Students suffer as visa centres shut down

Lahore, Sep 29: Several students interested in obtaining their higher education from various universities of the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) are not able to go abroad even after they have been granted admission, because the visa centres have been shuttered.

Students said that the closure of the visa centres was causing delay in the issuance of their visas, adding that they were missing the colleges' joining dates. They said that apart from their career being affected, their time and money was also being wasted. They urged the government to help them by holding talks with the embassies.

On time: Thousands of Pakistani students go to various universities in the UK and the US for higher studies. The closure of the visa centres has disappointed both the students and their parents. The US visa centre was shut down after the Marriott Hotel blast, while the UK visa centre had already been shut down due to security reasons. Adviser on Interior Rehman Malik gave a briefing to foreign representatives who were worried about the country's security situation. The representatives demanded the Government of Pakistan to ensure their security, say that otherwise they would also be forced to close their offices.

Muhammad Naveed, a student at FAST, said that he wanted to apply to a MBA programme in the UK as he had completed his BS(Hons). He said that he was unsure about this after the closure of the visa centres. He said that the new session would start in February, adding that the registration process required a few months. He said that he wanted to be sure that his time and money would not be wasted in doing so. He said that many of his friends had already paid the universities and were very worried because of the visa situation. Nasif Butt, another student, said that he had applied to a university in the UK. He said that this had cost him a lot of money, adding that thousands of other students were in the same situation. He said that the government should take the necessary steps to remedy this.

Mujtaba Khan, a student's father, said that he was worried about his son's future, adding that his son had applied for MBA in the UK. He said that all the necessary processes were complete, adding that he had even paid the university after his son's admission had been confirmed. He appealed to the UK, the US and the Pakistani government to look into the matter, as it concerned the future of thousands of students.

Australia: Arshad Ali Kazmi of 'Student Counselling and Overseas Recruitment Services' said that in the UK, most universities start their sessions during the last week of September. He said that students who would not attend the initial classes would be dropped from the semester. He said that, earlier, the UK visa centre had only shut down for three days, adding that in those three days several students were dropped from their semesters. He said that several students, however, had consulted the embassy concerned and had gotten an extension on when they had to reach their universities. He said that the universities of the UK and the US did not provide such relaxations to their perspective students. He said that because of the closure of these visa centres, students should apply to other countries like Australia, Singapore and Sweden, adding that Australia would be the best option for them in his opinion. Daily Times

US reopens visa services today
Islamabad: The US Consulate in Pakistan has formally announced to open its visa service from today (Monday). State Department's Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said that the United States had suspended its consular services, such as issuing visas, in Pakistan in response to a worsening security situation after the Marriott suicide blast. He said the US would formally reopen its consular services and US citizen services from today (Monday) after security clearance.

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Some at PU more favoured than others
Lahore: The Punjab University administration's discriminatory attitude towards different student organisations was exposed last week when it allowed a particular student group to hold its Iftar party at the varsity's executive club.

The university administration has been giving hard time to student groups since Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran took charge as the PU vice chancellor. It has been disallowing certain student groups from organising activities rather it has been taking action against such elements. Seen in this context, the favour extended by PU administration to a particular student group is certainly biased and unfair.

Journalists came to know about arrangements of the Iftar party by the University Students Federation (USF) at the executive club when they visited the varsity's New Campus to cover a press conference followed by Iftar dinner on September 22.

The press briefing was organised by the administration in connection with discovery of ammunition including Kalashnikovs and grenades from the campus last week.

The journalists also expressed concerns over presence of one of the University Students Federation members in the press conference saying why members of other student groups were not allowed. However, the said member left the hall following intervention of Punjab University Registrar Prof Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan who informed the journalists that some students had in fact arranged an Iftar party at the executive club.

Different student organisations including Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), Insaf Students Federation (ISF) and Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) had complained on several occasions about uncooperative attitude of the university administration.

It is pertinent to mention here that the PU administration even announced closure of the university for three days when IJT announced to hold a book fair a couple of months ago.

Recently, the varsity administration removed a number of admission stalls set up by different student groups.

Students had strongly reacted over the administration's acts saying they should be allowed to organize academic activities at campus.

Commenting over the issue, PU Academic Staff Union (ASA) President Dr Mumtaz Ahmed Salik, an elected body of Punjab University teachers, said the administration should provide equal opportunities to all the student organisations without any bias and prejudice. He was of the view that in history of the Punjab University, no student group was ever allowed by the administration to organise any event at the executive club. He maintained that the administration should not support any student group, saying this could lead to violence among the students.

Dr Salik also criticise the PU administration for not allowing IJT and other student groups to organis academic and healthy activities on campus.

He went on to say that there was perception among teachers that the University Students Federation was the child of the Punjab University vice chancellor, adding that favour to any particular group by the university administration was unjustified and unfair. He said book fair and admission stalls were positive and academic activities but it was unfortunate that the administration did not allowed students to hold such events.

Registrar Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan said he was unaware that students who organised Iftar party at the executive club belonged to any student group. "For me, everybody was alien", he said, adding, "There are no favorites for the administration." He added the university administration did not recognise any student group as these were not elected.

Dr Khan further said the university always allowed lawful activities by students. "I will check and if students were not entitled to organise an event at the executive club, they will not be allowed in future," he concluded. The News

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Students flock to apply for high-paying judicial posts
Lahore: The number of people applying for posts in the subordinate judiciary has increased dramatically with the government's announcement of a significant increase in the salaries of civil judges and judicial magistrates.

The Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) announced 99 openings for civil judges and judicial magistrates; 135 posts for assistant district attorneys, including five for disabled persons; and 54 posts for deputy district attorneys, including one for disabled persons.

In the budget for 2008-09, the Punjab government increased salaries of district and sessions judges from Rs 28,000 to Rs 120,000 per month while the basic pay for additional district and sessions judges was increased from Rs 19,000 to Rs 76,000. Similarly, the salaries of senior civil judges were increased from Rs 12,000 to Rs 48,000 and the salaries of civil judges and judicial magistrates were increased from Rs 8,000 to Rs 32,000 per month.

Government posts: Thousands of law graduates have expressed interest in sitting the PPSC Combined Competitive Examination (CCE). Students applying for the exams said that following the threefold increase in salaries, they preferred to apply for the post of a civil judge as compared to other government posts.

A law graduate, Tauheed Malik, said that numerous law graduates had been waiting for the announcement of the seats and would be sitting in the examination. He said that the majority of law graduates appearing in the CCE had failed the CSS examinations, adding that they preferred to sit in the judicial examinations due to the increase in salaries and the protocol associated with the job.

Punjab University Law College faculty member Farooq Umair Niazi said that until recently, students had not shown much interest in appearing for the judiciary examinations and had preferred to appear for the civil services. However, he added, since the announcement of the salary increase, most students wanted to apply for judicial posts.

Test: A lawyer, Rashid Khan, said that a record number of law graduates would appear in the civil judge examinations this year because of the salary increase and better support package, adding that the examinations had been changed to properly gauge a candidate's qualities. Another lawyer said that due to the power of the post at a younger age, a number of lawyers with unsuccessful practices would also appear in the judiciary examinations. Adding that due to the age relaxation in the age limit of the candidates to the 25-years to 32-year bracket, several serving civil servants would also participate in the examination this year.

Satisfied: A civil judge, requesting anonymity, said that his colleagues had been unhappy with their jobs to the point of considering resignation, however, after an increase of their salaries to Rs 70,000 most judges were now satisfied. Daily Times

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