PESHAWAR: Speakers at a consultation here on Wednesday termed restoration of student unions in educational institutions important for politicisation of the society.

They said that growing de-politicisation of the society needed to be checked by the civil society institutions including NGOs, academia, media and lawyers, etc. Freedom of expression was basic right of every individual and it was vital for the growth and development of society, they added.

The consultation on ‘De-politicisation of society and freedom of expression’ was organised by Aurat Foundation in collaboration with Peshawar University Teachers Association (Puta). It was attended by teachers and students of the university in a large number.

The participants regretted that across the world universities were meant for researches and dialogues, but few days ago Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government stopped the launching ceremony of a book “I am Malala” at Area Study Centre (ASC) which amounted to putting restrictions on the freedom of expression.

They said that the provincial government increased interference in the affairs of the university and planned to transfer a huge chunk of land meant for botanical gardens at Azakhel to a private university of Islamabad for setting up its campus there.The director of Area Study Centre, Dr Sarfaraz Khan, said that there should be freedom of expression and it should not be restricted on the grounds of culture, religion and ethnicity, etc. “But this right should not be exercised for creating hatred,” he added.

He said that the society could be multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multi-class and multi-religious but nobody should be discriminated on those grounds and the principle of equity should be upheld.

Dr Sarfaraz said that in democracy politicisation of society was important so that people could make wise decisions while choosing their representatives. He added that a democratically elected students union would be much better option with the administrations in universities to address students’ issues.

A Pakhtun nationalist leader Dr Said Alam Mehsud said that he believed that politics was the most superior kind of human service and it was important for changing fate of the nation, evolution and development of the society.

He said that militancy in Pakistan was the outcome of an unholy alliance between military and mullah and the same alliance was involved in defaming political parties and political process in the country to depoliticise the society.

He said that in the general elections level playing field was not provided to the parties as the right wing parties including Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz were given free hand while Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party were targeted so that they could not campaign freely.

Senior journalist Shamim Shahid said that Article 19 of the Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression and opinion. He said that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah made it clear in his historical speech of Aug 11, 1947, that Pakistan would not be a theocratic state and everyone would be equal irrespective of his or her religious beliefs.

However, he said that those sayings of Quaid were not followed. He named several prominent politicians of different political parties, stating that they were the creation of students unions which played role of nursery in politics but Gen Ziaul Haq banned unions in 1983.

A former president of Puta, Jamil Ahmad Chitrali, said that in the name of reforms the provincial government was planning to amend the relevant law so as to change the qualification for a vice-chancellor following which the government could appoint any person of their choice as vice-chancellor.

The resident director of Aurat Foundation, Shabeena Ayaz, said that they were living in a complex society wherein everything was intermingled including culture and religion. She said that tolerance and harmony could be promoted through dialogue but unfortunately dialogue was very rare in universities.

Puta president Dr Fazal Nasir, vice president of Nowshera Bar Association Almzeb Khan and others also shared their views on the occasion.

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