BY MAHNOOR SHEIKH


From political grooming once upon a time to fundamentalism now


Just a day after the clash in PU, a similar incident happened in Gomal University of Dera Ismail Khan, where activists of Pakhtun Students Federation disrupted an event arranged by IJT — a talent show in the university – because it was held without permission. This followed stone pelting between students and baton charge by the police

The clash between two student groups in Punjab University (PU) earlier this week was embarrassing for the university and the education department itself.

Over a dozen students were injured as stick wielding students of Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) attacked the Pakhtun cultural festival being held outside Faisal Auditorium on Tuesday. The Pakhtuns were doing their cultural dance when they were attacked and the reason given by Jamiat was that the “Pakhtun festival had clashed with an event organised by Jamiat”. Well how can someone dare hold an event in clash with Jamiat as it considers itself the ‘supreme authority’ in the campus. Nobody challenges them out of fear of landing in the hospital.

Just a day after the clash in PU, a similar incident happened in Gomal University of Dera Ismail Khan, where activists of Pakhtun Students Federation disrupted an event arranged by IJT — a talent show in the university – because it was held without permission. This followed stone pelting between students and baton charge by the police.

The pictures and videos from both these incidents makes one think about the grooming that is being provided to the students in these public sector universities.

Punjab University PRO Khurram Shahzad, while commenting on the incident, said IJT is already banned in the campus but its activities are allowed to some extent.

The PRO, however, agreed that strict measures should be taken against them and urged the government to take formal action.

The situation was much controlled during the previous administration but the problem is that they get support from some departments, their faculty and heads.

Although the university has now banned all the student organisations operating within the campus, it still does not guarantee that the place would provide a conducive environment for students.

Talking about IJT in the campus, senior analyst Dr Mehdi Hasan said IJT started its politics in 1972 and by now it dominates the university administration.

“The university administration is not able to take a decision against them. Their negative activities can be avoided through discipline only. If activists found involved in criminal activities had been punished in the past, the situation would have been different. The university establishment also have a soft corner for Jamiat. The media is also afraid of them. It doesn’t even write its name, it calls them as a ‘student organisation’ which makes them more daring.”

Student politics is a positive activity but on the condition of being regulated by the students and the varsity administration themselves, not political parties. Student unions are meant to serve the political environment by their healthy activities not vested interests of politicians through violence
The role of IJT, Muslim Students Federation (MSF), Democratic Students Federation (DSF), National Students Federation (NSF) and other student unions has been prominent in the democratic history of the country but the situation can only deteriorate when it starts acting above the law. It’s almost 25 years now that student unions were banned through a Supreme Court verdict in 1993 but the IJT continues to operate in various institutions as the de facto moral police.

“Student unions were first banned in 1929 (in United India) and restored in 1959. From 1959 to 1972, Jamiat did not contest any election with its name. It always used to tell its name after winning the elections. There was no sign of it until communist DSF was there, Jamiat rose after DSF was banned. Until student unions are restored and they get organised against IJT, it will continue its monopoly like this,” said analyst Hasan.

It is quite understandable that these student wings are blind believers of the ideology of their mainstream political parties and like to have an authority over other unarmed and innocent students, but this vandalism is surely not what someone comes to learn at a university.

Jamaat-e-Islami’s Dr Fareed Ahmed Paracha, who had also served as the president of the Punjab University Students Union, while talking to DNA said student politics is very important for political growth of the country. It helps in mental upbringing of students.

He called for lifting the ban on student unions, saying people who went in politics through student unions are quite capable and their role is much appreciated. It was a good practice in the past but the military regimes banned student unions, which should be lifted.

For controlling their activities, Paracha said, there can be eligibility criteria regarding who can join and who cannot.

Although Article 17 (a) of the Constitution gives right to every citizen to “form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality”, it is necessary that these unions are closely watched over.

“If any such clash takes place, it is necessary to completely investigate it. One sided propaganda increases negative perceptions about an organisation. Every student organisation and their candidates should come under the law,” Paracha said.

The trouble arises when the environment is made so conducive for violence and other commotion by these student politicians in academic activities that it destroys the real purpose of electoral accountability of representatives.

About the fundamentalism in IJT, the JI leader said religion can never be imposed on anyone. “This is only for the character building of the students themselves. Not the student unions but the university administration itself should ensure healthy and secure environment for students, especially girls.”

Student politics is a positive activity but on the condition of being regulated by the students and the varsity administration themselves, not political parties. Student unions are meant to serve the political environment by their healthy activities not vested interests of politicians through violence.

“The political leadership needs to realise that students unions are a requirement of democratic systems. These are the training institutions of democracy. There is a system of student unions everywhere in the world. Every democratic party has student wings for the training of youth so they can come to politics,” said Hasan.

Since Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani has raised a voice to lift the ban on student unions and has sought suggestions from all senators regarding the matter, it is to see, in case the ban is lifted, what measures are taken to limit the activities of student politics to serve the purpose of grooming that it is actually meant to provide, not as a breeding ground for fundamentalism and militancy.

Source: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk