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ISLAMABAD: People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari asked the PPP governments in Sindh and Azad Jammu & Kashmir on Friday to lift the decades-old ban on student unions in academic institutions.

According to PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Mr Bilawal asked the two governments to make the required legislation and rules in this regard.

The PPP chairman’s direction came during a meeting with a delegation of Peoples Students Federation (PSF) from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which called on him at the Zardari House.

The PPP spokesman quo­ted Bilawal Bhutto as saying: “The three-decade-old ban on student unions is part of the disastrous legacy of military dictator Zia that must be banished, the sooner the better.”

Mr Bilawal said that lifting of ban would allow students to participate in healthy democratic activities and play their role in national politics in future.

He said he was happy that the Senate had recently taken up the issue. “While it is commendable that the Senate is deliberating on it, I urge the PPP governments in Sindh and AJK to take appropriate measures urgently to lift the ban on student unions.”

Mr Bilawal said that lifting of ban on student unions would promote democratic culture and an environment of discussion, debate and tolerance in the country. “Those who argue that student unions would promote violence are betraying a mindset that distrusts the youth. Democratic traditions in the country will stand to gain if discussion and debate as part of the democratic culture is also promoted in the academic institutions.”

Earlier, addressing various wings of the party’s KP chapter, Bilawal Bhutto said the PPP was an ideological party. Its workers will have to dispel the fears that the PPP was deviating from its ideological moorings. “Let me make it clear that the party’s ideology will be a force to motivate and inspire party workers, students, peasants, labourers, teachers and the general public,” he said.

“Losing or wining an election does not matter as much as adherence to ideological principles does. It was our ideology that enabled us to fight the military dictatorship of Zia and Musharraf and a civilian dictatorship wanting to become ‘Ameerul Momineen’. We must struggle for our cause and for our principles and we will,” he said.

At a press briefing later, senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said that Bilawal Bhutto had completely taken over the command of the party and would start its reorganisation from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said the chairman had decided to hold a series of party conventions, starting from Punjab.

Bilawal Bhutto announced on Aug 12 last year that he would now lead the party.

According to a source, although Bilawal Bhutto is unhappy with some of the decisions of his father, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, he is still helpless in taking important decisions.

According to media reports, there is a strong demand within the party that PPP’s Punjab president Mian Manzoor Watto must be replaced because he is held responsible for the party’s poor performance in the province in the 2013 general elections.

However, there is a strong perception in the party that Bilawal Bhutto alone will not be able to take such a major decision and will act upon the advice of his father.

In a recent statement issued from London, Mr Zardari said that he would never consider Mr Watto an ‘outsider’ or non-Jiyala because outsiders had presence in every political party.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2016