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Campus politics

The Punjab University has a history of clashes among various students groups that have existed on the campus. It only got ugly recently

Campus politics
Student unions should be restored “because they have a great role to play for the benefit of the academic institutions.” — Photos by Rahat Dar

Last Friday, the Punjab University (PU) became an unfortunate pandemonium. As the students were taking classes, a few could also be seen in the corridors of different academic blocks, hostel number 1 saw a violent clash between members of Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) and the security. This left at least 10 guards, some students and a couple of police officials badly injured.

This wasn’t the first time the IJT had locked horns with the university administration. The PU has a history of clashes among various students groups that have existed on the campus, and also between the student bodies and the administration.

According to Dr Mahboob Hussain, Secretary General, Academic Staff Association (ASA), Punjab University, “The IJT wants to create its own parallel administrative system in the varsity. It wants complete control over the canteens and parking stands at the PU.”

He alleges that the IJT has complete control over Government Science College, Wahdat Road, and Government Islamia College, Civil Lines. “It [the IJT] routinely interferes in the admission process there, but at PU we don’t let them have their way. We believe in open merit, and so anyone can apply and get admission in the varsity.”

Although the PU is known to violent clashes, this time around it had happened for a very different reason. As the story goes, the IJT was holding a seminar at hostel No.1 on the Fall of Dhaka. The university administration tried to stop the activity, saying that no prior permission had been got for the seminar. The IJT, on the other hand, was insistent that the required procedure had been duly followed. When the guards used force, the IJT members reacted strongly. The whole scene turned so ugly that police had to be called in.

Dr Hussain says the administration has expelled hundreds of members of the IJT, because student unions are banned. “The IJT is functioning illegally here; it also tries to bring in the outsiders.

“The IJT and non-student elements are harming peace at the campus, taking advantage of the non-appointment of a regular Vice Chancellor (VC). The government must appoint a VC as soon as possible,” he says.

The PU has a history of clashes among various students groups that have existed on the campus, and also between the student bodies and the administration.

The Secretary General ASA further says that the police do not arrest the miscreants, “Perhaps, they enjoy supporting the powerful.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Taimoor Khan, spokesperson, IJT, rejects the allegations levelled by Dr Mahboob Hussain. He also rubbishes the rumour that a hardcore terrorist belonging to the ISIS was arrested by the security agencies from the room of the hostel allotted to the head of the IJT.

“The terrorist doesn’t belong to us,” he tells TNS. “He was staying with a companion.”

“The IJT is functioning illegally here; it also tries to bring in the outsiders.”

“The IJT is functioning illegally here; it also tries to bring in the outsiders.”

Two months ago, the IJT and Baloch students came to blows at the PU. Justifying the clash, Khan says, “The Baloch students were chanting slogans against Pakistan. We demanded of the administration to expel them. When it didn’t happen, we jumped in.

“We shall not tolerate any anti-Pakistan activity!” he announces.

He exhorts the PU administration to build new hotels and extend the rooms to accommodate the ever increasing strength of the students. He also calls for the restoration of student unions “because they have a great role to play for the benefit of the academic institutions.”

Dr Mahboob Hussain counters the argument made by the IJT spokesperson, “Sure they always take the moral stand but behave in an immoral way.”

He further says that the IJT activists “harass teachers. They also use abusive language against the female faculty members. This is highly condemnable.

“In the past, the IJT enjoyed control over canteen and parking stands. They would arrange book fairs at the university and collect money from the stall owners. They also tortured the male students if the latter were spotted with their female class fellows.”

Jawwad Ahmad, Chairperson, International Youth Workers Movement (IYWM), says, “Student unions can be tamed and stopped from carrying out criminal activities if the state does not back them.

“There should be a complete ban on arms at the campuses. Besides, a proper code of conduct for unions and the student wings of different political parties should be enforced. The students who are not performing well in their studies should be barred from running for the union posts.”

Sher Ali Khalti

sher ali khalti
The author works for The News. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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