On October 1, 2019, Jam Kamal Khan, Chief Minister Balochistan, visited LUMS and participated in an interactive session about the province and the steps that can be taken to develop it further. The session was attended by LUMS faculty as well as students at the University who originally hail from Balochistan. Over the course of the afternoon, participants spoke with great pride about the province, and expressed their mutual desire to improve its facilities and infrastructure.
Dr. Shahid Masud, Dean Syed Babar Ali School of Science and Engineering at LUMS, commenced the session by welcoming the guests. The attendees were then given an overview of the University’s history as well as the current landscape. The presentation included details about the National Outreach Programme (NOP) – a prestigious scholarship that aims to educate brilliant individuals from underprivileged backgrounds from across Pakistan.
Dr. Adnan Khan, Dean Office of Student Affairs, explained that LUMS takes a proactive approach and is eager to induct students from Balochistan in the NOP. He said, “We just need access to students in Balochistan and are willing to provide any training they may need.”
The students from Balochistan had the opportunity to share their concerns with the Chief Minister and his team. They were appreciative of the opportunities and support that LUMS provides, particularly in terms of financial aid. They highlighted a variety of issues back home, especially regarding the barriers to education. Students unanimously agreed that there is no shortage of talent in Balochistan, but a lack of awareness.
Students raised the issue that the public educational system in Balochistan is limited. Many schools are operating under makeshift environments and lack proper resources. As a result, there is a gap between the students sitting for the Balochistan Board exams and those in the O Level system.
Security and travel concerns were also discussed. Wardah Nasir, a third year Management Science student at LUMS, and also an NOP student originally from Quetta, said, “Given the distance between Quetta and Lahore, and the security issues, it is very difficult for me to visit my family – particularly as a single female. Travelling by air each time is not economically feasible.”
Another issue raised was related to the SAT exam. The students shared their belief that their local educational system does not prepare them to take the exam. Also, as the test is only administered in other provinces, there are additional geographical and monetary barriers for them.
Students urged the Chief Minister and his team to provide support to students in the form of scholarships and security. They praised the facilities at LUMS and expressed that they would like more individuals from Balochistan to benefit from these as well. One student expressed his appreciation for the Lifetime Learning @LUMS programme and suggested that the provincial government in Balochistan should provide support to individuals from the province to attend the different courses offered.
The Balochistan Chief Minister thanked the faculty and students for sharing their thoughts and concerns. He talked about the various resources and untapped markets in Pakistan, and particularly in Balochistan. Mr. Khan encouraged students to take initiatives to develop these underutilised resources.
Mr. Khan also shared the various initiatives that are underway, such as the Balochistan Social Protection Cell, that will create more job opportunities for locals. Other projects include policies to address educational needs such as infrastructure, construction etc. He shared that his government has allocated a budget of PKR 1.5 billion to higher education, and are looking to increase this further. Mr. Khan also talked about the potential that the region has in renewable energies. He expressed his belief in decentralising the government, so that decisions and authority lie at the district level.
In his inspiring talk, the Chief Minister praised the youth and emphasised their role in developing Balochistan. He stressed that in the coming years, there will be a lot of development in the region and the youth will play a pivotal part. He stated that the province will have a lot of job opportunities and he looks forward to the youth taking these positions.
Speaking to the youth in particular, Mr. Khan said, “Share your intellectual knowledge. Follow what is happening in your province and make your voice known. Pakistan has a lot of potential and there is a lot we can do.” He encouraged them to raise their voice and interact with the government on various social media platforms. He also emphasised on the importance of citizens expressing their opinions by exercising their right to vote.
Dr. Masud thanked Mr. Khan for his valuable time and insight and presented him with a souvenir. The attendees were energised with renewed vigour for their nation. They were proud of their heritage, and were eager to return to their hometowns to benefit their communities. Nayab Wali, a freshman at LUMS, expressed her satisfaction with the event and said, “For the first time ever, I have hope.”
The Chief Minister was also joined by other representatives of the Balochistan government, including, Mir Naseebullah Khan, Minister for Health; Noor Muhammad Dummar, Minister for Public Health Engineering; Umar Khan Jamali, Minister for Transportation and Inter-Provincial Coordination; Noor ul Amin Mengal, Principal Secretary; Abid Saleem, PSO to Chief Minister and Mohammad Iftikhar, Chief Security Officer.