- And the government’s hypocritical approach towards it
Students across the country peacefully marched as part of the ‘student solidarity march’, this past week to have their voices heard, demanding that student unions be reinstated so that they too could be part of the political process while also demanding better budgetary allocation towards education. The movement and the students’ demands have fortunately not fallen on deaf ears. PM Imran Khan, in a tweet, endorsed the need for student unions with a caveat; such student bodies in the past would become violent and therefore a “comprehensive & enforceable code of conduct, learning from the best practices in internationally renowned universities” would be formulated to avoid any undesirable outcomes. Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry and Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar maintain the same. If the government does intend to formulate a code of conduct for student unions that suppresses any violent tendencies it would be best if it took all stakeholders on-board, ranging from representatives of the students demanding these changes, experienced educationists and members from the opposition parties as well, since the code of conduct will be set in place for the long-term, and would still be applicable if one of those parties were to come to power at a later stage.
While the government supports the movement and is willing to do something about it, simultaneously, there is resistance as multiple protestors have been booked under sedition charges, including the father of Mashal Khan, Iqbal Lala, who is still waiting for justice for his slain son. All this suggests is that while the government is endorsing the movement overtly, under the surface there are pressures unwilling to let dissenting voices be heard. This is plain and simple hypocrisy and weakness on part of the government and it defeats the purpose of any meaningful progress on the issue at hand. The government must quash the cases filed against all protestors, release those arrested and only then would it be reasonable to assume the government is honestly willing to fulfil the demands of the student protestors.