Code of conduct needed to restore student unions: PM - GulfToday

Code of conduct needed to restore student unions: PM


Imran Khan. File

In the wake of students rallying across Pakistan pressing for their demand to unionise, Prime Minister Imran Khan has acknowledged that student unions played a positive role in grooming young people into becoming future leaders but added that they could only be restored after establishing an “enforceable code of conduct.”

However, despite the prime minister’s pledge that student unions would be restored and Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar also supporting the campaign, a case under the charges of sedition has been registered against six participants of the march including the elderly Iqbal Lala, father of Mashal Khan, a Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan student who was lynched by a mob over blasphemy allegations in 2017.

“Universities groom future leaders of the country and student unions form an integral part of this grooming,” the premier tweeted. “Unfortunately in Pakistan, universities’ student unions became violent battlegrounds and completely destroyed the intellectual atmosphere on campuses.”

The prime minister vowed that the government would “establish a comprehensive and enforceable code of conduct, learning from the best practices in internationally renowned universities so that we can restore and enable student unions to play their part in positively grooming our youth as future leaders of the country.”

Hundreds in cities across Pakistan participated in the Students Solidarity March campaign on Nov.29, calling for lifting the ban on student unions, access to quality and affordable education and an end to racial, religious, and gender-based profiling of students.

They also demanded the withdrawal of the recent fee hikes and restoration of the High Education Commission (HEC) budget, constitution of legal committees for sexual harassment cases with students’ representation, uniform curfew timings irrespective of gender and an end to surveillance of students on and off-campus.

Other booked in the case include academic and activist Ammar Ali Jan, Alamgeer Wazir, Farooq Tariq, Muhammad Shabbir and Kamil Khan. The FIR was registered at Lahore’s Civil Lines Police Station on the complaint of police sub-inspector Muhammad Nawaz.

According to the FIR, the speakers allegedly incited protesting students against the state and its institutions through “hateful” speeches and slogans. “These have been recorded by mobile-phones and can also be checked through PPIC3 cameras,” the FIR read.

Mashal Khan, since his brutal murder, has become as a symbol of students’ resistance. Sight of his father Iqbal Lala ignited passion in students at Friday’s march. Lala was given a hero’s welcome as he arrived to express solidarity with students in Lahore. He was also caught struggling to keep his emotions in check on seeing so many students raising slogans in his favour.

Alamgeer Wazir, a student of Punjab University and a co-accused in the FIR, was taken into custody by police from the university premises on Saturday afternoon. Wazir is a former chairperson of Pakhtun Council’s Punjab University chapter and member of the National Assembly Ali Wazir’s nephew.

Earlier, a video of students mobilising crowds at the Faiz Festival in Lahore gone viral on social media in which a young Pakistani woman was seen chanting a poem on freedom.

In the clip, the protestors from Lahore heard singing “Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai, dekhna hai zor kitna baazuay qaatil mein hai” (The desire for revolution is in our heart, let us see how strong are the arms of our executioner).

The video, which had been tweeted by a journalist, showed students “demanding freedom, freedom to read and freedom to choose their partner” during the fifth Faiz International Festival, which had taken place in Lahore from Nov.15 to 17 in the run-up to the Student Solidarity March across Pakistan.

Since being posted, the video has over 9 lakh views and drew many tweets.

A user tweeted: “From Ram Prasad Bismil’s recitation of sarfaroshi ki tamanna, to #AroojAurangzeb’s, from Faiz’s demand of surkh Asia to Arooj’s, — it was so, so heartening to see poetry’s capability to shake the establishment — be it the 1920s or 2019.”

Tariq Butt/Agencies

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