Academics, students hail bill, some sceptical about implementation

Academia and students have welcomed the Sindh Assembly’s adoption of a bill to revive Student Unions in the province. However, some have reservations about the bill’s implementation because the Sindh government has had a history of passing good laws which were never implemented.

Academic and veteran journalist Prof Dr. Tauseef Ahmed Khan welcomed the passage of the Sindh Students Union Bill 2019 by the provincial Assembly. He added that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had fulfilled its promise for the restoration of Student Unions.

The revival of Unions is necessary for democracy because these Unions bring in future leadership. He lamented that when military dictator General Ziaul Haq banned the Student Unions, it deprived the youths of opportunities to develop leadership skills.

The scope of the law should not only be limited to the state-run Universities and Colleges but it should be extended to the Private Universities as well, Prof Khan said. He, however, added that though the passage of the bill was a good move, the Sindh Government might not pass the relevant bylaws, as it earlier failed to do so in the Journalist Protection Bill and Sindh Information Commission Bill.

The Academia recalled that before the 2018 general elections, Imran Khan had promised that if he came in power, he would restore the student unions but he did not do so. Dr. Riaz Ahmed, who is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Karachi, said that merely passing a bill for the revival of Student Unions was not enough and the Provincial Government should ensure the implementation of the bill in its true sense.

He said that he did not expect that the Student Unions would be restored at Educational Institutes. “I am sure, the revival of Student Unions is almost impossible until the students themselves demonstrate and protest on roads. But the problem is that the students are not organized and they don’t show unity on the issue of restoration of Student Unions.”

Student organizations

The Progressive Student Federation (PrSF) Karachi Chapter President, Waqas Alam Angaria, said the PrSF believed that the bill was passed without consultations of all the stakeholders. It’s nothing but a pressure game, he remarked, adding that the implementation of the bill would be a challenge for the Government.

He said the Sindh Government was not concerned about the well-being of students and it had adopted the bill to go for a positive image. “We have too many concerns about the Sindh Students Union Bill 2019. We will raise those issues with concerned authorities and until the Sindh government addresses the concerns of all the stakeholders, it should not issue an election schedule.”

Commenting on the bill, Pukhtoon Student Federation (PUKSF) Sindh President Rehman Babar said the PUKSF welcomed the bill for the restoration of Student  Unions.

“Initially, we founded the Karachi Students Alliance that comprises 11 left-wing student organizations excluding the People Students Federation and Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba. After forming the alliance, we met lawmakers who promised that a bill would be tabled in the Sindh Assembly within two months but it took around two years. However, it is a good decision”.

Peoples Students Federation (PSF) Karachi President Madni Raza stated that the adoption of the bill was the need of the hour. Since the last 38 years, students have been voiceless, he said, adding that in spite of the fact that seats had been reserved in the decision-making bodies of Varsities for students’ representatives, students could not highlight their problems on such forums due to the ban on Unions. Now the students would be able to talk on issues such as harassment and hike in fees, he said.

Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) Spokesperson Engr Usama Aqil said the IJT lauded the Sindh Government for restoring the unions. “With this step, we hope that the Student Unions will be revived in true spirit and the educational institutions will draft rules and regulations in the required time.”