By Ahmad Tariq
In the last few days, the historic Mall Road of Lahore has once again resounded with the slogans of “Long live revolution” and Communism Zindabad.
It was the young students from all over Pakistan who raised the slogans and demanded to restore the Student Unions.
The question arises here is that “what is Student Union” and what is the role of these unions in Pakistan politics.
Exactly 37 years ago from today, on 9th of February 1984, the military dictator of Pakistan, President General Zia-ul-Haq imposed a ban on student unions in all Colleges and Universities throughout the country.
Although the ban justifies the growing trend of violence in student unions, but General Zia-ul-Haq knew that if the students’ voices were not silenced, they would rise up against the dictatorship, just like the way they stood up against the dictatorship of General Ayub Khan.
This ban was first imposed in Punjab and then it was imposed all over the country. Ghulam Jilani Khan, then Governor Punjab and Martial Law Administrator, enforced the ban by issuing Martial Law Order No. 1371 and at the same time, Government of Pakistan closed the offices of all the unions and froze their bank accounts.
A five-year prison sentence was also announced for violating the order.
The Order No. 1371 shows how much the Government of Pakistan was scared from students. Perhaps, this fear was justified because if the ban on student unions had not been imposed, then these students would have overthrown the government of President General Zia-ul-Haq and it would have happened, because these brilliant students started a strong and decisive movement against the dictatorship of military dictator General Ayub Khan in the late 1960’s.
From the founding of Pakistan in 1947 until 1984, the left wing student unions dominated in the educational institutions. It was the students who firstly raised the slogans “Bangladesh Na-Manzoor” and raised awareness against the military rule.
Although the ban on student unions was imposed by the military dictator but this ban has not been lifted for four decades. Many democratic governments have come but no one has done much to lift the ban. It is pertinent to note here that in 1989, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto had lifted the ban in her first term, but the Supreme Court of Pakistan re-imposed the ban in 1993, which is still in force until today. Hereditary politicians also followed in the footsteps of military dictators in lifting this ban because all these politicians are capitalists, landlords and Federalists who have nothing to do with the people of Pakistan and public politics.
Two years ago, when I was pursuing a degree in Journalism from University of the Punjab, in the second semester, Dr. Mehdi Hassan told us that when Yousuf Raza Gilani became the Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2008, he called me before addressing the nation. Gillani asked: What important announcements should I make, Dr. Sahib? Dr. Mehdi Hasan told us that one of the things I advised him to do was to announce the lifting of the ban on student unions. Yousuf Raza Gilani did it the same way but unfortunately that promise could not be fulfilled just like the other promises which these politicians make to us before General Elections but then they never fulfill it.
The disadvantage of the ban on student unions is that the students who once had a regular interest in the politics of Pakistan, they stopped conducting regular seminars on debates, dialogues, current affairs and they got involved in many other evil deeds like intoxication etc.
Now, once again, the students are demanding the revival of the student unions, which the government of Pakistan should immediately accept, because no one knows the problems of the students better than the students, and we the students can solve our own problems better than these corrupt politicians.
The revival of student unions is not only necessary because students will be able to reduce fees, solve transportation problems and meet other legitimate demands, but it is also necessary because the students who are the bright future of this country, will reward our beloved homeland with leadership, a leadership that will not only be enlightened but will lead the country on the path of development, and thus end the hereditary politics from our beautiful Pakistan. PAK DESTINY