close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
 
December 1, 2020

Thoughtless orders

Editorial

 
December 1, 2020

A spectre is haunting the gate-keepers of the country's unjust status-quo – the spectre of enlightened young students. After a slumber enforced by the dictatorship of General Ziaul Haq in the 80s, the students of Pakistan are rising in protest and in thought. The now-annual Students Solidarity March came together once again this past Friday – and the response by the state just shows the continuing fear of young people who think for themselves and offer a message of hope in dark times. Pakistan’s students had historically been champions of progressive politics, without regard to the official line from the state. Students had represented a voice of hope before the state under Zia began to arm right-wing student groups on campuses, which left the impression that student politics was all about violence.

When the country made a democratic transition in 2009, one of the first promises the PPP government made was to restore student unions across the country. This never happened, despite the weak student organisations at the time continuing to demand the right to representation on campuses. In the meanwhile, the commercialisation of education has continued at full speed. In the last five years, the HEC has cancelled a number of degrees, while the state has continued to cut the higher education budget – with the sharpest cuts coming under the so-called pro-youth PTI government.

Amidst all this, what has become obvious is that the state has an unnatural fear of the youth when they speak for their rights – or of anyone who speaks for the young people of this country. This was well reflected in the detention orders issued last week against professor and activist Ammar Ali Jan by the DC Lahore, ostensibly on the basis that Ammar Jan could 'harass' the general public. It may be noted that the orders were issued the day the students' march was held, which Ammar Jan had attended. Ammar Ali Jan, in the rich tradition of some of our best academics, is also a progressive activist. In a country where the blame for declining academic standards is often placed on well-educated individuals leaving the country in a brain drain, he is one of the few who have chosen to stay back and work with students. He has been harassed in the past too – for the crime of advocating non-violent protest and speaking up for disadvantaged youth.

One is at a loss to understand the reasoning behind this paranoia, given that the students were raising their voice for their very basic rights. Does the state intend to say that it has a problem with giving due rights to this country's students? There is no evidence at all as cited by the DC that Ammar Ali Jan or anyone else taking part in the march intended to "hurt the general public". This archaic language dates back to colonial times. Are we then a people colonised by our own? Should this country's youth forget about theirs and their peers' rights? Is dissent and critical thinking going to land young people and their professors in jail? Fortunately, the Lahore High Court chief justice is to hear his case today against the notification. What is unfortunate is that our academics have to spend their time justifying their dedication to this country and its people, all the while being harassed by a state and bureaucracy that seems scared of its own people.