A march to revive student unions in Pakistan

Widely used poster by PRSF Islamabad-Rawalpindi

Widely used poster by PRSF Islamabad-Rawalpindi. Translation of slogans: Free Education. Revive Student Unions. We are students not terrorists.

Student Solidarity Marches were held across Pakistan on November 29 and saw participation from teachers, lawyers, labourers, transgendered people, activists and members of political parties. It was led by members of the Student Action Committee (SAC) and the Progressive Students Collective (PSC). A day after the marches, some leaders and participants were arrested and charged for sedition, despite having previous support from the prime minister of Pakistan.

[Author's note: The term Na Maloom is usually used for people in the First Information Report not identified in a crime. But now leftists, progressive and politicians have started using this term for security agencies because they cant be named, and they do not ‘pick’ people legally and then no one can trace them.]

Akhtar Khan, a lecturer of the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, has been taken into custody under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act for speaking about human rights violations against Pashtuns and expressing support for the Student Solidarity March.

This year’s march was the second organized by the Progressive Students Collective which was not only larger in size but also better organized. A charter of demands was also released after the march which included the restoration of student unions, demands to reduce fee hikes, to stop surveillance of student organizations, to end harassment of students and to provide better education facilities.

A students’ union is a student organization formed in educational institutes and is often provided office space on the campus. It is dedicated to social, organizational, representation and academic support activities for its members. Student unions were active in Pakistan; however, in 1984 then-President of Pakistan General Zia Ul Haq placed a ban on student unions because of alleged violence on campuses between Left and Right factions. After President Zia ul Haq’s death, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s government removed the ban in 1989, but as students again got involved in violence the Supreme Court of Pakistan placed a complete ban on these activities in 1993.

The marchers carried posters with their demands; some participants recited poems and raised revolutionary slogans. Photos of the march were widely shared on social media under the hashtag #StudentSolidarityMarch.

Women rights activist Asma Aamir endorsed the revival of student unions:

Even Prime Minister Imran Khan Tweeted in favour of student unions:

Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah announced that his government would restore student unions in the Sindh province.

During Faiz Mela, an event organized every year in Lahore to commemorate the memory of the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, students began reciting lines from the revolutionary poem “Sarfaroshi ki Tamana” by Indian poet Bismil Azimabadi’. The revolutionary undertones of the poem garnered more attention for the students who were agitating for student unions, many of whom were criticized.

Just a day before the Student Solidarity March, the University of Punjab declared two students persona non grata and cancelled the admission of one of the leaders of the march, Husnain Jameel Faridi. Some students from Balochistan University Quetta were reportedly also expelled, however, the reasons are not clear.

Husnain Jameel said he will not bow down and join the march:

Public Relations Officer of The Punjab University Khurram Shahzad refuted the claim, while The Punjab University also tweeted in the matter.

After the march Twitter hashtags started surfacing against it on social media. One was #StudentsMarchExposed, while an account named ‘Insafians Power Official’ supposedly a follower of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) started a trend against liberals after the march.

Progressive Students Collective has released a statement against the campaigns that have been launched against them:

We would like to reiterate that our politics is solely based on the rightful and constitutional demands of student rights and considering us pawns of any anti-national sentiment is a dire misappropriation of our cause. Our demands are constitutional and we make it clear as daylight that we will frame our politics and struggle well within the legal and constitutional framework.

Socio-political and economic conditions of Pakistan are not stable which was the driving force for students to organize this march to demand the revival of Student Unions; however, some segments of society think they are working on an Anti-Pakistan and Anti-Islam agenda so should be condemned and stopped.

1 comment

  • chengez k

    Asma Aamir says:

    ” Many politicans today once were the part of student unions because student unions are the nursery for young leadership”

    The above should be considered as a concrete evidence for the argument against Students Union…after what these corrupt politicians have done !!!

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