Protests at SM Law College continue

KARACHI May 4(Daily Times): SM Law College student protests over a 50-rupee increase in tuition fees climaxed in the arrests of four of them Thursday after planned police-sponsored negotiations between them and the principal collapsed.

About two weeks ago, the students started to agitate against what they called an increase in tuition fees. By Wednesday, Principal Prof. Khurshid Hashmi closed the college. This decision was met with opposition as exams were scheduled for the end of this month.

The Arambagh SHO called the protesting students to the table for talks with the principal on Thursday for which he scheduled the time at 11:00 a.m. According to protestors, the students reached the college on time but the principal did not show up for an hour. "We waited for an hour and then began to protest at noon," one of them said. "A lot of police mobile units were already in place and when we started protesting they started rounding us up. They used tear gas and lathi charge."

In retaliation the students pelted passing vehicles and the police mobile units with stones. They were, however, hauled off to the nearest police station. Two of them were injured and the four who were arrested were identified as Malik Zafran, Ghulam Ali, Mohammad Bilal and Farrukh Usman. The police said that they had links with the Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) and the FIR was lodged under sections 147, 148, 353 and 427 of the PPC. Some students have claimed that four protestors have been "kidnapped" by college security personnel.

The bone of contention is over a 50-rupee increase in tuition fees, which the students say is higher than the amount fixed by the University of Karachi for LLM and LLB students. However, Principal Hashmi said in a press release/rebuttal Thursday that, "the college just charges Rs 50 as an administrative service charge" and that "it is specifically denied that the college is charging fifty percent extra examination fee than the fee fixed by the University of Karachi. The examination fee fixed by the university is Rs 1,600 and Rs 1,700 for LLB and LLM, respectively."

Furthermore, the principal said that, "the baseless allegation regarding grabbing millions of rupees illegally from students is a figment of imagination of an ethnic student, as the college cannot charge even a single penny without the prior approval of the board of governors".

"The allegation of demanding Rs 3,000 per certificate by the college administration is a blatant lie," the press release said, "as it is beyond the comprehension of a reasonable person that no body would charge or pay Rs 3,000 just for forwarding their degree awarding form". The factual position is that each student pays Rs 300 only as a scrutinisation and processing charge for the form, the statement said.

It was learnt that four student groups are prominent on campus: the Sindh Law Students Welfare Society, IJT, All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organisation (APMSO) and Punjabi Students Association (PSA). The APMSO has not been part of the protests but the welfare society, IJT and PSA activists have been involved against the administration's policy.

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