Sindh cabinet approves bill to restore student unions

Hundreds of people participated in the Student Solidarity March in Lahore on November 29, 2019, calling for equal education opportunities for all and demanding an end to a decades-long ban on student unions in education institutions. (AN Photo)
Updated 10 December 2019

Sindh cabinet approves bill to restore student unions

  • Document will now be tabled in the provincial assembly for approval
  • Student representatives call it a huge victory, urge earliest implementation

KARACHI: The government in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh lifted a 35-year-old ban on student unions on Monday by approving a bill for the restoration of the same which representatives termed as a huge victory.

Murtaza Wahab, Sindh government’s spokesperson, said that the bill will be presented before the provincial assembly during the ongoing session.

“Sindh cabinet has approved the draft bill for restoration and regulation of student unions in the province. Bill will be laid before the Sindh Assembly in the ongoing session,” Wahab tweeted on Monday.

“The cabinet has made some changes to the draft. When it will go to the assembly there will be more changes. The standing committee will also consult different stakeholders before giving it a final shape,” Information Minister Saeed Ghani told Arab News, adding that the bill has been drafted keeping in mind the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court’s in 1993.

“The union can be a seven to 11 member body. Both government and private educational institutions will be bound to hold elections of the unions,” Ghani said.

The student unions were banned by military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq on February 9, 1984 and briefly revived by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989 but blocked once again by the Supreme Court in 1993 before any elections could be held.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had given his approval for the elections but none could be held throughout his tenure.

Student representatives welcomed the development on Monday.

Ammar Rashid, who was at the forefront of the Students Solidarity March, said due credit goes to the marchers.

“This is a huge victory for Pakistan and its people,” Rashid told Arab News.

Ashir Saleem, leader of Islami Jamiat Talaba, said that his organization welcomed the development.

“The Sindh government has taken a highly-needed step, which should have been taken since long,” Saleem told Arab News, adding that his organization had been protesting every year on February 9 since the ban was initiated in 1984.

A former union president, however, added a caveat.

“I doubt the intentions of the government. When you take a really good step but without preparations, you want to fail it,” Professor Shakeel Farooqi, president of the last student union in Karachi University in 1984, told Arab News.

“I have serious reservations.”

Farooqi said when universities were established in Pakistan it was ensured that these institutions must be based on the principle of democracy.

“There were not only student unions, student councils and departmental student societies but the dean of faculty would also be elected,” Farooqi, who has also served as President of the Karachi University Teachers’ Society (KUTS), said, adding that thee first dent in the university’s democratic culture was made by former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who put an end to the elections of the Dean’s office and the final blow came from General Zia-ul-Haq banned the unions in 1984.

“The political parties, whether the left’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) or the right’s Jamaat-e-Islami, didn’t support us although the students struggled for their right irrespective of their backgrounds. Both the leftists and rightists jointly struggled,” Farooqi said, adding that the ban has affected nine generations in the past 35 years.

“There is a dearth of leadership today and the intolerant behavior we see in parliament and on TV talk shows is the reflection of the loss due to ban on student unions,” Farooqi said, adding that “unions create leadership.”

Rashid, for his part, urged the Sindh government to take into account the students’ feedback before passing the bill into law.

“Sindh government has taken the lead and I am hopeful that others will follow. If other provinces don’t restore unions, the students would go to the courts for taking their due right,” he said.


Pakistan sends medicines, food items to Lebanon after deadly explosions

Updated 07 August 2020

Pakistan sends medicines, food items to Lebanon after deadly explosions

  • More than 150 people were killed and over 5,000 others were injured when a string of blasts rocked Beirut on August 4
  • FM Qureshi assured his Lebanese counterpart that the government and people of Pakistan stood in strong solidarity with the people of Lebanon

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday sent medicines and food items to Lebanon after a string of deadly explosions ripped through Beirut earlier this week, killing more than 150 people and injuring over 5,000 others.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Lebanon Najeeb Durrani is handing over eight tons of relief items for the victims of Beirut explosions to senior Lebanese officials at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut on Aug. 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy Pakistan Embassy in Beirut)

According to an official statement released in Islamabad, the country’s foreign minister called his Lebanese counterpart and informed him about the relief assistance over the phone.
“Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in a telephonic conversation, informed his Lebanese counterpart, Charbel Wehbe, that 8 tons of relief assistance consisting of medicines and food supplies sent by the Government of Pakistan as a token of solidarity would be delivered in Beirut today,” said the official statement.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Lebanon Najeeb Durrani is handing over eight tons of relief items for the victims of Beirut explosions to senior Lebanese officials at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut on Aug. 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy Pakistan Embassy in Beirut)

It added that Qureshi also expressed deep sorrow and grief over the loss of precious lives, injuries to people, and extensive material damage caused by the explosions.
“The Foreign Minister underscored that, at this difficult time, Pakistan stood in strong support and solidarity with the brotherly Lebanese people,” the statement said.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to Lebanon Najeeb Durrani is handing over eight tons of relief items for the victims of Beirut explosions to senior Lebanese officials at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut on Aug. 7, 2020. (Photo courtesy Pakistan Embassy in Beirut)

Meanwhile, authorities in Lebanon received the relief package on Friday afternoon.
“The relief goods were handed over to Deputy Chief of Protocol Mr. Salem Al Achkar from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants and General Elias Abi Karam, Commander of Lebanon’s Air Force by Najeeb Durrani, Ambassador of Pakistan, today at 1530 at Rafic Hariri International Airport,” Pakistan’s embassy in Beirut confirmed in a statement.