Recently, the Sindhi Students enrolled at the University of Karachi were subjected to a violent assault by Islami Jamiat-i-Tulaba(IJT) hooligans. Regrettably, this was not first time as the same vulgar practice of rioting at the campuses has been distressingly repeated by the same group.
It can be any occasion including cultural festivities such as Holi, Musical concert or even open discussions aimed to open up the space for interfaith harmony and facilitating dialogue among students of diverse background, the fundamentalist mentality of IJTs turn everything into a violent melee.
Consequently, the education is no longer secure and friendly. Unsurprisingly, from the clerk to the bureaucrats and Vice-Chancellors, they all exploit and manipulate students - specifically those affiliated with IJT - by providing funding and inciting them, all for their own personal gains and interests.
Is it legally permissible to ban Student Unions while simultaneously offering and providing financial aid to endorse JIT extremists? Instead of taking action against them, does it not amount to breach of fundamental human ights to label students as traitors and file so-called FIRS and subject them to threats for solely opening up their mouths to demand the revival of student unions under Article 16 and 17 of Constitution of Pakistan?
Governments tend to favor the conservative blocs over progressives ones, as the former have historically opposed dictatorships. Ultimately, the inception of IJT was aimed at not only taking over the increasing influence of ideological progressive groups of students particularly left-wing Democratic Student Federation (DSF) and National Student Federation (NSF) but also doing propaganda against Progressives as anti-Islam and nationals as anti-Pakistan. The same is consistently practiced in present-day Pakistan.
Campuses packed with extremist elements who are involved in conducting acts of violence with no fear of the state shows that the IJT is given the task of terrorising students on campus and is state-funded. IJT extremists and their thunder squads have not only disrupted the peaceful education but have also propagated animosity by promoting a chauvinistic interpretation of Islam.
The transgressions, breaches of laws, infringements on human rights, and the entire wrongdoings and unlawful acts within IJT are concealed beneath the façade of the term "Islami" in its title. This manipulation somehow portrays the IJT as pious and linked to religion, particularly for a significant portion of our more traditional population which is staunch believer of Islam, consequently IJT exploits their faiths and takes advantage of it.
The IJT, a by-product of Zia’s military dictatorship, is the manifestation of fundamentalism and religious fascism. The hooligans of IJT, its thunder squads or self-declared vanguards of Islam and education resurface within educational institutions to impose their ridiculous code of conduct with the ridiculous ‘mission to cleanse educational institutions of immoral activities’.
It is said that under the light of increasing violence at the campuses the dictator Zia banned student unions. The ban remains in effect apparently due to the same but false justification. In reality, Zia’s oppressive military rule actively facilitated such turbulent activities, provided weaponry in the campuses and even encouraged students to engage in violence.
However, the ban on student unions wasn’t inflicted due to violence. Rather, it was the vigorous resistance posed by progressive students against his brutal regime that compelled him to manipulate the true rationale into fabricated narrative of so-called increasing campus violence. The same fear tends to be in the heads of successive governments, which are unlawfully continuing the Student Union ban resulting in violation of Article 16 and 17 of Constitution since three decades, as governments do not choose to lift the ban despite the legal provisions. Violence is not product of Student union; rather peace, inclusivity and interfaith harmony are its outcomes.
Sometimes, it feels like Zia-ul-Haq is not dead; he is alive as long as student unions are banned and he will be living as long as a student representative does not sit in syndicate meetings. He is living in the bans on student unions, with his biased and misogynic curriculum targeting minorities. He laughs whenever someone is brutally killed on mere accusations of blasphemy. He has been holding the reigns of law and judiciary till now in Hudood laws. Isn’t the prevailing democratic system resembling completely with Zia’s Martial Law?
Fundamental Rights are nothing but the horses of elitists and conservatives. Under the factions of state these rights are often manipulated, and handled as per convenience. Unfortunately, this is why no court or Judge takes any Suo motu for such blatant violation of fundamental Human Rights particularly Article 16, 17 and 19 of Constitution of Pakistan. Why are the higher courts refraining from initiating suo motu actions against violations of fundamental rights provided in Article 16 as well as 17 of the constitution? It is disappointing to witness that higher courts appear to be implicitly conveying lack of importance regarding Article 16, 17 and 19 or maybe they are ordered not to take any notice of it. Be it clear that expressing, demanding and advocating for unionisation is within the ambit of legal boundaries of right to free speech (Article 19).
Similarly establishing and belonging to a student union is the constitutional right of all students falling under rights of freedom of assembly (Article 16 of Pakistan Constitution) and freedom of association (Article 17 of Pakistan Constitution). Therefore, students are legally entitled to the Student unions. However, the question is: Will the task of terrorizing campuses, simultaneously depleting political engagement and potentially radicalise the students, be allowed to continue? Or will students be granted their constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights specifically the rights of Freedom of Assembly and Association? Like “Justice delayed is justice denied”, the same principle is applicable as “A right delayed is right denied”
The State is responsible to the safety and security of every individual, regardless of circumstances. Even, the safety of the person shall be the highest law. Instead of banning student unions, a ban on the IJT ought to be considered and other likely groups to put an end to their attacks on any other students.
Meanwhile the ultimate solution is the restoration of student unions priory and promptly because Student Union remains neutral that transcends various groups. Those who hold the mandate could become the representative through student union, thereby fostering reciprocity and inclusivity amidst diversity.