Where Are Karachi’s Students?

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I’ve been watching with interest and fascination the news coming out of our sister city Metroblogs in Lahore and Islamabad. Moving images of students taking peacefully to the streets of their campuses and registering their disapproval of the so-called ’emergency’ imposed by General Musharraf have made be both proud as well as inspired. Proud because it made be glad that if not me, at least my fellow citizens some where in this country have shown the courage that I truly lack, that they have been willing to put their lives and securities at a certain degree of risk to make them selves heard. And inspired because it made me hopeful that if they can shed the culture of cynicism and indifference that has become the hallmark of Pakistani civil society, perhaps so can others.

The most reassuring thing about these protests by students in Punjab is how they’ve been structured for the cause of a principle, above the petty politics of personality and party, above any ethnic, religious or political alliances, for the just cause of supremacy of law and order. But along with this pride and inspiration, has been the uncomfortable realization about our own inaction. Why are Karachi’s students still silent? Does their silence mean they endorse what is happening? Or are they just too apathetic to bother?

Not being enrolled in an educational institution at the time of writing, I wouldn’t have any ground opinions to share. But from what I know through recent experience and from the views shared by friends and family who are students themselves, I don’t think it would be an entirely fair assumption to make to equate the absence of visible dissent with outright approval. In the private dental college I was enrolled in earlier in the year at least, most of the students seemed very opinionated though somewhat curiously, reluctant to express their opinions publicly. Patent support for any one particular party especially was extremely uncommon.

And that would not be a one-off thing. A large majority of students in private universities, in my approximation at least, like the students in Punjab demonstrating this week, are apolitical, progressive minded people. I have formed this judgment based on the reactions they churn up whenever there has been unrest and violence in the city. The last ones to indulge in cat-and-mouse blame games, this group express foremost, their desire to see a peaceful, lawful city above everything else. The unanimity of their opinions on this has often been my sole hope in this country’s future.

Of course this situation is vastly different in state run universities, where student politics has historically been a very impassioned, zealous activity often even boiling over to be dangerous and violent. One can see how the absence of any student protests in Karachi may be due to this very nature and fabric of student politics in government universities. In the larger ones, including Karachi University, NED and Dow University of Health Sciences, the political scene is dominated by the student wings of MQM and JI. MQM being government coalition partners, the inaction on part of the dominant All Pakistan Mohajir Students’ Organization is completely expected, but that of the Jamat-e-Islami student wing is curiously odd. In the absence of these big wigs taking any visible stance, the remaining non-political group in state universities has failed to galvanize their own frustrations into anything productive.

And one can even understand why this may be so. Student politics in universities is such an ugly entity, this group of non-political students often go to great lengths to dissociate themselves from any organized activity along such lines. Who would dare to take out a protest rally, be it a peaceful one, without any party flags or leader posters, opposing on principle an illegal, extra-constitutional measure taken by the Chief of Army Staff? Would one not dread the wrath of a certain sector in-charge before even the thought of any anti-establishment protest on campus came to one’s mind?

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That is why we must appreciate the courage of our students in Punjab even more, what they’re doing is not without risk, and it takes great nerve to take a stance like this when not many around us have neither the courage nor the conviction to do the same. One hopes the example they have set will inspire Karachi’s students to come out of their hibernation and make them selves heard. I can understand if students in government universities are being silent, their fears of their own security are not unfounded, but the private educational sector has no such excuse.

Last week when about 50 odd members of the civil society had gathered at The Second Floor for a discussion on how to “reclaim” this city, one of the things we agreed on doing, as part of our own small effort towards this reclamation process, was to not give up, to be less cynical, to not just sit and watch in indifference or blame others but to be heard and to make others hear as well, to do something, however small, at our own personal level. Even something as small as sporting a symbolic black arm band, we agreed, could go a long way in this process.

Imagine your self walking into university tomorrow wearing this black arm band as symbol of your passive defiance and resistance. Your friends will ask you what it is for, and you’ll be surprised to hear how many of them share your views. Then all of these like minded students in one campus would be seen wearing this badge. When they’d leave their own campus premises, the word will spread around, and students in other universities will catch up. Before we know it, we may well have a swarm of black arm bands all across the city. And while black bands on our arms may not by them self bring democracy to this county, but it will let the powers to be know, that what they’re doing is not acceptable to the young people of this country. And that is the least Karachi’s students can do, make themselves heard.

Are you a student living in Karachi? Share your thoughts with Karachi Metroblog team on what the sentiment in your university or college is like. What do you think students should do?

