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Student unions & campus bloodshed

Unregulated student unions can lead to campus bloodshed
Lahore, April 28, 2008: The new government's decision to lift the ban on student unions was hailed as a victory for democracy. However, there were many quarters especially those involved with education that were not too keen on the move.

These quarters were of the opinion that the ban's lifting would result in violence on campuses and on the streets if it were not followed up with proper legislation. They also opined that it would be difficult to stop political parties from getting involved with the student unions. They said that it was in the interest of these parties to merge with students even though such a move was not in the best interest of students and education.

It was not too long before their fears were realised. Since the lifting of the ban, two fights between student groups have been reported from Punjab University.

Also, the return of unions means the return of student leaders. Student union leaders in Pakistan are synonymous with violence and criminal activities.

In this regard, the police have been ordered to update their records of former and current student union leaders to keep an eye on them.

On Sunday, the Crime Investigation Agency arrested Mehboob Ahmed Khan, who was the right hand man of notorious student leader Atif Chaudhry. Mehboob had been declared a proclaimed offender after he murdered Nadir Khan alias Nado Khan another criminal over a gambling dispute. He was also wanted for attempted murder.

Even though Mehboob was not a union member, he was a close associate of Atif Chaudhry.

Professors: Prof Mujahid Mansoori, Students Task Force (STF) secretary, said, "Lifting the ban on student unions without proper legislation and a code of conduct and their implementation will harm universities and students. Looking at the track record of such unions, one cannot be hopeful."

He said the task force had prepared a list of 70 students who were sure to make trouble for the unions. "This list will be provided to the police," he added.

He said that another issue the task force feared was the involvement of political parties in student unions. "Parties in Pakistan are weak and they use campuses to project their strength. With their involvement, unions are surely to get politicised and go on the wrong track."

He said that the STF had prepared several proposals and had sent them to vice chancellors in Punjab, to the heads of political parties and to the heads of various student unions.

Muttahida Talaba Mahaz (MTM) and People's Students Federation (PSF): Raheel Shah, MTM and PSF president, confirmed the fear, saying, "Without a government-sponsored code of conduct, these student unions will lose all control."

He said that he foresaw bloodshed and chaos on campuses if a code of conduct were not implemented. "Students will be killed during elections, during admissions, during campaigning and during examinations. Several fights have broken out on campuses between the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), PSF, Muslim Students Federation (MSF) and Anjuman-e-Talaba-e-Islam (ATI) in Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur.

MSF: Sheikh Shahid, MAO College MSF president, said that rogue groups had tarnished the image of student unions. "People who were thrown out of unions formed their own groups and indulged in illegal activities. Student leaders have been involved in criminal activities, but not all of them. Even I agree that without a code of conduct these unions will create problems for universities."

He also agreed with the fact that political parties led student unions astray. "Union members fight with others over political agendas, which leads to them becoming criminals."

ISO: Mumtaz, Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) spokesman, said, "The ISO never involved itself in criminal or political activities. The ISO also welcomes the code of conduct because this is the only way violence can be ended on campuses."
IJT: We tried to contact Nazim Rana Zahid, but he was not available for comment. Daily Times

Students unions demand notification on lifting of ban
Rawalpindi: Representatives of the students' organizations have demanded of the government to issue official notification regarding lifting of ban on the students' unions at the earliest to ensure timely elections in the educational institutions.

Muhammad Zubair Safdar, general secretary of Islami Jamiat Talaba, Punjab said that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had announced lifting of ban on students' organizations after securing vote of confidence in the National Assembly but no official notification has so far been issued by the relevant authorities.

"There are a number of other issues to be resolved including preparation of code of conduct and issuance of official notification of lifting of ban on the students' unions will help kick start the process to develop consensus among all the students' unions on all these issues," he said.

Zubair said elections of the students' unions were expected to be held after September this year but "we want all the related issues resolved as soon as possible." He said the ban was imposed on the activities of the students' unions and the organizations were not affected by it. "We have been carrying out our activities on regular basis and fully prepared for the elections that will help initiate a pure democratic culture in the educational institutions."

Asad Abbasi of the People's Students Federation (PSF) said issuance of official notification of lifting of ban would give a positive message and "we are hopeful that the government will make all necessary arrangements to conduct union elections by October this year."

He said PSF has submitted a draft of proposals for preparation of code of conduct and a high-level committee has been constituted that would seek the suggestions for developing a consensus among all the stakeholders.

Abbasi said teachers, students and even clerical staff also be consulted for paving a way for the union elections in the educational institutions. "A democratic government has come into power and we hope that it will take all out measures to provide a platform to students especially belonging to middle-class to utilise their potential and play their due role in strengthening the pure democratic culture in the country."

The student unions were banned by the then president General Muhammad Ziaul Haq in 1985 and were partially restored by the Benazir government in 1988. The News

More than 150 student union members killed since the 1980s
Lahore: More than 150 student union leaders and members have been killed by other students, criminals and the police since the 1980s.
Some of the prominent student union members are as follow:
MSF: Union member Zahid was the first to be murdered. The incident took place in Misri Shah. After Zahid, there was a spate of killings that claimed the lives of Arshad Amin Chaudhry, Atif Chaudhry, Arif Chaudhry, Abid Chaudhry, Agha Naveed and Raees alias Tanki. These people were either killed by rival unionists or the police. Atif Chaudhry had been injured in a shootout with the police in in Jamrod and was later killed by the police in Sandha. However, a case was registered against Arshad Amin Chaudhry in this regard. Agha Naveed was wanted by the police and was killed in Islamabad by them. Rival unionists killed Arshad Amin, Arif, Raees alias Tanki and Abid.
PSF: Shahid Butt was killed by the police in Sabzazar. Jansher and Lucky Shah were also student leaders and became assassins. They were also killed by the police in separate incidents. Zaheer alias Bao, another student leader, was one of the accused in the assassination of Punjab AAG Arif Bhinder and 12 others. Bao's body was found from the Canal and the police were till investigating the cause behind his murder. Raees alias Kaliya, a student union member, was murdered by rival unionists in Islampura.
Quaid-e-Azam Students Federation: Tanveer Khakwani and Sunny, both members of QSF, are wanted by the police.
National Students Federation: Javed Butt, the NSF Lahore president, was killed along with Tara alias Jin in Allama Iqbal Town. Daily Times
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