WITH the backdrop of the recent attack on Charsadda's Bacha Khan University, the vice chancellors of universities in KP have demanded increased funds for security and the deployment of a quick response force. Would these be enough to ward off the danger? Campus security requires a thorough analysis of realities on the ground, the identification of loopholes, and administrative, legal and procedural preventive and detective measures.
In the developed world, campuses have their own police. The University of Cambridge in the UK is protected by the Cambridge University Constabulary. In the US, most campus police officers are commissioned through their state's peace officer standards and training commission. Indeed, attacking soft targets like universities and schools has intensified and is a 21st-century phenomenon.
In Pakistan, recent years have witnessed a mushroom growth of privateand public-sector universities. This has increased security concerns. In the public sector, some 96 and in the private sector 63 universities are imparting higher education. During the last 15 years, 102 universities were established across the country. University education is no longer restricted to provincial capitals.
The guidelines issued by the Higher Education Commission for the establishment of a new university require the maintenance of "order, discipline and security" on campuses. However, the current situation warrants the inclusion of strict security measures. Rather than being merely a guideline, compliance should be binding.
Campus security should not be left to the university administrations alone. Further, since campus security is very different to running a police station, merely establishing police stations or posts on campuses will not serve the purpose either. Technology-based solutions like the installation of CCTV cameras, metaldetector gates, X-ray machines and biometric devices may act as deterrents.
Within the 1,192-acre campus of the University of Peshawar, there are five universities, five centres of excellence, nine colleges and 12 schools. They have an enrolment of about 61,000. In 1987, the Campus Peace Corps was raised in the university with 380 personnel. But subsequently, these men were neither trained for new challenges, nor were their numbers increased.
On Feb 8, 1975, Hayat Mohammad Sherpao was assassinated in a bomb explosion at University of Peshawar. In 2010, the vice chancellor of the Islamia College University, Ajmal Khan, was kidnapped from the campus. The forum of the campus coordination committee that exists at the University of Peshawar needs to be strengthened; other universities could replicate the model. CCTV cameras are installed at the campus but a centralised monitoring system is missing.
The Bacha Khan University was established in 2012 and is located in a desolate area surrounded by fields of sugarcane; during the winters, there is usually dense fog. Apart from flaws in the security regime, the topography and weather were also effectively exploited by the militants. The police had thrice issued advisory notes to the university management directing the installation of metal-detector gates, CCTV cameras and the raising of the perimeter walls. But does merely issuing an advisory serve the purpose? From the attack on this campus, it is apparent that measures such as the installation of alarm systems, sirens, better locks on doors, and a provision for mass text messaging in the event of an emergency could have reduced the losses. Mobile patrols around the campus could have engaged the assailants in the outer cordon of the university.
While the role played by the security guards posted on the main entrance was commendable, reportedly out of a total of 60 security guards 25 were absent. Did anyone ever think about the need for transparency in the recruitment and training of guards?
Ideally, campus police services should be the soft face of law enforcement, with intelligence-led back-up. After the Charsadda attack, the Balochistan government decided to set up a university campus security force, which will work under the administrative control of the provincial police. It will be trained and armed with the latest weapons. Sixty personnel of the force would be deployed at each university.
But merely an increase in deployment may not achieve miracles. Hence technological solutions, improved intelligencegathering, vetting of employees (including vendors, contractors and suppliers), the issuance and display of identity cards and security passes for vehicles are needed. A structured hierarchy of security within campuses warrants the establishment of ' directorates of security'. A comprehensive strategy needs to be chalked out to purge hostels and staff quarters occupied by outsiders.
The challenge needs to be transformed into an opportunity to strengthen campus security. The gravity of the situation requires that the security of educational institutions, including campuses, be added to the National Action Plan.