180 Comments so far

  1. SELF (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 2:26 pm

    پاکستان تحریک انصاف کے سربراہ عمران خان کو اس وقت گرفتار کیا گیا جب وہ ایمرجنسی کے خلاف طلباء کے ایک مظاہرے کی قیادت کرنے کے لیے وہاں پہنچے تھے۔ اس سے پہلے جب عمران خان پنجاب یونیورسٹی پہنچے تو جماعت اسلامی کی ذیلی طلباء تنظیم اسلامی جمیعت طلباء کے کارکنوں نے اس وقت ایک کمرے میں بند کر دیا اور ان سے مطالبہ کیا کہ وہ فوری طور پر یونیورسٹی سے چلے جائیں۔

    BBC


  2. Balma (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

    It is not a good news that Imran Khan was beaten by IJT ghundaas. Imran Khan should quit politics and devote rest of his life to charity work. He is good at that. Why disgrace yourself by working with/like Budnazir and NoSharif?


  3. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 10:24 pm

    when I said Post graduate it was a reference to the initial stages a student goes through before qualifying for any doctoral or post doctoral or various research programs. If initial stages are flawed the end product can never be of quality and thats why I asked you of any paper of repute written by a doctoral student from a Pakistani university not just papers written in pursuit of a program.

    The HEC, operating securely under the protection of a dictatorial regime, has projects that can baffle a thinking human being or for that matter anyone with an iota of common sense….you don’t need to be a doctorate of finance or education for it.

    For example;Pakistan’s ambitious $4.3 billion project to create 9 Pak-European world-class engineering universities staffed with European faculty and administrators…… sounds wonderful even if expensive – Pakistan plans to pay the full development costs, recurrent expenses, and euro-level salaries (plus 40% markup) for all the foreign professors and administrators. Still, presumably the large presence of European professors teaching in these Pakistan universities would ensure high standards of teaching. The official starting date of the first university (French) was listed as October 2007.
    Because of the dangerous security situation – a fact that planners could have easily anticipated -the French seem absent from the French university. As of the beginning of March 2007, not a single faculty member from France, including the all-important head of the university, had joined. Even if the Europeans come, there is not enough Pakistani faculty for all these universities. Nor are there well-prepared students.

    Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy wrote and I quote…. “universities are all about thinking. Thinking needs mental space – in other words, freedom. Without personal and intellectual freedom there can be no thinking and hence no ideas, no innovation, no discoveries, no progress. Our real challenge is not better equipment or faster internet connectivity but the need to break with mental enslavement, to change attitudes, and to win our precious freedom.”


  4. imran (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 10:54 pm

    Every one is so quiet about Imran khan incident because it is done by jamatiis and happend in Lahore……I wonder people would have a same reaction if this has done by APMSO. Where are Doctors, Adnan, MB and others why dont you guys say anything about this ghunda gardi?????
    IJT is the real problem in Pakistan and they are the one who are terrorist and been terrorizing pakistan since the birth of the country.
    You cannot even enter in PU if you did not get permission from IJT. Everybody is allowed to enter KU even PSA exists in KU and APMSO…
    ACcept the truth and say it.. The biggest problem in pak is JAMATI iSLAMI not MQM or APMSO.


  5. SELF (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 11:11 pm
  6. SELF (unregistered) on November 14th, 2007 @ 11:15 pm
  7. Reality_check (unregistered) on November 15th, 2007 @ 8:13 pm

    SAIMA Agreed on all points, but you are talking to a guy who has been a second generation student activist for the left and then APMSO. Fighting for freedom, humming tunes by written by Faiz and sung by Iqbal Bano. I have seen betrayal and made my journey from what is ideal to what is real. I am sure that revolution will never materialize in this country and even if it does, it will bring in nothing but chaos. Write now I am all for the Turkish, Malaysian and Singapore model of giving people work and working for their prosperity, as the middle classes become stronger the rest will follow. Universities need to be open, students get opportunities to travel and expand their horizons. The thing that has been neglected is giving true sense of history to our nation, nobody is doing that, even the independent media has also miserably failed in this regard. Right now if you go about teaching the real history in our campuses their will be a rumpus, American flags and Mush effigies will be burnt and all hell will be let loose. You dare not even teach music, remember what happened at PU. If today if you grab a young student and ask him why / how Pakistan was formed the most likely answer would be, “Pakistan Islam ke liay bana thaa” what a joke.

    So coming back to the topic, this nation is not yet ready for Reality Shocks, what is needed to be done is to administer small doses of truth to counter the toxicity that has developed over the years, the key is taking it slow and not bring the house down, otherwise, you will go no where.


