Making the campus a violence-free zone
A few ugly incidences of violence erupted at the Punjab University last month
where several students were allegedly thrashed and brutalised by goons of the
student wing of a major religio-political party. It was reported that the vice
chancellor of the varsity was also a witness to this avoidable episode but no
firm action regarding the matter was taken by the administration. This reflects
the tight grip exercised by the student factions of political parties at major
campuses all over the country.
April 2008: The historic announcement of restoring student unions in Pakistan has been
received well by stakeholders across the country. However, there may be certain
downsides to this issue.|
There have been similar episodes at the
Federal Urdu University and the Sindh Medical College and it is at times like
this that the depoliticisation of campuses along with a total ban on student
politics is seen as the only solution. The matter, however, asks to be seen
objectively if rational options are to be reached.
ruptures usual academic life. Besides losing precious academic time, the
situation causes a terror-laden milieu, fears of re-lapse of violence and a
sense of helplessness among the academic staff as well as the students. The
perpetual support of political parties to their student wings, availability of
arms, inability of varsity administrations to institute discipline and the
connivance of some academic staff with student wings for their own ulterior
motives are the obvious factors leading to the problem.
A small but
powerful minority is able to hold hostage the entire campus for prolonged
periods of time. Neither are the perpetrators of these criminal deeds rounded up
nor are the clandestine hands that support them ever tied although some
campuses, through the strict resolve of their administrations, have been able to
develop some worth emulating examples of enforcing discipline while extending a
congenial environment for carrying on with the academics.
pursuit can be realised without peace. The University of Engineering and
Technology in Lahore and the NED University of Engineering & Technology in
Karachi have successfully maintained peace on their campuses by rooting out all
external and internal miscreants from their jurisdiction.
of armed elements and their supporters in the campus thoughout the country is a
direct outcome of the dictatorial policies of the Zia regime since 1978-79. It
was a time when fire arms were used freely to settle union matters in
universities. Afraid of pro-democracy movements, the regime, imposed a ban on
the unions, leading to a strong rudderless reaction. New fascist-style student
wings were created, many of which had the support of the regime. Sectarian,
ethnic and factional groups planted their student agents in the campuses. This
tide soon entered the colleges too.
Successive regimes with a limited
administrative capacity at their disposal, have failed to curb this menace and
the trend continues. Disgusted with this convoluted backdrop, many quarters
consider the institution of student unions as the cause of the problem, which
may not be so true.
It must be understood that the participation in
student union activities are very healthy for the campus population. But these
unions must be allowed to evolve from within the institution
Participation in union management enables the students to learn
and practice leadership skills. It also extends opportunities in the
organisation of co-curricular activities that help in personality development.
Student weeks, literary circles, dramatic societies, environmental campaigns,
debating clubs and sports are just a few of the pursuits managed by student
unions. Other functions include social work, activism, support to pro-literacy
initiatives, coordination with alumni and professional groups.
in the future generation in this century can only be enhanced by stretching out
the options of self development. All the institutions of higher learning in the
developed world have very active and performing unions. It is high time that
university managements here too take cognizance of the situation to carry out
appropriate measures that will ensure peace, enabling an environment for healthy
By Dr Noman Ahmed (Dawn)
The writer is professor and chairman, Department
of Architecture and Planning, NED University, Karachi.
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