Politicians and rulers of Pakistan have always used the students as sacrificial aminals for achieving their vested interests. The terrorists have also used the small students for destruction and killing. The Taliban is the word of Pashto language being used for the students. So in the present war on terrorism, children are being used as fuel. Taliban belongs to the poorest and most oppressed class of Pakistan. Here the people have been selling their children to earn a livelihood.
Now Pakistani rulers want to use the students of universities and colleges for creating choas in the country. According to a newspaper comment: Thousands of students have come out in Islamabad to protest curbs on the media, the imposition of Emergency and the PCO. Not only were many local colleges involved in this demonstration at Aabpara, students of the Quaid-e-Azam University also staged a demonstration inside the university premises. In Lahore, a much more powerful manifestation of the rise of student power was in evidence last week and on Tuesday when the Punjab University (PU) saw an “independent” group calling the administration to account for allowing the Jamaat-e Islami’s “student wing” Islami Jamiat-e Tulaba (IJT) to maltreat Mr Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf, who had gone to the campus on the request of a wide range of student representatives in Lahore, including the elitist LUMS.
The students at the Punjab University are asking the administration to shut down the illegal offices of IJT because political student organisations are banned on campuses. They became violent and vented their anger at the Institute of Communication Studies, breaking glass and thrashing the staff, including the head of the department, who was roughed up. Then they staged a sit-in (dharna) in front of the vice-chancellor’s office demanding that the IJT offices be closed.
The VC meanwhile received orders that all IJT centres be closed down and the campus purged of politics. The students also demanded the release of Imran Khan from jail where he has gone on a hunger strike. He has been booked under the anti-terrorism laws for committing the terrorism of answering the invitation call of students who are completely unconnected with any political party. In the event, the federal government has been put on the spot by the student protest, compelling the new caretaker law minister, Mr Afzal Haider, to promise to get Imran Khan released this week by approaching the Punjab government. Since law and order is a provincial subject, the caretaker chief minister, Justice (Retd) Ejaz Nisar, should look into the matter and take appropriate steps to release Mr Khan before more trouble comes his way.
The protest at Punjab University was from the campus itself but not from any student organisation. It was a civil society protest against organised students who have ruled the campus for decades. The motive behind their attack on the journalism department was the well-known entrenchment there of the IJT students and teachers. The head of the institute was once an IJT activist but has now turned against it because of the unfair IJT intrusion. He was threatened with dire consequences just weeks ago.
Unfortunately this time he has been roughed up by students who, like him, want the IJT thugs out of the campus. The dean of the institute, Mr Mughisuddin Sheikh, himself pointed to the real cause of the violence when he accused many teachers of politicising the campus and pushing students away from studies. He said: “In the meeting of the Board of Advanced Studies we passed a resolution condemning the incident of Imran’s arrest. The Deans Committee also passed a resolution in this regard, but it was not told to the press. There are some teachers here in ICS (his own department) who did not show any concern about the incident, which is deplorable”.
Something quite new is now appearing on the horizon which can hurt General Pervez Musharraf in the coming days if all the opposition parties agree on rejecting the January elections and start a campaign to remove him from his office. Anyone who has been aware of the strangle-hold of the Jamaat-e Islami on Punjab University will vouch for the emergence of this now civil society power. This student power is set to enlist the sympathies of the common citizen much more effectively than the “student wings” of the past that no one regarded as genuine student bodies. The concentration of sheer power of intimidation at the campus has undermined the honesty of the organisation and transformed student leaders into local dictators who may not even take orders from the “mother party”.
It is time to listen to the growing discontent in civil society. These are not acolytes of the seminaries ordered by their clerical leaders to destroy property to protest cartoons published in Denmark; this is a movement, still in its embryo, that can overwhelm the undemocratic, illiberal and intolerant state in time to come. These are the “enlightened” and “liberal” scions of those sections of society that don’t dabble in politics but want democratic norms to be upheld. Mr Imran Khan has been the catalyst but the trigger could have been any of the wrong actions taken by the Musharraf establishment. It is time for General Musharraf to to take heed and roll back the suppression that has come in the wake of the PCO.