Where’s my refund, Mr Zardari?

Published: October 30, 2014
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Despite the efforts that the students put into getting their respective degrees, they also pay a huge chunk of money – right from the admission test till the very end. PHOTO: AFP

Saturday, October 18, was an interesting and eventful day for us Karachiites. While most of us were off from work and school, the rest of us (including me) had to be at work and cover the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) rally.

In contrast to popular belief, the rally actually brought with it a certain liveliness and energetic vibe to our city. However, the downside to holding the rally in our beloved city was the immense traffic and road blockage. But thankfully, by late evening, the roads had somewhat cleared up and I was able to go watch a movie (for which I had absentmindedly bought tickets three days before, not keeping in mind that the rally would be on the same day).

Though my personal experience for that day may seem interesting, it is not the point of this piece. October 18th was a big day for PPP, especially for Bilawal Bhutto, and good on them, really. However, something that struck a chord with me personally from the PPP leaders’ speeches was when former president Asif Ali Zardari made a certain statement. He claimed that Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) is a “charitable institution”.

As a SZABIST student myself, I was baffled.

When I went to class the following Monday, everybody was talking about it. One of my friends claimed,

“How can he say that?”

While the other, feeling mildly offended said,

“Seriously, what the hell?”

What did the former president mean when he said that? Are we really a charitable institution? Is paying about Rs150, 000 per semester “charity”? Seriously, what?

SZABIST was founded in 1995, with the efforts of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.  SZABIST is ‘trust’ and not a ‘charitable institution’. Perhaps what Zardari meant was that the institution offers a number of scholarships based on merit and that’s what he confused as “charity”. SZABIST was introduced as an exclusive institute for science and technology as envisioned by Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

Regardless of its shortcomings, it has done fairly well for itself by expanding its infrastructure and number of programs including the Media Science program as well as the Mechatronics program. Students from all over Pakistan come to this university to do their Bachelors and Masters, and it is not a piece of cake. Despite the efforts that the students put into getting their respective degrees, they also pay a huge chunk of money – right from the admission test till the very end. Oh and this does not include the cost of printing in the SZABIST computer labs, the money we put into our projects, the trips we take, the list is endless basically.

My point here is not to criticise the university I’m studying in. I just think it was unfair and, frankly, a little weird to say something like that, especially when you’re saying it and everyone is listening. Perhaps the former president was trying to prove a point about how good their party is.

But again, this is not about politics. What he said was a little degrading for all the students studying at SZABIST. We spend a lot of our parents’ hard earned money studying here, and in case it really is a “charity” then I, Sir, in fact, all of us request for a refund.

Ali Najib Sidiki

Ali Najib Sidiki

A student of SZABIST and a part-time sub-editor on the Web Desk at the Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.