Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: A group of PhD holders staged a protest in Pakistan’s capital on Saturday, which turned into a sit-in at check-post leading to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Bani Gala residence.

The scholars were demanding fulfilment of promises made to them last month by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Political Affairs, Naeemul Haq, when they had staged a similar protest.

The demonstrators held placards and banners outlining demands for jobs.

They also called on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government to accommodate them in non-teaching departments.

The group tried to head towards the PM’s residence but were stopped at the Imran Khan Chowk.

These top degree holders of Pakistan, a total of 896, are seeking respectable positions and regular jobs in the public sector institutes/organisations.

They say currently their services are sought on daily-wage or temporary basis.

President of the PhD Doctors Association, Dr Sher Afzal, while talking to Gulf News here on Saturday said initially they had planned a peaceful demonstration but seeing the government’s rigid stance now they have decided to stage a sit-in there for indefinite period.

“Last time too, on October 8, we were called by Naeemul Haq and he had assured to convey our grievances to Prime Minister Imran Khan and arrange a meeting with him but unfortunately, he did not come up to his promise,” said Dr Afzal.

According to the protesters more than 800 PhD holders are currently unemployed in the country and since they have passed the government age limit of 28-30 years prospects are bleak for them to get some job there.

“The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is of no use,” Afzal said. “If our demands are not met we shall continue to sit here at the chowk for indefinite period,” he added.

According to a paper issued by PhD Doctors Association, there are 36,000 PhDs required in universities, with a further 60,000 PhDs required across Pakistan.

However, despite this shortage, the government has provided jobs to only a few hundred (about 700) PhD graduates.

Th HEC at Federal and provincial level has failed to create opportunities for them, protesters said.

As per HEC rules, the minimum criteria for establishing a department in a university is having at least 5 PhD faculty members, but NOCs have been issued to many universities that don’t fulfil that criterion.

An official of the district administration when contacted said the office-bearers of the protesting PhD Association have been assured that a meeting would be arranged between them and the Prime Minister on Monday but they have refused to call off their protest.

Education, though on top of the reforms promised by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), remains a largely neglected sector in the first 100 days of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government.

Employment opportunities have failed to correspond to the number of passing out graduates and postgraduates during the period.

Graduates, post-graduates and even highly-educated PhD scholars are without jobs waiting for the government to fulfil its promises made during the election campaign.