Ahmad Furqan Khalil is a Ph.D. Scholar, student activist and the member of the central executive committee of Islami Jamiat Talba Pakistan. He has keen interest in political affairs and international relations. He was asked several questions about the myths attached with the elections of students' union in Pakistan. This interview was conducted in Lahore
Myth#1 Student union is banned:
Students union was banned by Dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq in 1984 through Martial law order 1371, 225, 362 and 363 in different provinces. Benazir Bhutto announced to lift the ban on #Student Union in 1988. later, provincial assemblies announced to lift the ban from student union by repealing the martial law orders.
Official student union elections were held in 1989 across the country except for sindh. In 1993, a bench of the Supreme Court, headed by chief justice Afzal Zullah, allowed the legitimate student union activities. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani announced to lift the ban on the student union in 2008.
Myth#2: Taking part in student union activities is illegal:
According to constitution of Pakistan, “Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, public order or morality”.(Part 2, chap 1, Article 17 (a) )
According to this constitutional provision, every person has right to form association irrespective of his colour, creed, profession, gender, and religion
Myth#3 Student unions are a Pakistani concept:
The platform of Student union exists all over the world with different Models depending on the overall culture of country extending from Oxford university London to Stanford university California, and from Mc Gill university Canada to JNU India. Student unions and organizations do exist and students are actively taking part in it.
Moreover, the elected cabinet is given all the facilities necessary to serve students community and hold extracurricular activities at the campus to polish leadership skills. The question arises: if elections could be held in Punjab university Chandigarh, then why not in Punjab university Lahore?
Myth#4 Students unions are the cause of violence at campuses:
According to statistics, Total death casualties happened at educational institutions from 1947 to 1984 was 13. During the period between 1985 and 2017, causalities have mounted up to 149. It proves that student union decreases the chance of scuffles between student groups. Students union is mandatory to curb violence because students can do electoral accountability of elected representatives.
Myth#5 Student union promotes only right-wing politics:
It is true that Right wing, Islamist student organizations (I-e Islami Jamiat talba) dominated the students' unions in Pakistan but still, Leftists, Secular students' organizations like DSF, NSF, PSF were much relevant at campuses. Right-wing students' organizations enjoy monopoly due to the absence of elections, and strong organizational structure at the campus. This fact proves that student unions will increase the opportunity for all segments of society to present their #Point Of View in front of students
Many questions come in mind while discussing revival of students' unions that include how to ensure peaceful environment at campuses? How to deal with the influence of political parties and money? In this regard, it is suggested that government should take all the stakeholders under confidence and an effort should be made to study different student union models practiced in other countries.
The final draft must be formulated by taking opinions of all segments of society. Per my point of view, Pakistan needs grass-root level leadership and it's only possible by holding the elections of students' unions.