Sindh lifts ban on student unions after 38-year hiatus

New law warns students against indulging ‘in any prejudicial activity in any manner’

File photo of student activists holding a demonstration for the revival of student unions. (PHOTO: ZAFAR ASLAM/EXPRESS)


After 38 years, Sindh became the first province in the country to lift the ban on student unions.

The Sindh Assembly on Friday unanimously passed the Sindh Student Union Bill to revive the student unions so as to promote an environment for social interaction and exchange of ideas and with restriction on violence and gun culture in educational institutions.

The ban was imposed throughout the country in 1984 by the regime of the military dictator General Ziaul Haq.

The importance of the student union can be gauged from a clause of the bill which states that the educational institution shall have at least one nominee of the elected union in its syndicate and senate board with a committee for protection against harassment.

The Sindh Student Union Bill was drafted in 2019 then referred to the standing committee on law and parliamentary affairs for deliberation and after two years of consultation with various stakeholders, the law was passed unanimously as treasury and opposition members supported it.

Also read: Ban on student unions causes 'political drought' in Pakistan

"The student unions and their activities will promote students’ success by offering a variety of programmes, activities, services and facilities that, when taken together, represent a plan for the development of community at university/college level," read objectives of the bill presented by Sindh Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh kumar Chawla.

“The student union will provide an environment for social interaction, education, and exchange of thoughts,” the bill said.

As for limiting the juvenile delinquency that accompany the groups of youth it said, "No person or student shall indulge in any prejudicial activity in any manner whatsoever within the premises of any educational institution or any other place connected with or related to educational institution."

Prejudicial activities are that which interrupt the normal functioning of any institute.

The students unions have existed over all these decades. However, there have been no elections and proper functioning of these student bodies. Rather, the student unions became student wings of political parties and many fought armed battles with rivals leading to gun culture on campus.

The Sindh Student Union Bill says there will be no chance for creating hatred amongst any group, class or students. The law said carrying or keeping firearms, weapons, or explosives within the premises of educational institutions will not be allowed.

According to the law person or student who acts in contravention of the law shall be dealt with in accordance with disciplinary rules or regulations of the respective educational institution.

"The student union activities complement the university or the college's academic programmes and other extracurricular activities in the educational institutions. It will certainly enhance the overall education experiences of students through development of, exposure to, and participation in social, cultural, multicultural, intellectual, recreational, traditional, community service and campus governance progress," the law said, adding that the students however shall be bona fide representative of the students of the respective educational institutions.

The revival of student unions will certainly pave the way for a healthy and conducive environment for social and cultural interaction among the communities, especially the young generation in education and exchange of thoughts. 

"There shall be a student union in every educational institution consisting of bona fide students. It shall consist of seven to eleven members elected by the students of the particular educational institution," the law said.

Each educational institution shall, within two months of this act, formulate regulations and procedure for the conduct of the union.

The educational institution shall every year conduct the elections for the student union and it shall have at least one nominee of the elected student union in its syndicate, senate board with a committee for protection against harassment, which shall be gender balanced and have at least one nominee of the elected student union, reads a clause of the bill.

Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah congratulated the members sitting on treasury and opposition as well as people of Sindh for lifting the ban and said, "Perhaps, I was the last batch at university who saw the activities of student union then it was banned," he said.

PPP MPA Pir Mujeeb who was chairing the standing committee that started the deliberation on the law said that they have consulted the vice chancellors of various public universities including Karachi University, Mehran University Jamshoro, Sindh University, NED and incorporated their versions in it. "It is a comprehensive law for the grooming of students who can become future leaders," he remarked.

Earlier, as the session started with speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, the members belonging to opposition raised the issue of Naukot, Mirpurkhas where the two girls were allegedly raped and demanded of the government to take the action against the culprits involved in it.

The issue of female medical students who are being harassed at hostels was also raised in the house. The health minister Dr Azra Pechuho and minister for women development Shehla Raza briefed the members about the government action and assured them that victims will be provided justice with action against the culprits. Later, the speaker adjourned the session till Monday.


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