Punjab Governor Muhammad Sarwar, who is ex officio chancellor of all the province’s public-sector universities, basically gave in to all the demands of the ex-FATA students from Islamia University Bahwalpur, so as to end their hungerstrike outside Governor’s House, which had lasted 16 days, announcing 1000 scholarships for ex-FATA students till 2027, including 200 girls, as well as the setting up of a Punjab University sub-campus in FATA, as well as a Government College University sub-campus in Gilgit-Baltistan. It seems that the Governor is doing something that should have been done at the time the Federally Administered Tribal Areas was integrated into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was to provide an education to its people. Education may be only part of the benefits for the people of FATA, with healthcare and development also mattering, but it is certainly one of the more important components. Even viewed from the narrow prism of extremism, winning the populace over involves giving them greater educational opportunities.
While Governor Sarwar has made his promises, the next step will be to implement them, and that will involve funding. The project of the PU sub-campus will only begin when the KP government gives the requisite land, and the PU Syndicate approves the project. Setting it up will involve not just funding the building, but providing staff, and even retaining it. The scholarships might seem easier, but apart from the question of how to select such a large number of recipients, the question of getting the funds will arise. The pressure to continue the scholarships beyond the cutoff date can be seen even now, because it is not that far-off.
That the step has been delayed does not mean that it is not welcome. However, it should be remembered that haste makes waste. Other educational needs of the ex-FATA must be examined, and duly fulfilled. The quality of students from the ex-FATA areas depends on the schools, not the universities. Not just the KP government, but the federal government, must not put too much strain on the Punjab government, lest its present willingness to help out an area in need is diluted. Punjab has got plenty of issues of its own, and in the field of education.