  8. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 15th, 2007 @ 11:16 pm

    who is asking for a revolution? Just call a spade a spade…. You joined various political parties and learned a lesson from it! Thats what education is all about….don’t you want that right for every Pakistani? ….They can choose, then regret and then choose someone else….thats democracy and accountability…thats how nations get educated and choose right leaders for themselves….thats What Faiz wanted for his people and thats what you and I want for ourselves.

    singapore (Heavily) and Malaysia have invested in eductaion and development of their citizens……you think that the army and a dictator will take you closer to that model of refined civil society…..army is not even trained to question authority which is the very essence of a civil society. Truth never creates anarchy and clashes , its the lies and compromises that leads to darkness.


  9. Balma (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 12:12 am

    Oh, I didn’t know that Singapore has democracy! must be sleeping all my life;-)


  10. Reality_check (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 2:04 am

    BALMA you got me there, Singapore is not a democracy.

    SAIMA again I agree, but in the present scenario everybody pro/against govt wants free and fair election, ironically its for the first time that the pro govt parties are more confident in going to the polls, and it seems that there confidence is not misplaced. So the issue should be to ensure that happens. BB got guarantees in this regard, but what she does when she lands, she gives a list of political opponents making them responsible for the explosion in her rally. The climate is again confrontational, so what to do next, emergency is here to stay and people are not coming out. Imran Khan makes judiciary the issue but gets beaten up by his own allies, no way I am gonna travel that road.

    The best option now is to hold elections and let the news media be free again, so the people can be entertained. Both of these things will happen. What will not happen is the restoration of the CJ and resignation of Mush. That’s the reality we will have to accept in order to move forward.


  11. Balma (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 2:23 am

    Saima: I don’t really want Reality_Check’s kind of education and ‘learning from experience’ for anyone in Karachi, or in Paksitan. phaDay baazi karnee hae, quit school and show some action. Don’t waste everyone’s time in school. I don’t want NED and KU students to burn tires on University Road, even if it leads to the development of leadership skills. It delays my trips to Malir. What I want is for KU and NED, and perhaps, SSUET, Hamdard, and AKU, to produce 100s of PhDs in maths, physics, immunology (can’t even spell it right, I guess), philosophy, and psychology. They can ask questions, but no pathrao, jalaao,ghairao. No such bullshit should be tolerated in Karachi’s universities. Never again.


  12. SELF (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 3:16 am

    “Every one is so quiet about Imran khan incident because it is done by jamatiis and happend in Lahore……”

    Posted by: imran

    Nothing like it…biggest demonstration against IJT in PU in the history.

    PU witnesses largest ever anti-jamiat protests
    http://lahore.metblogs.com/archives/2007/11/largest_antijam.phtml

    Keeping in mind IJT has very strong hold in the university and this demo is a very courageous step.

    On the other hand even MQM has not come out strongly against this as it is allied with General who in turn is allied with JI.

    Seems the only hope we have left is with the civil society which, for the time being, appears more active in Punjab and Islamabad areas.


  13. Balma (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 3:25 am

    JI is allied with mushee?
    ooper say to Kaji baRee dhamkiyaa’n daitaa hae!
    Kyaa kaji bhee Budnazir kee tarah ander say mushee say millaa hua hae?


  14. SELF (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 3:26 am

    “Seems the only hope we have left is with the civil society which, for the time being, appears more active in Punjab and Islamabad areas.”

    I am merely trying to epxlain facts as I see them on media and not looking to pick a fight.


  15. Reality_Check (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 6:54 am

    Exactly BALMA! Insaan upnee bewaqoofion se hee seekhtaa hey. If even a single precious life is lost for a stupid cause, nobody is gonna bring that back and nobody can give justice to a dead body. In my times things were different, we were doing what we did, because there was no hope, there were no opportunities and merit had taken a back seat. Now things are different, kids have opportunities, there are so many skill sets and there are countless carrier horizons not just doctor or engineer. So our kids should remain safe and not losse it all to rev up somebodies leadership.


  16. no talking (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 10:11 am

    yar u people talk 2 much.

    More talkers less doers.


  17. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 11:22 am

    I never propogated PHADEYBAZI or anything of the sort in any of my posts! Universities, schools and colleges should be able to teach the principals of social justice……all modern educational theories make it the very essence of education….constructivist theories believe in people learning from their experiences or else one goes out of the classroom equipped with a degree but not knowledge.

    Please watch the movie “LIONS FOR LAMB” …. you’ll understand what I mean when you answer the question at which the movie ends!….I would love to know your answer to the question!


  18. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

    NO TALKING

    Imran Khan is a “doer”……why is he under detention???? Establishment will prosecute him on the charges of treason….him a traitor…what a joke! Another slap in the face of law and civil rights….will be interpreted as the VICTORY OF MUSHARAF SUPPORTERs!


