Members of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa All Universities Employees Federation staged a protest demonstration on Friday, advocating for the acceptance of their demands.
The protest, led by federation president Arbab Amir Khusro, commenced at the University of Peshawar (UoP) campus and progressed along the main University Road. Employees from all four universities within the UoP campus, including Islamia College University, University of Engineering Science and Technology, and Agriculture University, participated in the demonstration.
Chanting slogans, the protesters called on the government to address the pressing issues faced by university employees promptly. It’s noteworthy that the class IV, III, and sanitation staff of these universities have been boycotting their duties for the past week, intensifying their protest.
The demonstration resulted in the closure of the road, causing a half-hour traffic jam on the busy University Road. The protesters specifically demanded a government announcement regarding salary and pension increases for all government employees, emphasizing the urgency of implementing this decision.
Many public sector universities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa currently grapple with financial crises, adversely affecting the learning and research processes. This financial strain has also negatively impacted student enrollment in MS, MPhil, and PhD programs across the province.
Out of the total 34 public sector universities, including 24 general and 10 specialised in engineering, technology, agriculture, medical, animal husbandry, and management sciences, seven public sector universities, including UET Peshawar, Gomal University DI Khan, Agriculture University Peshawar, University of Science and Technology Bannu, Shaheed Benazir Bhutto University Peshawar, and University of Shangla, have been facing a significant financial crunch due to pension liabilities and depleting budget balances.
According to the K-P Universities 2021-24 Report, the initial balances of budgets for 34 public sector universities and higher education institutions decreased from Rs6,560 million in 2021-22 to Rs4,740 million in 2023-24. This decline has posed significant financial challenges, impacting research studies, salaries, and pensions.
While federal grants to K-P universities have seen substantial growth, reaching Rs10.95 billion in 2023-24, 18 universities in K-P have experienced a decrease in federal grants during 2022-23 and 2023-24.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th2023.