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The LUMS debacle: Lessons learnt

The news ” PM Kakar grilled by LUMS students with tough questions” attracted my attention as a result I went through the detailed news about his visit to LUMS. The caretaker Prime Minister Kakar visited LUMS on the invitation of the management on 30 October to meet the University’s leadership and students. He was welcomed by Mr. Abdul Razak Dawood Pro Chancellor LUMS. Later on Director of Advancement apprised Mr. Kakar of the University’s strategic priorities, latest accolades, and its impactful research. Prime Minister Kakar shared his vision at an interactive session with LUMS students and appreciated the work being done at the University. He stated, “Youth are the future of our nation, and our expectations from them are very high. I’m thoroughly impressed by LUMS, an institution in Pakistan that is creating immense knowledge.” He advised the students to explore diverse choices for the future without fear so they may learn from their mistakes. Later on there was Q&A session that created unpleasantness and spoiled the whole atmosphere and in any case it was in bad taste but at the same time conveyed strong message to state that students are fully aware what is happening in the country and they can speak up without any fear. However, Prime Minister gave brief answers to various questions mostly related to current situation, some call these as hostile questions. The first question shook everybody when a student criticized his late coming, and other questions were related from economics to reforms to social justice
LUMS is one of the prestigious institution of Pakistan located in Lahore. It only allows admission to top students of the country with ‘A’ grade, well-mannered decent with gentlemanly behavior. It is one of the expensive institution of the country and only elite children get opportunity to join this great institution. The students enjoy best facilities and majority of them has own transport. Unfortunately, in Pakistan the entire population is divided in to various sects, groups and political parties and the worst part is that it has politicized all the institutions of the country. Prime Minister’s visit provided opportunity to students to avail facility of freedom of speech as guaranteed by the constitution but students crossed the red lines. It became a favorite trend on social media to discuss PM Kakar visit to LUMS and questions raised by students. Survey reveals majority has appreciated students without realizing the damage caused to great institution.
There can be two opinions about LUMS incident. Firstly, on the whole the students have certainly damaged the image of a very prestigious institution of the country. Their conduct and behavior was obnoxious and uncalled for. They forgot they were talking to the Prime Minister of Pakistan for which some etiquette and norms are to be observed. The student had no business questioning his late coming, another question why elections are not being held in 90 days a grave violation of constitution, in another question by the girl student regarding country’s pathetic political and economic situation was equally derogatory. In fact, none of the student was decent / courteous in asking questions. The students have a right to express their sentiments but it should be dignified without being rude and discourteous. Strangely there was no presentation of bouquet to PM, no welcome address by the student committee, cold response, no cheers. Students should realize they are passing through a stage of laying the foundations of good culture and traditions.
The students have a right to express their sentiments but within discipline. On the other hand, it is the awareness and awakening of youth by PTI Chairman who believed that future lies in the hands of youth, and to some extent they proved this narrative. One must appreciate the response of Prime Minister who otherwise was caught unaware but at the same time some remarks in reply to questions were also did not match with his status and personality and that could have been avoided. Notwithstanding what nation witnessed on 30 October 2023 is going to stay forever and shall keep haunting this great institution. There is every likelihood it will certainly affect future guests. The management also failed to comprehend volatile political situation of the country and could restrict visit to interaction with the management only. The point to understand is whether someone likes or dislikes Mr. Kakar is the Prime Minister of Pakistan therefore one has to observe normal protocol while talking and no one should cross red lines. It is also a lesson to management they must take due precautions according to the status of guest and be careful while inviting guests
Universities all over the world are renowned to encourage free speech. States where freedom of speech and liberty of actions are not guaranteed in universities are unlikely to produce leaders with free minds and bold ideas. LUMS is one such university in Pakistan that carries these credentials. In the end the state of Pakistan must also take two lessons from the incident at LUMS. One, the interim PM is but an interim PM and he should not try to portray himself as an elected public representative who has the support of the entire Parliament and thus restrict himself to his only important mandate i.e. holding free and fair elections. The second lesson for the state is that in the information age nothing is hidden from the public. The questions that the students asked represented the general frustration of the society and the people in Pakistan. The students only reminded the state that the young generation does not want to be subjugated and coerced. LUMS is just a small episode of what might happen at a large and broader scale. The state must be wise enough to consider that.

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