  19. SELF (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 1:24 pm

    عمران کی گرفتاری کے خلاف احتجاج

    پنجاب یونیورسٹی میں طلبہ نے متعدد کلاسوں کا بائیکاٹ کیا اور ایک جلوس نکلا گیا ہے۔ جلوس کا آغاز پنجاب یونیورسٹی کے نیو کیمپس کے لاء کالج سے ہوا۔

    طلبہ مختلف ڈیپارٹمنٹ سے ہوتے ہوئے فیصل آڈیٹوریم کے سامنے اکھٹے ہوئے۔ انہوں نےہاتھوں میں عمران خان کی تصاویر اٹھا رکھی تھیں اور مختلف رنگ برنگے پوسڑ بھی بنا رکھے تھے جِن پراسلامی جمیت طلبہ اور صدر جنرل پرویز مشرف کے خلاف نعرے تحریر تھے۔ ایک پوسڑ پر لکھا تھا ‘ہم جمعیت نہیں چاہتے’۔ طلبہ و طالبات کی بڑی تعداد نے منہ پر کالی پٹیاں باندھ رکھی تھیں۔

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/story/2007/11/071116_imran_rally.shtml

    MQM should try to take advantage of the gap..its offices are only a mile away from PU.


  20. Reality_check (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 9:54 pm

    SAIMA please I like your ideas and your zest, but don’t bring Imran Khan into this. Sure he had a lot of potential but it some how got lost in the cloud of Hameed Gul and Qazi.
    He didn’t listened to Mush and got beaten up by his own allies, can he seriously blame anybody else? The art of leadership in Pakistan is knowing when to be rigid and when to be flexible and on top of it you certainly need to distinguish between your friends and enemies. I seriously don’t know what to make of him; I know he is not corrupt but is he capable? Will he bring in confusion or stability? Will his attitude change or will he be arrogant as usual? These are big question marks. I am currently waiting to see what will be his party’s official position regarding their joint struggle against Mush, right now they are going after Jamiat in Lahore, it surely is a mess. See that’s another problem, when Imran is in jail I don’t even know the name of the guy who is No.2 in PTI, he was very successful in a team sport but he never was a team player.


  21. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

    Architect of Kargil operation a “national savior”…architect of Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital…. a “confused, arrogant traitor!”

    Musharaf provided safe passages to murderers and looters like Altaf and Nawaz and still is a stabilizing force for the country. Imran Khan who demanded education and justice for the common man is an anarchist!

    Imran should have listened to Mush who has compromised with the likes of BB, chaudries and Altaf…..but asked a man of principles like Mr. Daudpotta to leave the governorship of Sindh because of disagreement on the water distribution scheme between the provinces…..

    Do/can/should You really feel proud of yourself when you try to justify Musharaf’s actions and associate with someone like him?


  22. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 10:28 pm

    Architect of Kargil operation a “national savior”…architect of Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital…. a “confused, arrogant traitor!”

    Musharaf provided safe passages to murderers and looters like Altaf and Nawaz and still is a stabilizing force for the country. Imran Khan who demanded education and justice for the common man is an anarchist!

    Imran should have listened to Mush who has compromised with the likes of BB, chaudries and Altaf…..but asked a man of principles like Mr. Daudpotta to leave the governorship of Sindh because of disagreement on the water distribution scheme between the provinces…..

    Do/can/should You really feel proud of yourself when you try to justify Musharaf’s actions and associate with someone like him?


  23. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

    Architect of Kargil operation a “national savior”…architect of Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital…. a “confused, arrogant traitor!”

    Musharaf provided safe passages to murderers and looters like Altaf and Nawaz and still is a stabilizing force for the country. Imran Khan who demanded education and justice for the common man is an anarchist!

    Imran should have listened to Mush who has compromised with the likes of BB, chaudries and Altaf…..but asked a man of principles like Mr. Daudpotta to leave the governorship of Sindh because of disagreement on the water distribution scheme between the provinces…..

    Do/can/should You really feel proud of yourself when you try to justify Musharaf’s actions and associate with someone like him?


  24. Reality_check (unregistered) on November 16th, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

    Again who is saying that IMRAN is anarchist. As for Musharraf he has to deal with the stuff that we send to the assemblies. It is always very easy to criticise him over this, but when it comes to any crises whole lot of pressure is put on him to talk to the elected representatives. As for safe passage, who could have turned down the Saudi Prince when his country was giving Pakistan free oil and we were at the lowest ebb, beggars can’t be choosers. As for the others, you never get conviction from our legal system, all you get is zamanat, delays and stale evidence, so what to do, again its very easy to criticize. As for Daudpota and water distribution issue, it must have been a major difference of opinion on how to tackle it, BTW the current CM of Sindh Arbab Ghulam boasts on every occasion that how he solved this matter and plugged all leakages. I don’t know how much is true but lets not tangle in petty issues.

