LAHORE: Dozen of students staged a protest demonstration at Liberty Roundabout on Sunday against the ban on student unions.
The students from various educational institutions had gathered on a call by Democratic Students Alliance. They raised many slogans, including Sada haq ithay rakh, Zulm ke yeh zabtay hum nahee mantay, Hai haq hamara azadi, Hum lay ke rahain gay azadi, and Bahal karo bahal karo tulaba union bahal karo.
Some of them danced to a drum beat. A few passers-by joined them briefly to express solidarity with them.
Ramis Sohail, a law student from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), said students had played an important role in the country’s political history. “They have a tradition of struggle for people’s rights and for democracy. They have been on the forefront against all dictators,” Sohail said.
He said it was unfortunate that students unions were associated with hooliganism. He said a dictator had deprived students of their democratic right to form unions. “Student unions are the only forum where students can raise voice for their rights in an effective manner. Instead of giving false justifications for banning student unions, they [authorities] should regulate them.”
Sohail disputed the claim that student unions promoted violence on campuses. Zahid Ali from the Government College University (GCU) said student unions were the only forum for them to highlight their problems. He said lifting the ban would help empower the youth.
“All political parties promise youth empowerment but they do nothing practical for them. Unions help enhance political awareness among students,” he said. Umer Farooq from the LUMS said that student unions could be vital in dealing with issues like arbitrary raises in school fees, harassment and missing facilities at educational institutions.
Mashriq, a political science student at the GCU said problems caused by arbitrary fee hikes and poor education could not be compared to those resulting from clashes between students groups. Yasmin, a Progressive Youth Alliance member, said the organisation supported the students’ call for lifting the ban on students unions. She said forming unions was a democratic right.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2015.