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Student unions: No nurseries for politicians

Karachi, July 2(The News): Student unions, now banned, were those institutions that taught students the ways of life, imparted confidence and inculcated the art of speaking. They were the nurseries that nurtured and honed their leadership qualities and produced leaders who eventually played an important role on the national stage. The ban affected students as they were unable to get the guidance and patronage, but most importantly, it brought an abrupt end to the glory days, when student leaders stamped their presence in the universities, rose to important position as national leaders or became social activists and attained distinguished places in their careers.

The name of Qamar-uz-Zaman is still known to many, as the first Vice President of the Karachi University Students Union (KUSU) in 1954. He introduced the union in the university and made it the citadel of strength for students. The post of the President of the union at the time remained with the Vice Chancellor (VC) of the university, which was held by A.B.A. Haleem; the first VC of the University of Karachi (KU). Zaman was a great orator and won nearly all debating contests in East and West Pakistan. He was instrumental in establishing World University Service (WUS) and invited Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, widow of the (late) President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to KU who was a suffragist, active in American politics. He also hosted Richard Nixon and his wife Patricia Nixon in the union office. Zaman rose to become a Director in Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), and later landed a high-profile job in the UAE.

Meraj Mohammad Khan was the leader of National Students Federation (NSF), a leftist organisation in KU that was prominent in the university in late 50s and mid-60s. He became the founder member of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and served as the Federal Minister for Manpower in Bhutto's government (1972-77). He later joined Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI) headed by Imran Khan in 1998 but resigned in 2003, citing differences with the latter.

Fatehyab Ali Khan was another flamboyant leader of NSF and formed Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party that strove for the rights of poor farmers and other downtrodden members of the society. The late Kaneez Fatima was also a fiery and able student leader and proved to be a very committed labour leader in her practical life.

Shafi Naqi Jamie, who was President of KUSU and belonged to Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT), was an eloquent speaker and an able administrator. He was offered a top slot in the United Nations (UN); however, currently he is based in London and works for BBC Urdu Service. Sardar Rahim won the KUSU presidency in 1976 and presently he is Deputy Information Secretary PML (N). Hussain Haqqani of IJT was also a student leader and President of KUSU. He became Pakistan's ambassador to Sri Lanka and then assumed the post Chairman of House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC).

Fareed Piracha was the President of Punjab University Students Union (PUSU) in 1974 and assumed political role as an MNA of MMA. He is a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami and a very active Member of Parliament. Liaquat Baloch is yet another example of a once student leader who became a famous public figure. He was Chief of IJT during his student days, in addition to being the President of PUSU.

Zahoorul Hassan Bhopali was a mercurial student leader. He became MPA Sindh Assembly and was later assassinated. Hafiz Mohammad Taqi was a very active student leader of Anjuman Tulaba-e-Islam (ATI) who later joined JUP. Raheela Tiwana, the incumbent Deputy Speaker of the Sindh Assembly, was an active member of Peoples Students Federation (PSF). Police tortured her during Nawaz Shareef's first stint as the Prime Mnister.

The long list of aforementioned people, who are today active in the national politics are in fact, the student leaders of yesteryears. Their rise to the national scene is testimony to the fact that the student unions were once the coaching centres of leadership and that their ban is a great loss at the national political level.
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