the society. There is a lack of rehabilitation centres and programmes in the country. People tend to shy away from confronting the problem. Drugs make an addict vulnerable to manipulation.
The nub of the matter is not sexual exploitation but rampant proliferation of drugs in Pakistan’s educational institutes and society – which leads to the exploitation of female students as a corollary of the larger issue

Stories of numerous principals of girls’ colleges exploiting students to build contacts with powerful men were common in Lahore of 1980s. Later, in Islamabad, senior professors were known to flirt with female students and used their vulnerability for personal interests. The problem is that we use higher educational institutions as a statement of development and progress and never hold them accountable for the culture they breed. Universities lack autonomy and accountability. Some well-meaning professors think that the semester system combined with the menace of drugs encourages exploitation of students at colleges and universities.

Will those in control of IUB and those sitting in the parliament order a fair trial? Already, female students are being blamed for the mess at the IUB rather than the university administration. The incumbent vice chancellor is not being questioned. The chief security officer ran a system of guards that exploited and blackmailed students. They allegedly worked in cohorts with the parliamentarian’s son.

While many parents will discourage their daughters from attending higher education institutes, those in charge of affairs of higher education or matters of state will shy away from looking the problem in its eyes. They are probably clueless about how best to counter the problem of narcotics proliferation from both supply and demand side. We are not even ready to confront the issue that Pakistan has turned into a major hub of narcotics trafficking that comes from Afghanistan.

READ MORE: Lahore Most Unsafe For Women As Rising Trafficking Cases Worry Police

The demand side is a more serious problem because it requires engaging with a huge issue of giving a sense of purpose to the country’s youth. This is an extraordinary generation that is exposed to both drugs and data. On the one hand is an educational system fails to inspire, on the other, the availability of numerous external stimulants draws them to access raw information.

Well-trained, educated and inspiring teachers are backbones of a good university system that we lack because the state has historically never taken universities seriously. A university professor ultimately frowned upon by the powerful, and the environment is made so restrictive that asking questions or creating questions in the minds of students could lead to severe consequences. Sadly, we are good at destroying our universities.