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Karachi University & youth politics (APMSO)

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Karachi University & youth politics (APMSO)
« on: May 05, 2008, 05:20:33 PM »
Karachi University & youth politics

Karachi University has been the hub of student political activity for many decades. "Student politics were born with the formation of Islami Jamiat-e-Talba (IJT) and the Democratic Students' Federation (DSF) in 1948."[12] Since then, numerous student political groups have emerged throughout the country representing different races, ethnicities, cultures, and ideologies.

"In the first few decades of Pakistan's existence, student politics was a symbol of the students' socio-political awareness."[13] But change was quick and drastic, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. "Karachi University, like its host city, has always been a melting pot for students from all over the country. Its grounds have seen the spirited expression of various socio-political schools of thought, the gradual desensitisation of students after the military takeover of 1979 as well as the violent military crackdown on the APMSO-PSF conflict in 1993 that was followed by the indefinite deployment of Rangers on campus."[14] In April 1984 General Zia Ul-Haq imposed a ban on all student organizations throughout the country, which prohibited the "formation and continuance" of student unions and stipulated a punishment of violators of the regulation by rigorous imprisonment up to five years, by a fine, or by both.[15]

Although political parties still exist on campus, authorities deny their presence. Because of the constant rise in violence, the number of student political activists has dropped tremendously. Today parents "fearfully raise their children to mind their own business, study to build careers, not ideologies and lead safe, peaceful lives in sheltered cocoons. While student attendance may be full at academic, entertainment, or sports events organized by these parties, for any other events, students hesitate.

Despite constant condemnation by university administration, media and even the general student body, these parties maintain that they still have a role to play in society. Some students attribute this intolerance to the intolerance of university authorities for students' expressions against injustice. Nabeel Husain, Incharge of APMSO's KU wing, adds to the case for political restoration of students, "We propose the restoration of a student union that has equal participation from all students. What we want is a students' parliament accommodating all the students in a peaceful, free environment."[16]

    A flashback It's November 5th, 2003. The first graduating batch of the newly formed Visual Arts Department of the Karachi University is holding its first grand exhibition of the students' final theses in the STC Hall. The exhibition is in process when all hell breaks lose. A group of Islami Jamiat Talba members have gathered outside to protest against the exhibition, which they termed to be out of line with the university's code of religious ethics. They fall into heated argument with the administrative staff and around ten activists attack the hall, smashing the items on display. The items mainly include computers, television sets and speakers that the students have used to set up their presentations. The IJT members leave terrified young men and women in their wake; many of them crying as they look at their year's worth of work shattered into pieces. The bitter taste of what happened almost two years ago lingers in memory. Students whose theses were destroyed incurred nearly a quarter of a million rupees in losses. Their losses were never compensated for by the administration. No action was taken; no complaints were carried through. One student whose presentation was destroyed recalls bitterly, "I was beaten to the bone, threatened and harassed, and saw the fruit of my labour get smashed into pieces in front of my eyes. Nothing happened. I was never compensated and the authorities conveniently advised me to withdraw the charges for my own safety. That's when I realized trying to get anyone punished was a lost cause." There is, however, another version to the story. Syed Tausif, Nazim, IJT, KU recalls the incident as follows. "The Visual Arts incident was a classic case of mishandling a situation by the administration. The protests had been planned to be peaceful. We had filed a number of applications against the exhibition with the administration as we thought it had elements that hurt the general student public's religious sensitivities. But when protesting students gathered to hold a peaceful demonstration, Rangers intervened to force them to disperse. This angered some of the activists and the violence occurred as a reaction, not an act of aggression as it has been portrayed in the media". Tausif further adds, "Yes, we do regret what happened that day, and we do feel bad for the students whose hard work was destroyed. But we genuinely believe that the administration was responsible for what happened and hence, it should have compensated them for their loss".

    A young teacher narrated a disturbing incident from the previous semester. The teacher was in the midst of wrapping up her classes before the final exam when a few students approached her, claiming to be from the APMSO. The boys demanded that their friend, a student in her class who had attended barely classes all through the semester be granted the minimum attendance required to sit in the exam. They said that their friend was unable to come to class due to death threats from a rival party. The teacher refused to comply and reported the incident to the chairman of her department, who told her not to grant the false attendance.

    The day the final exams began and one day before her own exam, 6 to 7 young men barged into the examination room, disrupting the exam and asking for her. They couldn't place her though, and left. The teacher had to eventually let the student take the exam to prevent any violent repercussions. She didn't, however, grade the student's exam as a result of which his result was withheld. Though she's amazed that despite warnings from all her fellow teachers that she would be threatened and harassed, the party workers chose to eventually leave her alone, but maintains that this doesn't always happen. She says that in the past, the administration has often cowered down and teachers have been harassed on similar pretexts, especially male teachers. She reluctantly concedes that her being a woman might have saved her from worse consequences.

    According to the APMSO's KU Organizer Nabeel Husain, the alleged party workers had in fact nothing to do with APMSO, and that there have been numerous cases of students belonging to certain ethnic groups using the APMSO name to get out of attending classes. He insisted that his party strongly condemns students' missing classes for any reason. However, Nabeel does agree that security threats are indeed an issue and that the party has in the past requested the administration to provide security to some workers threatened by rival parties persisting to destroy the peace of the university.[17