LAHORE/KARACHI/MULTAN The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) Wednesday gave September 24 as a deadline to the government for the acceptance of their demands after a countrywide protest was held against the move to slash the funding to the public sector varsities. There was no academic activity in the varsities as the staff and the students responded positively to the protest call after the government failed to yield to the justified demand of not curtailing the funds to Higher Education Commission (HEC), which is responsible for managing the affairs of the 72 state-run universities in the country. In Lahore, the academic staff of various universities of the metropolis staged a protest demonstration in front of Lahore Press Club, which was led by FAPUASA President Dr Mehr Saeed Akhtar. The protesters chanted slogans in favour of their demands and criticised the govt for the decision to cut the HEC budget. The speakers condemned the attitude of Federal Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh with HEC Chairman Javed Leghari and the vice-chancellors of the public sector varsities, and demanded his immediate resignation. They demanded of the government to increase the budget to Rs90 billion along with a hike in the annual grants to the universities, 50 per cent increase in salaries and 15 per cent medical allowance. They also demanded of the government to release the regular grant immediately for the teachers doing their PhDs abroad. They also opposed the fee structure of the universities and asked the government to pay the amount collected from self-finance scheme to the universities. They also called upon the government to release development funds allocated for the varsities. The FAPUASA call received partial response, as NED Engineering University remained open while there was no education-related activity in the University of Karachi, Dow University of Health Sciences (DUH) and Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology. The Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS) held a general body meeting at the Arts Auditorium, which demanded of the federal government to shut down HEC and issue grants directly to the public sector universities. A demonstration was held outside the Dow Medical College against the govt move. The protesters described the decision as 'a murder of higher education in the country. In Multan, the academic staff of Bahauddin Zakariya University boycotted the classes, as they termed the biased behaviour of the federal finance minister a conspiracy against the country. Similar protests were held in Gujrat, Sargodha, Islamabad, Hyderabad and other cities. Online adds: The Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff Association announced to organise a demonstration in front of the Parliament House on September 25 in case of governments failure to release the funds. When contacted, HEC Executive Director Sohail Naqvi said the government sector universities were in desperate need of Rs7 billion to overcome prevailing economic crunch, and if the government did not issue the required funds, the varsities could be shut down. He also said that the government had allocated Rs15 billion for the current fiscal year out of which only Rs1.5 billion were issued so far while the HEC had demanded an amount of Rs23 billion. In Quetta, a large number of Pashtunkhwa Students Organisation (PSO) activists staged a demonstration and took out a rally Wednesday to protest against the move to slash the funding for the public sector universities. The protesters, who were carrying placards and banners inscribed with different demands, marched through various roads of the provincial capital and assembled outside Quetta Press Club. They chanted slogans against the government and Higher Education Commission (HEC). Addressing on the gathering, PSO leaders Ahmad Jan Kakar, Kabeer Afghan and Umar Kakar termed the cuts in the budgets of 72 state-run varsities an anti-education step. Only five universities out of a total 72 are in Balochistan while the province is already lagging behind in the education sector, they observed, adding that the educational institutions lacked even the basic facilities while the cut would complicate the situation. They warned to start a countrywide movement in case the govt failed to withdraw the decision. On the other hand, the students and the academic staff of Balochistan University Quetta and Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology Khuzdar boycotted classes and staged demonstrations against the cuts in HEC budget. In Quetta, the varsity academic staff organised a demonstration in front of Quetta Press Club. They were unanimous in their views that the unfortunate development would lead the nation towards ignorance. They demanded Prime Minister Gilani to take personal interest and save the varsities from complete destruction.