ASA QAU Stages Peaceful Protest for Increased Govt Support
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ASA QAU Stages Peaceful Protest for Increased Govt Support

ASA QAU Stages Peaceful Protest

The Academic Staff Association (ASA) of Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad held a peaceful token protest, urging the government for immediate intervention and financial support for public sector educational institutions across Pakistan. The protest highlighted the critical financial juncture faced by many higher education institutions, with numerous universities struggling to pay regular monthly salaries, pensions, and other routine expenses.

ASA representatives pointed out that in the fiscal year 2023-2024, the Government of Pakistan allocated a mere 1.6% of GDP to education, the lowest in the region. Within this allocation, higher education received only 0.44% of GDP as a recurring grant. They emphasized that since the fiscal year 2018-2019, the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) recurring grant has stagnated at PKR 65 billion. Concurrently, the prices of gas, electricity, petrol, and diesel have increased sharply since 2018, creating an unsustainable burden on university expenses nationwide.

Dr. Mazhar Iqbal, President of the Academic Staff Association at Quaid-i-Azam University and Vice President of the Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA), noted that the current ruling political parties in Pakistan have acknowledged these challenges in their 2024 manifestos. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) manifesto promises to increase education spending to 4% of GDP, enhancing budgetary allocations for education at both federal and provincial levels, and providing need and performance-based grants to universities. Similarly, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) manifesto pledged to allocate at least 5% of GDP to education.

“Given these commitments, it is imperative that these political parties support education in general and higher education in particular,” stated Dr. Iqbal. “This funding is essential to improve the financial condition of universities, support high-quality education, and promote cutting-edge research.”

The ASA also highlighted discrepancies in the treatment of Tenure Track System (TTS) faculty. While the government has increased the salaries of government employees by nearly 60% since 2021, TTS faculty have not seen comparable adjustments. The TTS system, introduced in 2007 to attract and retain young faculty with competitive, performance-based salary packages, has seen salary revisions only three times in its history. Moreover, the tax rebate for faculty, once 75%, was reduced to 25% by previous governments.

Dr. Iqbal called on Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari to take immediate action to support the education sector and adhere to the funding commitments outlined in political manifestos, aiming for 4 to 5% of GDP. He also demanded a 60% increase in TTS salaries, linked with the annual budget, the maintenance of pensions, the extension of the death/Prime Minister Assistance package to TTS faculty, and the restoration of a 75% tax rebate. Additionally, he emphasized the need for fair promotion opportunities for BPS faculty.

The protest underscores the urgency for increased government support to ensure the financial viability and growth of higher education institutions in Pakistan.

Related: Alumni Demands Immediate Bailout Package for QAU

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