Student politics: At Karachi University, life is cheap

Hussain asks, what makes students at seats of higher learning so hostile that taking lives has become so frequent?

Noman Ahmed April 03, 2013
Rays of light sift through the bullet-riddled gigantic rusty gate of the dark and dismal gymnasium building even today. It is as if the ‘memory’ is conserved for the petrification of those who witnessed the tragic incident that happened right in the heart of Karachi University (KU) back in 1989.

With a distinctive tone of revulsion in his voice, Talib Hussain, a security guard serving the campus for more than 25 years, points towards a rear iron-gate,
“I’ll never be able to forget the scene. It has stayed with me ever since… walls pitted with holes and spattered with blood. Those three student activists of Peoples Students Federation were made to stand in a line and then sprayed with Kalashnikov bullets by a rival political group right there.”

Karachi University is no stranger to blood-curdling violence, as exemplified by the incident cited above. While we hear conflicting accounts of who fired the first shot when tracing the genesis of campus fighting, this much is for sure that no party with presence at the university goes blameless.

However, what makes the said incident stand out is the fact that it happened after the deployment of Rangers at the campus. Intermittent scenes of bloody violence still blemish the varsity despite their presence. What mystifies one is the noxious nature of rivalry and revenge.

In 2007, for instance, after shooting students on board the university bus, assailants from the rival political group also detonated a grenade while fleeing from the scene.

Like many others, Hussain too wants to know what makes students at seats of higher learning hostile towards one another to the extent that taking lives has become more frequent these days.

Perhaps, the repudiation of the right to have their own unions since early 1980s has turned student politics unaccountable as well as incomprehensible to a majority.

The student unions used to represent the wider democratic culture, which demanded a better face for votes but this “moral binding” has no place at campuses anymore.

In what appears to be a battle for survival and defence of their once legitimate strongholds, students’ political groups do what suits them best.
Noman Ahmed
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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