Land Allocated to Pakistan’s Equivalent of IIT Turns Into ‘Bakra Mandi’

The dire situation of Pakistan’s higher education reforms was recently brought to light by Dr. Umar Saif, the former vice-chancellor of the Information Technology University and former chairman of the Punjab Information Technology Board (PITB).

Highlighting an incident, Saif posted on Twitter that land that was kept aside in 2013 for the construction of an educational institute in Pakistan, which would be an equivalent of an IIT in Pakistan. But nine years later, what should have developed into a reputable technology institute has instead become a cattle market or bakra mandi (a market to sell and purchase goats).

“In 2013, we set out to build a little MIT for Pakistan. It had all the ingredients of becoming the equivalent of IIT in India.… and today, the site marked for its campus has been turned into a Bakra Mandi,” he wrote. He also posted pictures of the land that was allotted to build the institute. In the pictures it can be seen that the area has now turned into a market place, and animals are loitering around it.

Saif, who also serves as a consultant for the UNDP, claimed that despite having land set up for the main campus, the technology institute never materialized. According to Saif, the institution was envisioned as a lesser version of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an equivalent to the Indian Institute of Technology (MIT).

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Saif recounted that in 2011, the then-Chief Minister of Punjab in Pakistan, Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif, urged him to lead the Punjab Information Technology Board and establish a top-tier IT institution in Punjab in an article he wrote for The Express Express. The Information Technology University (ITU) was established in 2013 and Saif became its founding Vice-Chancellor.

Reports from Pakistan suggest several higher education institutions are faced with the threat of closing down due to the curtailment in funding. Over 141 public sector universities in Pakistan are bearing the brunt of drastic cuts in grants for higher educational institutes by the Pakistan government. The education heads in Pakistan expressed concerns that the reduction would make it impossible for universities to pay salaries or pensions and difficult to meet the overall expenses required to run universities, according to reports by Pakistani media The Express Tribune.

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