These are the days of unprecedented decline of Journalism in Pakistan. The rapid capitalization of the Media Industry has snuffed out the already feeble Journalistic standards in Pakistan. These are the days where one of the most highly paid journalist who has the reputation of being a scholar and “researcher” does programmes on end of days, which are nothing but a nauseating combination of sensational Hollywood movies, the Evangelicalmillennial fever and half baked conspiracy theories linked with Islamic Apocalypse . These are the days where we read personal columns full of ideological rant, wishful thinking and petty sensationalism and conspiracy theories as “Lead News stories” on front pages of Urdu Dailies . Ansar Abbasi, Rauf Kalasara and Saleh Zafar being on top of this “great journalism” In this situation its really pleasant to have Nadeem F Paracha around. At least he talks about “old fashioned politics” which has completely died in Pakistan and is replaced by “de-politicized trade unionism” like Lawyers movement, journalist movements etc. The moral buffs of journalism and academia are lamenting the decision of lifting the ban on student unions saying it caused “violence”. Nadeem.F.Paracha has remind them the forgotten history SA Dawn ,Pakistan
SMOKER’S CORNER: When doves cried
BY NadeemF. Paracha
The violence that made the Zia dictatorship ban student unions in 1984 was not due to student unions, but rather the handiwork of the dictatorship. I’m afraid those bemoaning the revival of student unions in Pakistan have only little knowledge of the subject’s history; especially when they suggest that student unions and student organisations were the root cause of violence in colleges and universities. The truth is that violence that made the Zia dictatorship ban student unions in 1984 was not due to student unions but rather the handiwork of the dictatorship. The early roots of the violence that gripped the country’s student politics in the 1980s can be traced to a crucial event that took place in 1979 at the University of Karachi. The year’s student union elections saw an alliance of progressive student groups, led by People’s Students Federation (PSF), National Students Federation (NSF), Liberal Students Federation (LSF) and Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) defeating the powerful Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) on a number of important seats at KU. This is when the first ever incident of students using AK-47s at the university occurred when soon after the 1979 union elections, some IJT activists opened fire on a progressive students’ rally on campus. Emboldened by its mother party, the Jamat-i-Islami’s growing influence during Zia’s martial law regime, the IJT started devolving from being a democratic-conservative student group into a group with increasingly violent tendencies. The PSF, under tremendous pressure from arrests and harassment by the Zia dictatorship, too became a lot more violent, but for different reasons. Many of its members were jailed, tortured and even flogged, sometimes simply for raising a Jeeay Bhutto slogan. However, it was at the Peshawar University that some PSF leaders saw IJT members receiving AK-47s and TT pistols from Afghan traders who had started to arrive into the NWFP after the takeover of Afghanistan by Soviet forces. These IJT members then got the same traders to meet the IJT workers arriving from Karachi. And since arms from the United States had also started to pour in for the so-called anti-Soviet mujahideen groups, many of them were sold at throw-away prices by Pakistani middlemen and related Afghan traders to the visiting IJT workers. The pressure-cooker situation then saw the PSF activists getting in touch with the same Afghan traders in Peshawar who had been supplying arms to the IJT. A group of PSF activists from the University of Karachi bought themselves a cache of AK-47s and TT pistols as well. This group was led by the notorious PSF militant Salamullah Tipu, a former member of the NSF, who later joined the PSF. Then in 1980 an NSF worker was killed in a clash with the IJT. When a major’s jeep arrived at the University of Karachi, members of the PSF, NSF and the BSO, aggravated by the military regime’s support for the IJT, set it on fire. The next day Tipu and a group of PSF militants emerged on campus, roaming in a car with a PPP flag (a crime of sorts in those days), and shouting anti-Zia and Jeeay Bhutto slogans. A senior IJT leader whipped out a TT pistol and fired at Tipu’s car. He fired twice, but missed. Tipu braked, rushed out of the car with a recently bought AK-47 and fell the IJT member with a burst of bullets. In response to growing IJT violence and government harassment, a senior NSF leader, Zafar Arif, pleaded for a new alliance of progressive student groups. In 1981, a meeting was held at Zafar Arif’s home and the United Students Movement (USM) came into being. The new progressive coalition included the National Students Federation, Peoples Students Federation, Democratic Students Federation, Baloch Students Organisation, Pashtun Students Federation, and the newly formed, All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation. A two-pronged strategy was chalked out by the USM. The first involved the alliance to work as a new united electoral group against right-wing student parties like the IJT in student union elections. The new alliance also decided to take the IJT head on in other matters as well and for this the USM planed to arm itself as much as the IJT had already done. Whereas the IJT was aided in this pursuit by its Jamat-i-Islami connections with mujahideen commanders like Gulbadin Hykmatyar, the USM had to struggle to generate funds. Groups of the PSF, NSF and the BSO travelled to the NWFP and Balochistan again and brought back caches of AK-47s and TT pistols. The USM’s strategy also included working against the government which was believed to have let lose intelligence agents suspected to have been working with certain IJT members. Then, as expected, unparalleled violence erupted on the day of the 1981 student union elections in Karachi that saw the progressive student groups sweeping the elections in most Karachi colleges. Advisers to the Sindh government under the governorship of General Abbasi warned the regime that even though the Jamat-i-Islami had been supporting the Zia dictatorship, the 1981 and 1982 student union elections proved that the IJT’s influence was receding. The advisers also warned that student violence may turn outwards against the government.Just before the 1984 student union elections in Karachi, the government announced the banning of student politics, citing violence. The truth was, the decision was based on reports that anti-government student alliances like Punjab Progressive Students Alliance (in northern Punjab) and the USM (in Karachi) had gained great electoral and political momentum and might in the future be in a position to initiate a students’ movement, the sort that helped topple the Ayub Khan dictatorship in 1968-69. The regime’s plan to repress progressive student groups and its encouragement of the IJT had successfully managed to generate the reasons the regime wanted to use to prove the “violent nature of student unionism”. In reality it was a resurgence of progressive student groups which became the reason to clamp down on student politics.