A letter written by the principal of a public college in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Lakki Marwat district to the Higher Education Department is doing rounds on social media. In the letter, the principal states that the Pakistan Army is taking control of the college building, and forcing the administration to halt all academic activities. He also states that the army had initially taken control over some part of the building and was now taking it over.
Building security force bases in educational institutions is equivalent to ending education from educational institutions. Lucky Marwat Ghazni Khel Degree College students should not be removed from studies Security forces should find an alternative place#SaveLakkiMarwatColleges pic.twitter.com/iZ6Xpollc5— NAZAR BUNERI (@NazarBuneri) November 22, 2023
Geo Fact Check has confirmed that the letter and the story is true after it spoke with three officials, including the principals of the colleges.
The story first came up when an X user posted on his account, “Building security force bases in educational institutions is equivalent to ending education?”
The user also posted a supposed letter written by the principal of the Government Degree College Ghazni Khel in Lakki Marwat to the director of the Higher Education Department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, urging the director to take notice of the army “occupying the whole college building” without permission.
He urged in his letter that, “Lakki Marwat’s Ghazni Khel Degree College students should not be removed from studies. Security forces should find an alternative place.”
Geo reveals that the letter dated November 21 was written by the principal of the Government Degree College Ghazni Khel in Lakki Marwat to the Higher Education Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Peshawar to bring attention to the fact that Pakistan army had for the last year “occupied” half of the college’s building.
It also stated that the army had “occupied the whole college building” without prior permission from higher education officials.
The letter further added that the academic session was in full swing and in “such an ambiguous situation the college administration was compelled to stop the academic sessions due to lack of classroom accommodations”.
Accounts of witnesses
Akram Khan, the principal of the Government Degree College Ghazni Khel, told Geo Fact Check over the phone that he had indeed sent a report to the “higher-ups” on November 21.
“There was a movement of [military’s units] in the area,” Khan said, “So they [the military] told us to shut down the college for a week or so.”
The principal further explained that the army already had control over half of the college building since last year, while educational activities had continued in the other half. But then this month, the entire college had to be shut down when the control was further extended, he said, adding that the campus of the Government Degree College stretches over 250 canals.
Khan also said that after a recent round of negotiations with the military, the military agreed to provide the students “some space”.
Fareedullah Shah, a director at the Higher Education Department in Peshawar, said that in “emergency situations” government buildings had to be assigned to the military.
“I am not very happy about this [situation] but when they [military] need [a government structure]… listen you cannot call such a thing an ‘occupation’, this is an internal government matter,” he said.
He added that the Higher Education Department is trying to accommodate the students and the teaching staff by providing an alternative space to continue their studies.
“This is our army, not a foreign army,” Shah added, refusing to go into detail about how long the building had been in control of the military or how long it planned to stay there.
Separately, Yasir Nazir, the assistant commissioner in Lakki Marwat, told Geo Fact Check the military “needed” the college building, further confirming that the students of the college had also recently protested against the military presence on their campus.
Meanwhile, another public college, the Government Post Graduate College, also in Lakki Marwat, was facing a similar incident, where the military had taken control of part of the college premises after which students had voiced their concerns.
Saleem Khan, the principal of Government Post Graduate College, confirmed the news, adding that the issue had now been resolved with the military without explaining any further.