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Monday Jun 21 2021

Gwadar’s first university missing from budget 2021-22

A bird's-eye view of the Gwadar port. Photo: file

No money has been allocated in the federal budget or Balochistan’s budget for the establishment of the much-touted University of Gwadar, admits the spokesperson of the Balochistan government.

Last week, Balochistan passed a budget with a total outlay of Rs584.1 billion, in which Rs17 billion was earmarked for education. However, no allocation was made to set up Gwadar’s first and only university.

The harbor town is expected to be South East Asia’s new hub for trade, tourism and investment with an economy of $30 billion by 2050, as per Gwadar’s Master Plan.

Read more: Masterplan shows Gwadar to become trade, tourism hub of South Asia

In comparison, Iran’s Chabahar area, often seen as Gwadar’s rival, has two universities.

Liaquat Shahwani, the Balochistan government’s spokesperson, admitted to that the provincial government’s budget does not have any amount set aside for a university in Gwadar.

On June 11, protesters, including activists, student organizations and political party leaders, took to the streets demanding their area be given a centre for higher education. On Twitter, the hashtags #GwadarNeedsUniversity and #GwadarOnRoadForUniversity trended all day.

Hammal Kalmati, a member of the provincial assembly from Gwadar, told that Gwadar has earned global attention due to its geo-strategic, geo-economic and geopolitical location. “If a Gwadar University is established, the local youth will be equipped with high-tech and innovative knowledge. It is unthinkable as to why the budget would ignore the university.”

Read more: Gwadar granted status of capital of South Balochistan

The Gwadar university was first announced in May 2017 by then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as part of a development package for the port city. It was included in the federal public sector development program in 2016-2017 and 2017-18, Kalmati added. 

Later, in November 2018, a charter for the university was vetted by the Higher Education Commission and a bill for the establishment of the university was passed by the Balochistan Assembly.

According to professor Ijaz Ahmed, the director of the University of Turbat, the federal government also approved Rs1 billion for the establishment of the university the same year, while land measuring 500-acres was allotted in September 2018, which was later fenced.