You have heard about transgender unions, teachers unions, labourer unions, rickshaw unions but have you ever heard about student unions? Do they exist? Yes, they existed but now they have been banned. Those were the golden times when unions existed. Many leaders of national level including Javed Hashmi, Jehangir Badar, Sheikh Rasheed and Saad Rafique arose from these unions. But till when they have been banned, there has been an obvious gap in leadership at national level.
Unions were banned in 1989 by then dictator Zia ul Haq to suppress the student power. Since start, this has been the problem with dictators. They themselves illegally occupy the government and then ban all political activities. Zia also proved much dangerous for democracy and student unions.
Union is the name of strength. Demands can be got fulfilled by putting before unions. Those were golden times when unions were active among all over the Pakistan. Every year, new leadership came before. But since then they have been banned, we can see no new leadership.
Since start, we have been slaves of Zardaris, Chaudhris, Makhdooms, Qureshis and Sharifs. It is tragedy of our political system that we can see no new leadership. Son becomes the chairman of party after father. Like in case of Bhutto, Benazir became the chairperson of party and then Bilawal. Same in case of Sharif’s, after Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz is leading the party. Those were the times when new leadership came before after being scrutinized through student body election.
Banning student unions has not only suppressed the voice of students but it has also locked their minds. It is a tragedy that many of us feel proud to click a photo with our MNA or MPA but we have never dared to ask,
“Chaudhry Saab, why only you in parliament? Why not we? Before you, your father or uncle was in parliament and now you are there. After you, your son or nephew will be there? Why not there the son of a cobbler or a farmer”.
Have we ever dared to ask this from any of our ‘elected’ member of assembly? No?
These were the unions who gave students the strength to stand before feudal lords. These were the unions which brought leaders from middle class families to national level. These were the unions which taught student whom to vote for.
We can often see written inside a barber’s shop or grocery store “Yaha siasi behas mana ha” and many of people proudly say that they are not interested in politics. I wonder how anybody can afford to be not interested in politics. If you are not interested, you do not know what the ruling party is doing and what opposition is doing. And if someone does not know the performance of a political party, he then only sells his votes for just a single plate of Biryani. These were the unions which gave sense to students whom to vote for and whom not for.
Although, there have been many demerits of student unions. There were many flaws due to which they were banned. These unions at that time are said to be mostly involved in disturbing peace of universities and playing in the arms of political parties. Political parties’ leaders used them for their own purposes. But it never meant that the unions might be banned. Although, some flaws were present, this meant that flaws were needed to be finished but not the student unions.
Recently, in near past many incidents have occurred where teachers have sexually harassed female students. The scoundrel named Salah ud din who does not even deserve to be called a teacher was HOD at Gomal University who had harassed many female students and even teachers too. Few days back, students protesting against physical exams were brutally tortured by Punjab Police goons on directions of state. Who is responsible for all this?
It is need of the time to be the voice of students. It is need of the time to raise awareness for casting vote in favour of right one. It is need of the hour to restore student unions.
M Sharif Rana is a student of Law at University Law College,University of the Punjab. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.