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Schools of terror

Schools of terror STUDENT politics in Karachi has seen many dark moments, beginning with the first killing of students in the early 1950s. After two quiet decades following General Ziaul Haq's ban on student activism imposed in the '80s, carnage may be returning to our campuses. The last month has seen three major outbreaks.
On August 15, a violent clash between the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) and Punjabi Students' Association (PSA) left two dead and five injured. Another flare-up on Sept 12 between the All Pakistan Muttahida Students' Organisation (APMSO) and IJT killed five and on Sept 17, the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Sciences and Technology (Fuuast) witnessed an exchange of fire between the IJT and the APMSO, where no students were killed but a few were injured.

As major campuses across the city open amid fear and uncertainty, the warring parties remain caught in conflicting views on what happened. Despite the fact that his organisation is implicated in all three incidents, Mohammed Riaz of the IJT does not hesitate to imply that the administration of Karachi's largest university is hand in glove with both the APMSO and the Rangers.

"They know about such incidents before they occur. We are victimised because the administration favours the APMSO and the Rangers support the PSA," says Riaz. "There is only one FIR against the APMSO and four against us," he says.

Riaz claims that members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) are present in the campus security force and in departments such as the social work faculty. "The head of the social work faculty speaks directly to the governor and not the vice-chancellor. In Sir Syed University and the Aligarh Institute, armed students patrolled the premises when MQM's Faisal Sabzwari was with Z.A. Nizami."

Riaz also says that on the inauguration of the botanical gardens, "the governor had a meeting with the VC along with three members of the APMSO."

Meanwhile, Wasim Aftab of the APMSO is adamant that his party's name was deliberately dragged into the battle between the IJT and the PSA.

"The IJT has this history. We had moved up our Peace Day to Sept 12 because of Ramazan and in the middle of our preparations, the IJT attacked us," says Aftab. "They think they are khudai faujdar. It is inexcusable that they beat up Mehwish from the international relations department and now claim that there is no such student in the institution."

Aftab also accuses the IJT of kidnapping and torturing APMSO workers. "This is why we retaliated. In places such as the Government College of Technology, we cannot even enter because of their hold," he says.

Surprisingly, the ban on student politics remains in place as does the heavy deployment of the Rangers, who have spent 18 long years in Karachi University.

"With the presence of the Rangers, we are able to follow the academic calendar and it is because of them that the Sept 12 incident occurred outside the premises," says Khalid Mehmood Iraqi, head of campus security. Iraqi maintains that it is the responsibility of political leaders to prevent the political climate of the city from affecting educational institutions.

"Coordination is required to make education a priority and if the approach was academic, then there would be no need for the Rangers," he explained.

Iraqi also vehemently refuted the IJT's allegations against the administration.

"There is absolutely no such evidence. Also, the governor's visit was a scheduled one and no student was present there."

The prevalent relationship between violence and student politics has often rested on blame games and remained largely unaddressed by successive governments. Today, the fight for social change or the struggle for political causes is little more than brutal power tussles. However, their worst victims remain the students. Their hostels are randomly vacated to clear political strongholds, leaving countless undergraduates with nowhere to go and for others, postponed exams push their goals further into uncertainty.

These fierce episodes are indeed harbingers of disaster; a bloody tale set to repeat itself with blood, violence, and remorse as its only legacy.

By Reema Abbasi - reema.abbasi@dawn.com


Your Comments

"I am a student of the University of Karachi (KU), department of Mass Communication. The recent violence between two political parties at KU caused a problematic situation for the students. A massive loss of lives has occurred and now boycotting classes and exams is adding to that. Why should students, who come from far-flung places, to these institutions suffer because of this? Often, it is upon arrival that they find out that classes are cancelled in protest of clashes of political parties. Why aren't the authorities taking any action in such cases? (The News)."
Name: Noreen Shams
Email: not available
City, Country: North Nazimabad, Karachi, Pakistan


"I think that students politics is taking an ugly face because of the ban on legitimate students union, which if removed can pave way for gradual integeration of various factions and a healthy arena to compete in. The politics of corpses and blood will soon, inshallah, suffocate."
Name: Unknown
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan
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