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Unregulated student unions can lead to campus bloodshed

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Unregulated student unions can lead to campus bloodshed
« on: April 28, 2008, 08:41:11 PM »
Unregulated student unions can lead to campus bloodshed

* Professors and student leaders say code of conduct essential to reining in unions

By Shahnawaz Khan

LAHORE: The new government’s decision to lift the ban on student unions was hailed as a victory for democracy. However, there were many quarters – especially those involved with education – that were not too keen on the move.
These quarters were of the opinion that the ban’s lifting would result in violence on campuses and on the streets if it were not followed up with proper legislation. They also opined that it would be difficult to stop political parties from getting involved with the student unions. They said that it was in the interest of these parties to merge with students even though such a move was not in the best interest of students and education.
It was not too long before their fears were realised. Since the lifting of the ban, two fights between student groups have been reported from Punjab University.
Also, the return of unions means the return of student leaders. Student union leaders in Pakistan are synonymous with violence and criminal activities.
In this regard, the police have been ordered to update their records of former and current student union leaders to keep an eye on them.
On Sunday, the Crime Investigation Agency arrested Mehboob Ahmed Khan, who was the right hand man of notorious student leader Atif Chaudhry. Mehboob had been declared a proclaimed offender after he murdered Nadir Khan alias Nado Khan – another criminal – over a gambling dispute. He was also wanted for attempted murder.
Even though Mehboob was not a union member, he was a close associate of Atif Chaudhry.
Professors: Prof Mujahid Mansoori, Students Task Force (STF) secretary, said, “Lifting the ban on student unions without proper legislation and a code of conduct and their implementation will harm universities and students. Looking at the track record of such unions, one cannot be hopeful.”
He said the task force had prepared a list of 70 students who were sure to make trouble for the unions. “This list will be provided to the police,” he added.
He said that another issue the task force feared was the involvement of political parties in student unions. “Parties in Pakistan are weak and they use campuses to project their strength. With their involvement, unions are surely to get politicised and go on the wrong track.”
He said that the STF had prepared several proposals and had sent them to vice chancellors in Punjab, to the heads of political parties and to the heads of various student unions.
Muttahida Talaba Mahaz (MTM) and People’s Students Federation (PSF): Raheel Shah, MTM and PSF president, confirmed the fear, saying, “Without a government-sponsored code of conduct, these student unions will lose all control.”
He said that he foresaw bloodshed and chaos on campuses if a code of conduct were not implemented. “Students will be killed during elections, during admissions, during campaigning and during examinations. Several fights have broken out on campuses between the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), PSF, Muslim Students Federation (MSF) and Anjuman-e-Talaba-e-Islam (ATI) in Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur.
MSF: Sheikh Shahid, MAO College MSF president, said that rogue groups had tarnished the image of student unions. “People who were thrown out of unions formed their own groups and indulged in illegal activities. Student leaders have been involved in criminal activities, but not all of them. Even I agree that without a code of conduct these unions will create problems for universities.”
He also agreed with the fact that political parties led student unions astray. “Union members fight with others over political agendas, which leads to them becoming criminals.”
ISO: Mumtaz, Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) spokesman, said, “The ISO never involved itself in criminal or political activities. The ISO also welcomes the code of conduct because this is the only way violence can be ended on campuses.”
IJT: Daily Times tried to contact Nazim Rana Zahid, but he was not available for comment.
Daily Times