THE countrywide protests by public sector universities reflect the extent to which the government and its IMF-thrust economic managers are prepared to destroy the quality of life for most Pakistanis by depriving them of higher education. For the members of the Federation of All Pakistan University Academic Staff Associations (FAPUASA) calling for a strike is no easy move and such calls may backfire. However, the unanimity of the present protest shows how threatened these public sector universities feel. Nor are they wrong. A statement issued by the IMF-approved Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Haq declared rather imperiously that the country was facing a budgetary crunch and therefore development allocations had to be cut. Now if he was actually concerned about the future of Pakistan and not desperate to make it a country where only the rich under an exploitative capitalist system survive and thrive, he would have advocated cuts on bureaucratic expenditures and total cuts in the exorbitant salaries the state is dishing out to the likes of him and Hafeez Shaikh. Again cuts need to be made in the salaries of elected representatives and other similar non-developmental expenditures. But that will not achieve the desired negative results in society the IMF seeks under a US-dictated agenda for this country. It was only recently, under Dr Ata, that qualified teachers from the public sector stayed there instead of moving to the more lucrative private sector because the Tenure Track system with proper remunerations was introduced. It is too bad that a democratic government is seeking to undermine higher education in the country. As for the cabinet decision to release funds for students already studying abroad on scholarships, this is not enough because where will these be accommodated in the education sector when they come back? Also, it is not merely an issue of paying the scholarships, but of keeping the universities functional and updated in terms of teaching and research. With all their drawbacks, some of the public sector universities like QAU still command respect abroad and do provide a good education to students from across the country, especially the underprivileged. The cuts levied by the Shaikh-Haq duo should be rejected and instead these overly-paid technocrats should be removed and their salaries donated to higher education along with other cuts from other non-productive sectors like the bureaucracy and elected representatives. The latter, as per their assets declarations, are sufficiently well-off to work free for their country. Public sector universities would also be less easy targets if the civil and military bureaucracies were compelled to send their children to these institutions for higher studies.