Campus Clashes: How it all began

Karachi, Sep 7, 2007: The students of Sindh University, Jamshoro, still remember that gory evening of '72 when the first bullet was fired in the hitherto peaceful environment of the campus. The incident claimed two lives. A Sufi poet, Ali Mardan Shah Raxam, and Jan Mohammed Khero were killed on the spot while Ali Mohammed Jamali received injuries.

All three were students of the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology and were staying at the International Hostel when attacked.

The hostel was originally for foreign students. However, since then it has been occupied by leaders of student organisations. The incident occurred over a minor dispute between two rival groups.

Unfortunately, the matter did not end there for the incident became the first in a chain of violence that continues to this day. At the time, only one student belonging to Jacobabad had a Sten gun in the entire university - his name was later included in the FIR. After this incident, six students were rusticated for five years but were exonerated afterwards and most of them graduated from their respective departments.

It is since that year that student leaders as well as members of student organisations are found keeping ammunition on campus all over Pakistan. In fact, this trend is obvious from the rising insubordination among university students.

An incident which followed soon afterwards is testament to that. The federal minister of law was invited by Sindh University for an honorary doctorate degree. However, half way through the convocation, the minister was slapped on the face by a student. Though the students involved in the incident were expelled, the incident led to an increase in unruliness among party activists in universities and colleges.

Unlike political party activists, most university and college students do not start out by following political agendas in their respective institutions. However, such students are either forced into joining a particular group or compelled to pay money for their safety.

The fault lies in the hands of the government and political parties who condone the attitude of student organisations.

Idrees Jatoi, a folklore writer, said that "Ali Mardan Shah Raxam was a folk song writer. He was a student of higher education but was murdered brutally during his brief stint at his alma mater. To this day his friends, relatives and followers celebrate his life by performing the songs written by him near his grave in a traditional mela."

Sadly, it is in the name of nationalism and regionalism, these political leaders create problems for students who actually go to universities and colleges to learn.

A former activist of the National Students Federation (NSF), Karachi, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that "The Urdu weekly Lel-o-nehar published an article in which they criticised religious parties. Some NSF leaders circulated the copies of the weekly at a convention in the University of Karachi. This resulted in a brutal clash as the Jamat-e-Islami leader of the time led a vehicle packed with sticks and beat the NSF workers in retaliation."

According to the activist, back then sticks and knives were used in major clashes. However, the situation is worse now, as kalashnikovs are being used in university and college clashes.

The Ziaul Haq regime is to blame for bringing ammunition to higher education institutions. It was during his era that access to arms became easy owing to the Afghan war.

Rivalry among students groups is a common phenomenon in higher education institutes such as the University of Karachi, NED University, Dawood College, as well as the Jamshoro and Hyderabad institutes. Students, egged on by their respective political parties, freely use these weapons.

According one activist, the children of political leaders are never involved or harmed in these clashes. It is mostly young men from poor families who are used as fuel for the vested interest of these political parties.

Prof. Taj Joyo, a leader of the Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA), says that the ban on student unions in the Zia regime is the main reason for these clashes.

The biggest disadvantage of these fights and clashes is that they affect the academic session. Most political parties have their own student wings which serve the vested interests of politicians and not the students. The news



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