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Campus violence resurfaces with a vengence

Karachi, Sept 15, 2007: Thursday's gory incident of firing on a minibus near the University of Karachi in which five KU students and two passengers lost their lives indicates that wars between student wings of different political parties have been re-ignited while the government continues to be silent spectator.

This is not the first time students have been attacked or shot by one party or another but the manner, location and ferocity of Thursday's attack has left many wondering whether violence on campuses will increase in the coming weeks and how safe will these seats of learning be for young men and women in the days that come. Many parents are having second thoughts about letting their children go to the university campus in the coming weeks or so.

Thursday's incident was perhaps the most tragic of its kind in the renewed chapter of violence among student organizations, observers said on Friday.

What stands out is the lack of accountability of the Rangers force on campus and the indifference of the government to deal with the problem. Security experts have highlighted the utter failure of the authorities in curbing clashes and violent incidents in and around the educational institutions. It may be noted that clashes among student organisations had been occurring for the past many years, as student wings of various political organisations have made universities and colleges their battle ground. In the past, they have forcibly occupied hostels and disrupted classes in the institutions. It may be recalled that following a particularly brutal incident in 1989, the government had deployed Rangers to control the ugly situation.

With the arrival of the Rangers on the university campus and their strict checking of students to contain the proliferation of weapons, activists of various student organisations used sticks, rods, fists and stones to settle matters during their clashes. However, of late, they have been using sophisticated weapons to establish their might over rivals. The situation has turned dangerous as it seems that the Rangers have been unable to contain the proliferation of arms of the violence it breeds.

In the KU and in some government colleges, it was found that several portions of the buildings were taken over by various student wings of political organizations, which continue to challenge each other on their campuses. Some of senior faculty members raise questions as to why the government was not taking these clashes seriously and not passing any law to vacate colleges from these organizations, as educational institutions are meant to groom future generations. Many KU students said that after Thursday's incident, they were frightened.

It may be mentioned here that the last month, a clash at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) had disrupted the functioning of this major government hospital, when the staffers, patients and visitors at the hospital had to run helter-skelter to save their lives. In the clash, Hafiz Abdul Rehman, 24, IJT Nazim of College of Physiotherapy, succumbed to injuries after being attacked by rival student organization members. Another activist Farhan Ahmed Butt also fell victim to the violence some weeks back.

Later, the police launched a crackdown against the students involved in the clash and made several arrests. However, on September 12, it was reported that a clash erupted between the All-Pakistan Muttahida Students Organisation (APMSO) and the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) in the limits of KU, which left some eight students injured at the university. Five of them were said to be from APMSO and three from IJT.

It was a fateful evening for the KU students on September 13 when some unidentified miscreants threw a hand grenade and sprayed bullets at a mini bus of route G-7 near the university, which resulted into the death of five students of whom Imran Shahid, Ghulam Siddiq and Atif Butt belonged to IJT, while Habibullah r/o Gilgit was affiliated with ISO and the fifth deceased student was identified as Sarfaraz Keryo. The incident also claimed the lives of two passengers. Mobina Town police station lodged an FIR on the complaint of bus driver Ali Jan against unidentified nine criminals riding three motorcycles under the sections pertaining to murder, attempt to murder and Explosives Act.

The deceased were identified in the FIR as Ghulam Hussain, Habibullah, Imran Shahid, Syed Atif Hussain, the son of an army major; Haji Ahmed, 50, Siddiq and Sarfaraz Hussain Keryo. When contacted, Capital City Police Officer Azhar Ali Farooqi said that a three-member inquiry committee was being constituted under the supervision of DIG East Zone Mir Zubair, with SSP Javed Mehr and SP Gulshan Town Noman Siddiqi as its members. The News
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