Hundreds of student from the Karakorum International University (KIU) took to the streets on Monday, boycotting classes and blocking the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route on the Karakorum Highway to protest the government’s move to cancel their scholarships.
Students from the PhD, MPhil, and the Masters programs blocked the Karakorum Highway’s Gilgit-Rawalpindi section and rallied near the Mehsul Chungi at Grand Trunk (GT) Road after some of them were not allowed to appear for exams following an arbitrary cancellation of scholarships.
They chanted slogans against the government, saying “Zulm ke yeh zabte, ham nahi maante [We do not accept these oppressive laws].”
In a video of the sit-in posted on Twitter by activist and political worker Ammar Rashid, students were seen protesting peacefully on the highway. The students blocked the route “after being prevented from sitting for their exams following the arbitrary cancellation of their scholarships,” he said.
According to a Facebook post by the Gilgit Baltistan Awareness Forum, the protesters demanded the Fee Reimbursement Scheme — introduced in 2011 for students in under-privileged areas — be restored. The protest were held over the federal government’s alleged inefficiency and its lack of attention towards the demands of the students, who had been asking for their rights since after four months.
Students claimed that by dissolving the scheme, the future of thousands of underprivileged students had been put at risk. The protests are said to continue until the demands are met.
The Awami Workers Party (AWP) in Islamabad extended their support to the protesters, noting that education should not be a privilege for few and should be accessible for everyone.
Quoting activist Rashid’s tweet, they said: “Commodification of education makes it inaccessible to majority of the population. We stand with the demands of the students of Karakoram International University.”
Back on December 9, activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir had posted about another protest, wherein students has demanded the 2011 Fee Reimbursement Scheme and a special grant be restored.
He wrote that the KIU students had been protesting for weeks to restore the scheme that allowed the university to subsidise the semester fee.
Separately, the Progressive Students Federation (PRSF) also stood with the KIU students and demanded that the “students to be immediately reinstated and scholarships must be restored”.
“Our so-called welfare state is least bothered about the youth & students,” they added.