Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s MPA, Nida Khuhro introduced a bill about the revival of student unions in Sindh Assembly.
“It is of utmost importance for the youth of Sindh to actively and meaningfully participate in the democratic, social, cultural and political processes of their country and of the province.”
Adoption of the resolution
The Sindh Assembly then adopted a resolution to lift the ban on student unions from Sindh.
“This house resolves and recommends the Government of Sindh to lift the ban on student unions in the educational institutions of Sindh in the light of Article 16 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic Pakistan that guarantees ‘Freedom of Assembly’ and Article 17 that talks about ‘Freedom of association’.”
When were the student unions banned?
General Zia-ul-Haq first banned the student unions organizations in 1984 fearing anti-government protests gaining strength.
According to a 2008 discussion paper, “Revival of Students’ Unions in Pakistan,” Zia’s government feared students’ movement, similar to the one that led to the ouster of President Ayub Khan in 1969.”
Why are they important now?
Students in Pakistan are currently facing a lot of issues such as sexual harassment in universities, fee raise, harassment by the administration, lack of accommodation, etc.
For some time now, students have been mobilizing to make their demands heard by the higher authorities. For example, protests were organized to demand justice for a student who died after falling from the fourth floor of Bahria University in Islamabad recently.
Also, students of University of Balochistan protested against the numerous sexual harassment cases that recently surfaced. They also launched a successful campaign against their Vice-Chancellor, said to be allegedly involved in the sexual harassment scandal. He was forced to step down until the inquiry was completed.
With so many glaring issues facing young people, it only makes sense for them to organize under formal, youth-led structures.
Criticism on student unions
The main criticism on student unions is the unfortunate incidents of violence that have surfaced in the past. Mostly the cases were driven by ethnic or political divisions in the country.
How can the probability of violence be minimized?
According to Muhammad Atif, universities should have clear rules and regulations with regard to the student unions.
Violators of rules should be penalized heavily.
The resolution itself demands the unions to be strictly regulated through a code of conduct in order to avoid any conflict.
Student Action Committee
After Sindhv Assembly ordered to lift the ban, students from other provinces are also calling for the revival of student unions.
Different student organizations from all over the country formed the Student Action Committee at the national level to demand revival of student unions on 5 November.
The students called for a movement for the revival of student unions, against the cut in educational budget, increasing harassment cases in universities, security forces interference, student torture cases, lack of educational infrastructure and ban on freedom of expression in the institutes.
Lifting the ban on student organizations was a welcome move by the Sindh Assembly and we hope that the rest of the country follows its footsteps soon!