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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Thursday called for restoring students union in educational institutes.

Addressing office bearers of the People Students Federation (PSF) here in Islamabad, the PPP chairman said that students formed an essential part of resistance to oppression and dictatorship.

A statement quoted Mr Bhutto-Zardari of having said that “student unions are very important. Students must, in addition to getting a good education, also be aware of the political environment of the country.”

Sources said that the PPP chairman told students that the PSF had a rich history and that students had suffered a lot in Gen Ziaul Haq’s dictatorship. He said the PPP was working to bring democracy and economic justice to the country. “Students are my strength, and together we will change our society”, he said.

The PPP chairman said students were future leaders of the country. Some of them may decide to join politics and lead the nation. He asked students to work for promoting peace and democracy.

PPP leaders Syed Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, Farhatullah Babar, Qamar Zaman Kaira and Chaudhry Manzoor were present on the occasion.

In August last year, the Senate Committee of the Whole under the chairmanship of then chairman Raza Rabbani had recommended revival of student unions in educational institutions and had also adopted a resolution.

The Committee of the Whole is the result of an amendment in the Senate rules that allows the entire membership of the House to sit as a committee on important matters. The committee has the authority to summon any individual, documents or records from any institution or organisation when in session.

In a session of the Committee of the Whole last year, Senator Pervaiz Rasheed said: “It was Zia’s doctrine that dictated a ban on student unions. Gen Zia wanted to target teachers who had independent voices, so he first outlawed student unions to avoid resistance.”

The members of the committee had said that banning student unions was a step to quell dissent against the dictatorship of Zia and his policies. They said unions provided a platform for students to excel in political careers and raise their voices for rights. However, student unions in educational institutes have still not been restored.

Meanwhile, according to a press statement, the president of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Kamalia city — a town in Toba Tek Singh — called on Mr Bhutto-Zardari in Islamabad and announced joining the PPP.

PPP leaders from Mandi Bahauddin Azmatullah Marth, retired Brigadier Izharul Hassan, Arsalan Gondal, National Assembly member Shahida Rehman, Usman Saifullah, Rana Nasim Iqbal, president of PPP Islamabad Iftikhar Shahzada and Salman Rana also held meetings with the PPP chairman.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2018