September 27th, 2021
Students are intensifying their protest against the Medical and Dental Colleges Admission Test (MDCAT) in major cities in Pakistan, with major protests taking place mainly in Islamabad and Quetta.
The concerned students have been agitating against the MDCAT since September of 2020, when the Pakistan Medical and Dental Commission (PMDC) was abolished and subsequently replaced with the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), which announced a national MDCAT per a standardized syllabus. Prior to the establishment of the PMC, the provinces and federal territories conducted tests per their own syllabi – students held that they were caught unawares by the syllabus of the national MDCAT, which has little overlap with the provincial syllabi they had already prepared for.
Students are now demanding that the exam be retaken and held on a specified day rather than on a series of days, with protests heightening after allegedly ‘unfair’ results of the first round of MDCATs and a series of police crackdowns against demonstrators.
On September 24, 75 students were arrested while several others sustained injuries after police baton-charged them during a rally against irregularities in the online test from the Governor House to the Quetta Press Club. Around 400 to 450 students were nominated in the first information report (FIR) under a slew of charges, including rioting, destruction of public property, criminal intimidation, and causing bodily harm to individuals. Meanwhile, at least five students were admitted to a hospital for treatment, according to Zubair Baloch, a member of the Baloch Students Organization (BSO) who was also among those detained by police.
The FIR was quashed a day later in the early hours of September 26 and the arrested students were released.
Further complicating the issue was the sudden demise of BSO member Hani Baloch, a literature student form the Bahadur Khan Women University who had joined medical students in their protest against the MDCAT, a day after the police had baton-charged demonstrators.
Although the Balochistan police and Hani’s family members have attributed her death to natural causes, providing that she had returned home prior to the clash on September 25, protesters are looking toward Hani as a hero of the students’ cause.
Rally-goers have asserted that the protests will continue until the PMC capitulates to their demands to hold physical exams rather than online, conduct the test on one day and to hold it per the provincial and federal syllabi.