Progressive Students Collective (PSC), Balcoh, Seriaki, Punjabi and Pushtun councils activists from different educational institutes of the city participated in the Students Solidarity March on The Mall.
The march started from Nasser Bagh around 2pm and reached the Charing Cross at 4:20pm.
The marchers, including both male and female students, kept on singing revolutionary songs, besides chanting slogans and waving placards and banners inscribed with demands for the revival of student unions, fee waiver for students from flood affected areas, establishing anti-harassment committees, early release of arrested student leaders, provision of clean drinking water on the campus and other facilities. The most-chanted slogan was ‘Hum kya chahte, Aazaadi” (What do we want? Freedom!).
The students also performed a street theatre on the theme of freedom of speech.
The student unions were banned in the country by Zia regime on Feb 9, 1984. The ban on the student unions, once vibrant nurseries of democracy, had also weakened the political culture in the country. The student-led activities helped the educated youth to interact with their fellow students, share ideas and develop intellectually, socially and academically, preparing them for future leadership roles.
The country has many seasoned politicians who were politically groomed on campuses brimming with ideas and activities, but the ban created a political vacuum which resulted in a crisis of governance and democratic culture in the country.
PSC president Qaiser Javed said the hefty increase in fees, enforced disappearances and harassment on the campus were major issues of the students.
He said the students from flood-affected areas could not pay the fees because their families’ suffered heavy losses and their belongings, including crops, cattle and houses, were swept away by the deluge, regretting that the government took no measure to waive their fee.
He said all the educational infrastructure in the flood-affected areas was damaged, creating problems for the students.
Javed said some educational institutes had formed anti-harassment committees, but these bodies were not active and there was no representation of female students in the committees.
He said the universities were devising policies without consulting the stakeholders, while the students were facing difficulties due to shortage of hostels and lack of transport service.
Pushtun Council chairman Riaz Khan said the government was continuously decreasing the number of scholarships for Pushtun students.
He said during war on terror all the educational infrastructure in their areas was completely damaged and demanded to increase the number of scholarships for the Pushtun students.
He deplored the universities administrations were patronising religious student organisations on campuses and demanded revival of student unions.
PSC member Hamad Malik said the Taliban was killing the progressive Pushtun students in northern areas and the state was failing to provide them security.
He demanded the state should take measures to ensure security of the people from Pushtun areas and uphold writ of the state.
The students also demanded release of the Pushtun Tahaffuz Movement leader and MNA Ali Wazir, who had been languishing in jail for the last three years.