Students at the University of Karachi are running late for classes as they are stopped at the entrance for amplified security checks after an attack on April 26 in which a woman suicide bomber killed three Chinese teachers.
Classes were back on Monday (May 9) after campus was closed for two days after the attack. Eid holidays followed. The student body is 46,000 strong and the campus has at least 4,000 faculty members other than administrative and support staff.
But students returned to find that everyone is being funneled through one single functional walk-through gate at every entrance. Guards are sweeping over them with metal detectors.
Every student’s bag is opened and checked and male students are being subjected to body searches. All students must show their university credentials to enter campus.
This has caused chaos, long queues and traffic bottlenecks outside the gates.
Students - most of whom use public transport - are upset at being made to wait for hours in the name of security.
“First we have to wait to get inside the university. Then we have to walk to our class. Then we get marked late for not making it on time,” said one student waiting at the gate of the sprawling campus spread over 1,279 acres.
Following logjams outside the gates and entrance on Monday and the resulting protests, acting Vice Chancellor Professor Nasira Khatoon visited one of the entrances on Tuesday to ensure there were no unnecessary delays.
Saima Siddiqui, a final year student of Mass Communication, said that she took the Sheikh Zayed road and entered the university through the Silver Jubilee (main) gate.
“They didn’t ask to check my (Careem) driver’s identity card. I just showed them my enrollment card from inside the car and they let us go,” she said, adding that it disproved the claim that stringent security measures have been put in place.
“However, when I called another Careem to leave, the driver wasn’t allowed to enter from Maskan gate. He had to come to the main gate, where he deposited his CNIC.”
The student added that a lot of people were stuck at the Maskan entrance, with one walk-through gate resulting in long queues. “There was no uniformity in checking and different levels of vigilance could be witnessed at different gates,” she added.
The problems do not end once the student gets on campus. Previously, private rickshaws - often owned by people working at the university - would transport students.
Following the attack, where the suicide bomber took a rickshaw, the vehicle has been banned. Private vans have also been banned.
Only vehicles driven by students are being allowed on campus. Fewer vehicles mean that the option of taking lifts - a popular mode of transport on campus - is no longer available, says another student who said she has to walk several kilometers daily to get to her destination.
“People on foot are facing a lot of problems once inside the university because they have banned rickshaws and vans so most people have to walk to class,” Samia added.
Another student said that the shuttle service on campus has resumed since the banning of private vehicles on campus. “I waited for over an hour for campus then decided to walk the three kilometres to the gate myself,” said another student.
Final year student Tauseeq Alam narrated a similar story of delays and inconsistency in security.
“At Maskan gate, I had to stand in line for over an hour in the scorching heat as the line trickled forward on Monday,” he told Aaj News. “But today (Tuesday), the security guard barely looked at my card and waved me in.”
Most students say that the security in place is a knee-jerk reaction and that there are visible signs of laxity. “This will last for a few days and then it would be back to normal,” said Alam.
Another student said that the security was only causing inconvenience. “Those who want to attack will manage it one way or the other,” he said, adding that dozens of his friends entered campus after a cursory security check despite a long wait.
In the meantime, a university circular instructed students to bring their own food as the canteen or cafeteria on campus has been shut.
Faculty members, speaking on the condition of anonymity as they are not authorised to speak on the issue, said that subjecting students and faculty to such security measures wasn’t the solution.
“Law enforcement needs to take responsibility for such security breaches as the campus security does not have the capacity, training or equipment to stop such attacks,” said one faculty member.
(With additional reporting from Marium Rahim)