Concentrate on studies

Daily: Pakistan Observer
Date: 08.04.08

As the President General retired Pervaiz Musharraf sowed seeds of destruction of his
unbridled power on March 9, 2007, by unceremoniously ousting the Chief Justice, Iftikhar
Hussain Chaudhry, the newly elected Prime Minister, Yosuf Raza Gillani, has sowed seeds
of destruction of society by lifting the ban on the political activities of the students. One
cannot ignore the piece of advice that Musharraf has given to the students of the country
(immediately after the speech of Gillani at the floor of House) that the students should
concentrate on their studies. No one is ready now to lend an ear to the prudent advice of
Musharraf irrespective of the fact that his advice is worth heeding.

During the era of the late General Zia ul Haq, Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) was patronized by
the military regime across the country. It could be due to the role the IJT played in the anti-
Bhutto rallies: the IJT was in the forefront to receive police thrashing and ready to lay down
lives of its members in the name of anti-socialism drive. The Zia era offered an upper hand
to the IJT in the education institutes to re-invigorate Islam. Afterwards, Peoples Student
Federation (PSF) emerged as a counter-veiling force under the patronage of the then
Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Along with that sprung up the activities of Muslim Student
Federation (MSF) backed by Nawaz Sharf (and Mian Azhar in Punjab). Thereafter, there
started a spate of strife among these main student political parties to win elections by
persuasion or by coercion to get hold of the education institutes. Consequently, there
occurred strikes; vehicles were set on flame; roads were blocked; and happened what not –
in the name of religion, liberalism, democracy, or students’ rights. Sessions in both Medical
Colleges and Engineering Universities delayed devouring the precious time of the apolitical
students who happened to be in majority. The student hostels were occupied by the
activists of one party or another. Even the help of the outsiders to the institutes would seek
to enjoy monopoly. Teachers were insulted at the campuses. The situation in the degree
colleges and institutes of polytechnic turned even worse – better not mention. Hardly could
any university in Pakistan be found where murder of students had not happened and where
sessions were not late. Such was the pathetic state of affairs.

As if this were not enough, the student leaders and activist were found engaged in drugs
peddling and crime proliferation. Under the hide of student politics, a multitude of murderers
and offenders sought pardon from the courts. Most of the mafias and land squatters in
Punjab generally and in Lahore especially were the former student leaders and activists. In
short, no city of the country was spared from the adverse effects of the student politics.

Nawaz used to back Riaz Fatyana, a politician, to promote the MSF in the education
institutes of Punjab. Not only money used to be disbursed among the followers but the
followers were also given support for their acts against the administration. Similarly, other
political parties used to ‘create’ their followers in the education institutes. Nevertheless,
during the second tenure of Nawaz, the nefarious activities of the students – who had been
turned into hardened criminals – were taken notice of. Under Shahbaz Sharif in Punjab,
either police eliminated the former student leaders from the scene through the fake police
encounters or these student leaders killed one another in the streets of Lahore.

One can argue that the student politics introduced renowned politicians of today like Javed
Hashmi, Sheikh Rashid, Liaqat Baloch, Hafiz Salman Butt, Saad Rafeeq, Dr Farooq Sattar
and others but one should not overlook the fact that, in due process of their becoming
leaders, scores of students surrendered their lives and careers thereby depriving the
country of its talent and fresh minds.

It might have been on the agenda of the political parties to lift ban on the student politics
once they would be in power but it seems that the reason for doing so is a little bit different.
The past eight years have taught the political parties a lesson that no military adventure
into their arena can be blocked if they do not have ground forces in the shape of student
and labour supporters. The return of the PPP and PML-N became possible through the anti-
Musharraf movement launched by the lawyers. It is obvious that in future these political
parties require their followers in the streets to agitate with them and on their behalf against
any military dictator. In short, the political parties require surrogate for the lawyers.

In past, rules and regulations used to be there refraining a student body from becoming a
subsidiary to any national political party but rarely were these followed in letter and sprit. In
fact, it was and is impossible to follow any such law. Further, if past disseminates lessons to
learn, in presence of the student politics the quality of education is bound to compromise.
So the point is what the Pakistanis as a nation require of the education institutes to deliver:
to produce student leaders to run the country or professionals to run the society. Had the
relationship between the student politics and production of national leaders been direct and
fair, the lifting of ban on the student politics would have been a good omen. But where the
criminals and offenders are the by-products of that relationship and where the quality of
education is bound to descend, lifting of such ban is meant to devastate the society. Heed
should be paid to the advice of Musharraf: students should concentrate on their studies.

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