LAHORE: Hundreds of students on Friday marched from Nasser Bagh to the Punjab Assembly, demanding revival of student unions in all educational institutions of the country.
The march organised by the Progressive Students Collective (PSC) started from Nasser Bagh around 12pm and concluded at the Charing Cross outside the Punjab Assembly at 4pm.
Male and female students from different educational institutes of the city, participating in the march, were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans demanding revival of student unions, end to harassment of girl students on campuses, formation of the anti-harassment committees, student’s representations in the committees and decision-making bodies of the campuses, the recovery of abducted students and the provision of clean water and other facilities on campuses.
The PSC has been organising the ‘Student Solidarity March’ in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Jamshoro, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Gilgit and Kashmir for many years with these demands.PSC general secretary Haris Azad highlighted the challenges students face, including rising fees, forced disappearances, and harassment.
He said inflation has exacerbated the crisis, making it difficult for students not only to pay fees, but also to afford the basic necessities like food.
Azad criticised the government for not taking concrete measures to address these issues, stating that students must unite through their unions to effectively fight for their rights.
PSC’s Rehana Wazir said Pakistan is currently facing a crisis on all fronts, and the main reason for it is the limited access of a large number of students to university education due to its high cost.
She demanded free education for all to ensure equal opportunities for progress regardless of their socio-economic background.
Ms Wazir also highlighted the issue of harassment in universities, urging the formation of anti-harassment committees with fair representation, especially for female students.
PSC spokesperson Ali Abdullah Khan expressed solidarity with Palestine, calling for state support and cooperation with Palestinians. He said the struggle in Palestine is not limited to its people, but is a universal anti-imperialist struggle.
PSC vice president Hammad Malik spoke on the issue of killings by the Taliban in Pashtun regions, warning the state against playing a negative role in this regard. He thanked everyone who participated in the march.
A female student of the Punjab University said they were marching to demand revival of the student unions to give representation to students in the policy-making bodies of the campuses.
She said the female students were facing harassment on the campuses and should be given representation in anti-harassment committees.
She demanded that the female students, who were treated like prisoners in their hostels, should have the freedom to enter or leave the hostel any time and the timing schedule should be removed. She said a male student can sit in the library all night, but a female student has to leave the library at 6pm and is not allowed to continue her study their, which was unjust.
She alleged that some policemen and security guards on the campuses were involved in harassment of female students and recording their videos.
A Baloch student said the state should play its role to educate the people from Balochistan and also provide them security. He said that Baloch students were being picked up from campuses and put in jails for several months. He alleged the state institutions were involved in forced disappearances of Baloch students. “We did not have higher education institutes in Balochistan and those who reach the universities in Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan and Faisalabad were taken away,” he said, demanding such illegal activities should be stopped.
Another student alleged that the female students were facing harassment by teachers and administration and their videos were being leaked from the campuses.
She deplored that the anti-harassment committees were not working properly on the campuses and mostly male administrators were made their heads, alleging some them themselves harass the girl students. She said many girl students did not file complaints to these so-called anti-harassment committees for the fear of being harassed again by the committee members.
Some of the participants slammed the mainstream political parties for creating hegemony and not giving chances to young leaders.
They said the mainstream political parties failed to bring any change in the country and were following a system which could not bring any betterment.
They said banning of the student unions was tantamount to closing “political nursery”, alleging that all the mainstream political parties were responsible for it because their leaders wanted to make their own children leaders of their parties.
They said that the younger generation was now waking up and would change this system and bring prosperity in the country.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2023