movements and elite higher educationThe continuing protests in Pakistan have been a minor focal point of the US media, and some US liberals, such as Media Benjamin, have also jumped in - traveling to Pakistan, getting arrested, and getting deported back to the US. Benjamin went to Pakistan "to show support for the secular progressive communities in Pakistan" - she apparently has little concern about the not so secular communities who have been terrorized by the puppet regime - who have not just been arrested, but bombed and slaughtered by the thousands, with even more tens of thousands internally displaced due to the puppet's F16 bombings. I don't recall hearing even a peep from her, when Busharraf slaughtered hundreds and perhaps thousands of women men and children in Lal Masjid, just a few months ago.
Benjamin was hosted by one the most exclusive universities of the country: LUMS. "On the ground in Pakistan, we will be assisted by professors and students from the Law and Policy Program of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)."
The protests in Pakistan continue to only be concentrated around nebulous demands of "democracy." Another (valid and important) demand is to re-instate the deposed judges, and another nebulous demand calls for the "rule of law."
However, as of yet, there has been scant little attention to the fact that 84.7% (year 2000) of Pakistanis live under $2 a day - or a mere Rs. 120 - that will barely get you by in the country. The gross national per capita income of the country is $652 or Rs. 37495.
Now, lets look at the cost of attending the two universities that have been the loudest in their calls for "democracy" - the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and Foundation for Advancement of Science and Technology (FAST).
LUMS: Rs. 375,000 (annual), or, about 10 times the per capita income.
FAST: Rs. 130,000 (Rs. 65,000 per semester, assuming two semesters a year) or, about 3-4 times the per capita income)
Lets put this in perspective, so readers can understand the classist nature of this kind of "higher education" and then also we'll begin to understand why issues of exploitation, and questions about poverty, are not being raised in Pakistan by this "movement.''
The annual tuition cost of attending the Imperial University of Harvard is $35,000 - this is, infact, one of the most exclusive, elitest, and expensive universities in the US. Yet, the cost is 1.6 times of the per capita income of the US of $21,000 - and well under the median household income of $44,000. The average cost of US universities are about $14,000 - again, well under the median and per-capita incomes of the US.
Leaving aside whatever financial aid that these types of Pakistani universities are offering, the fact remains they are not just catering to the elite of the country, they are catering to the princes and princesses of the country who have accumulated huge amounts of wealth. And these are still minor compared to those who somehow have the wealth to actually go outside of Pakistan, to the US, and pay the full cost of a US university that amounts to a minimum of $15K to $25K a year, and some much more. (That amounts to at least 25 to 40 times the per capita income of Pakistan.)
Clearly few, if any of these students are about to question just how their families managed to accumulate this wealth that is now paying for their incredibly exclusive stay at these universities. It is just not possible for any run of the mill Ahmed, Ali or Fatima or even Ayesha to just "save" 10-15 times and more of their annual income, not even just one year of their income.
LUMS also gets funding of over Rs. 100 million from the notorious USAID that has been involved in a destabilization campaign in Venezuela.
The LUMS website lists their funders, and is worth a look to understand the university's ideological outlook.
Essentially LUMS is engaged in creating the next generation of Pakistani "leadership" who will tow the neo-liberal outlook of the US that has wrecked havoc not only for Pakistan, but throughout the planet. The few areas, where countries have broken free (most notably parts of Latin America, and Iran) the US, through its aid agencies, psuedo-think tanks, and "civil society" projects, has been exerting extremist pressures to bring these areas back under its control.
Now, there are universities in Pakistan that are not so elitest, relatively expensive, but not completely out of reach. Punjab University's Law school, for example, costs Rs. 6,670 per year. OK - so this compares favorably with a per capita income of Pakistan of Rs. 37,495 - doable, with some struggle. But the students of this university have been mostly quiet - there have been protests, most notably the protest during which Imran Khan was arrested - but no where near the activities that the exclusive LUMS and FAST are seeing.
Some commentators have stated that this is due to students being apolitical, and that FAST and LUMS students are more "educated." This is just nonsense, I think the opposite is true - the working class students are far more politically astute, and aware of the classist nature of Pakistani society. They are not about to join up with a movement that is only about "democracy" that is only going to mean replacing one elite with another - and that too with one who is as corrupt as Benazir and Sharif.
If the "movement" is Pakistan is not to fizzle out - then these students of elitest backgrounds, will have to begin to question this corruption - question their own families - exactly where did this Rs. 375,000 per year come from to pay for LUMS? Is what they are learning, and studying at universities such as LUMS really going to contribute towards economic and social justice, or will it makes things even worse?
The answers, if they get any, are not going to be pleasant - but ask they must - if they are genuinely concerned about the future of the country. At least that might be a first step towards something more meaningful than mere "democracy" ...