Engaging the youth and students is what the government must do instead of muzzling their opinions and registering first information reports (FIR), tweeted Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday.
Speaking on the aftermath of the Student Solidarity March held across the country on Nov 29, he stated: "The nation’s future hinges on the youth. Their voices must be respected and demands heeded".
The tweet comes two days after Punjab police arrested Alamgir Wazir, former chairman of the Pukhtun Council and registered cases against the organisers and participants of the recently held Student Solidarity March on sedition charges.
Students and activists held demonstrations across the country last week, calling upon the government to restore unions in colleges and universities. The marchers' demands also included measures to prevent harassment of students, withdrawal of fee hikes and an end to interference by security forces posted in campuses.
Student unions in colleges and universities had been banned across the country through a martial law order by military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq on Feb 9, 1984. The reason cited for imposing the ban was violence on university campuses allegedly perpetrated by student wings of political parties.
In 1988, then prime minister Benazir Bhutto lifted the ban and elections were held in colleges and universities in 1989, but for the last time so far.
On Monday, Senate Committee on Human Rights Chairman Mustafa Nawaz Khokar also took notice of the situation and directed the Punjab police to submit a report in this regard by December 6.
“Registering a case on a peaceful march goes against fundamental human rights,” he maintained. “The police and the administration cannot be allowed to silence the voices of the people,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had hinted on Sunday that his government might lift the 35-year-old ban on student unions after devising a comprehensive code of conduct for grooming the youth as the leaders of the future.
“We will establish a comprehensive and enforceable code of conduct, learning from the best practices in internationally renowned universities, so that we can restore and enable student unions to play their part in positively grooming our youth as future leaders of the country,” he tweeted.
However, the prime minister regretted that unions in the country had forgotten their responsibilities, went off-track and turned campuses of educational institutions into battlefields.
“Universities groom future leaders of the country and student unions form an integral part of this grooming. Unfortunately, in Pakistan student unions became violent battlegrounds, destroying the intellectual atmosphere on campuses,” he added.