    I am not in the business of creating devils or saints, and neither am keen on being proud or ashamed. It is very easy to demand, we can even demand paradise but its very difficult do something positive especially in a country like Pakistan. I am not the one to degrade a person who has done beyond expectations and remained resolute, in fact I feel indebted. Even if he is un-ceremoniously dislodged I will never use a bad word for him.


  25. ghettophilosopher (unregistered) on November 19th, 2007 @ 8:46 am

    It was really great to read through all of your thoughts, although I’m not going to conclude any thing over here from what y’all have to say as that is your opinion. But regarding those who say that what’s going on in Lahore, Islamabad and rest of the areas where the demonstrations are being held, I would like to say one thing. What’s wrong in that?
    Democracy isn’t just the rule of the people that is its meaning in a much closed context. In reality the true meaning of democracy is to say and respect what others say; I hope y’all feel what I’m trying to speak over here. And that’s what we are practicing over here aren’t we. We all contribute our thoughts and hope that they’d be respected; indeed they are abused, refuted and subjected to harassments.
    Because of our prejudices and cultural stereotyping we have created divisions among our selves. Today the only reason why others empower us is that we are divided and lack that patriotism that is most needed. Today the citizens of Karachi are staying back at home is because they have nothing to complain, at-least I don’t I was out the other night and every thing seems normal to me, so why would I care? Why should I stage protest for this guy once our hero for winning the only world cup for Pakistan? And the most confusing question, what in the world was he thinking before getting into politics. He already had his name in the history books. Everyone knows about the dirt that Pakistani politics has throughout subjected to coups, assassinations and all forms of political maneuvering.
    Don’t you think that what that one person intends to do is purely democratic? Thinks and decide, and please don’t inter-text your decision or the reading process with the past of that person. What has happened to him is that right?

    “The foundation of a human being is his intellect; and a man without intellect has no religion.”[Prophet Muhammad]


  26. saimaR (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 9:03 am

    karachi students don’t need to protest. Karchi has probably benefitted the most under Musharraf. Granted Musharraf is no saint but he is still the choice of a lesser evil. Who is an alternative to Musharaf? BB & nawaz Sharif have already been tested. And honestly Imran’s personal life is such a mess how do you expect him to keep the country in order if he cannot keep his own home in order.


  27. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 22nd, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

    @Saimar

    Imran’s personal life is out in the open, unlike your darling dictator’s or any of the other politicians…….His life is not a mess but a very clear example of what one has to give up in life to follow one’s mission and dream.
    He has not taken from Pakistan as much as he has given back to it and its people.

    You keep looking for options……..someone who could take place of the corrupt politicians and military dictators but won’t accept Imran Khan because he is different form the rest of the herd(absurd logic).
    He is straight forward and feels the pain of the common man. Doesn’t portray himself as ‘holier than thou’, accepts his past and knows how to make amends in himself…..a man who is so honest,open to change and has such strength of character is not fit to be a counrty’s leader…….maybe you are right he is too good to be our leader…becuase we will never make him proud of us as he has made us proud of him…..A man of such high self-esteem could never be a leader of people with no honour and courage!


  28. SaimaR (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 1:03 am

    One of our major problems as a nation is that we are hero worshippers. We tend to think our leaders are or should be infalliable. What we need to do is to be practicle & rational. What are our alternatives right now? With all the crazy taliban types going around slaughtering our forces, do you want a strong reign or let every one do as they please? And who says western democracy is flaw less..Iqbal has a cool verse which says it counts the quantity and not quality of people..any way I think for right now Musharaff is the best alternative & I am NOT a fan of Musharaff!


  29. Saima Nasir (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 6:01 am

    @SaimaR

    “One of our major problems as a nation is that we are hero worshippers.”

    correction:
    we are turning into a nation of zhombies ruled by vampires. Where are the heroes that we have ‘worshiped’ in the past 20 or 30 years? Do you know any?


  30. SaimaR (unregistered) on November 23rd, 2007 @ 9:27 am

    Different situations need different leadership styles. Quaid e Azam probbaly wouldn’t prove effective today as he was a States man effective in dealing with the British raj. Today’s chaos needs an army man.
    btw by hero worship I meant making these no good leaders larger than life where as the true hero is a sharif guy making an HONEST living feeding & taking care of his family in this day & age



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