Punjab University (PU) Lahore, the largest university in Pakistan, is home to about 45,000 students at present who belong to different backgrounds. In order to channelize their collective loyalties, they switch themselves to different organizations. The underlying factor behind affiliations with these organisations is based mainly on ethno-religious differences. Of these, Islami Jamiat e Talba (IJT) and Pashtun Educational Development Movement (PEDM) are two major organizations claiming greater support base among students. Too often, PEDM aided by Baloch Student Union resort to defensive postures against the offensives of IJT.
At the midnight of 21st January, Adherents of IJT besieged Pashtun and Baloch students in Islamia College Civil Lines Lahore where they were mercilessly beaten and bullied. Touched to the quick, friends of aggrieved students rushed towards PU Lahore with panted breaths and entreated Cabinet of PEDM to help them out. Upon knowing this, Representatives of PEDM and Baloch council approached Nazim of IJT in hostel-1 of Punjab University but unfortunately, he not only unceremoniously denied the plea for negotiations but also vowed to prolong the siege of students in Islamia College Civil Lines Lahore.
PEDM and Baloch council reasserted their intention for dialogues and sent a few representatives to the department of electrical engineering, where tents for morning festival were erected by IJT, in order to pave the way for fruitful talks but all in vain. Goons of IJT pounced over the representatives of PEDM and Baloch council. After having ignited fire in engineering department, they shifted the blame of arson towards Pashtun and Baloch students under a purpose-built plan. This brutal attack worked as flame-starter for series of fistfights and brawls.
Students were dragged out of Examination halls the next morning and bludgeoned to the face of administration. Photoshoots and video clips recorded the hooliganism of IJT. This unchecked hooliganism of IJT provoked the Pashtun and Baloch students to hold a peaceful protest before VC office demanding due protection. Unfortunately, cause of protest was not reckoned with. Students, in the fit of despair, moved towards STC- Cafe for sipping tea. Scarcely had the students begun to take tea; than Goons of IJT blindsided them and beaten them.
At the same time, few Pashtun and Baloch students were besieged by IJT in hostel-1. Students from Cafe and Hostel-1 fled towards football ground where they could be able to defend themselves as police was no more than a silent bystander.
Meanwhile, IJT began to incapacitate police vans besides mistreating cops. Amid this disorderly situation, Police arrested Baloch and Pashtun students failing to identify the real culprits. It’s thanks to Video clips that clearly showed goons of IJT vandalizing vans. About 45 Baloch and Pashtun students were taken into custody near to football ground. Following this, Pashtun and Baloch students across Lahore decided to voice the grievances of their fellows through press conference. Greater number of students flocked towards press club. There began the interplay of arrests.
Scores of students were arrested from press club. Innocent students were sent to police stations. Police treated them as if they were terrorists. Only In Race course police station, 72 students were imprisoned in a poky room without providing them any sort of bedding and nourishment. A few students were transferred to CIA investigation office, Model town police station and Muslim town police station amounting the total number of arrested Pashtun and Baloch students to 127. On the next day of 24th January, Students were charged with different sections under Anti-terrorism Act 1997 in ATC court. Adding to the miseries of students, Process of engaging counsellors was made cumbersome. Handcuffed students were shifted to Central Jail Lahore. Here it is worth stating that jailors had ease of manners. Jail Chief and Superintendent treated them in comfortable way.
However, this fact shouldn’t be overstated for renouncing the established prejudice in Punjab against Pashtun and Baloch students. Living in Central Jail Lahore for seven days, Students suffered agonizing moments due to the scary environment of detention cells. Though irrelevant to the debate in hand, a fact must be born in mind that the conduct of Punjab prisons police was quite winsome in contrast to the cops of Punjab police who pestered students with embarrassing attitude in stations.
After long-winding legal proceedings, Students were released on bail citing 7th February next date for hearing. Though sections under terrorism act have been withdrawn, Students are still facing suits under ordinary sections before Magistrate. On the due date of hearing, counsellors of students will file a plea of acquittal under section 249-A of CrPC with the hope that cases would be withdrawn.
More to this point, 37 students have been suspended by the disciplinary committee.
Long and short of episode is that recent mess was due to the confrontational policy of students. The lenient attitude of administration towards students’ organizations embolden them to cash the notion of ethnicity and religiosity. Neither organization can be given a clean chit. Both PEDM and IJT had contributory negligence in this entire episode of unrest.
It is high time state purged academic militancy in universities. Anomic politics on the part of students should be banned. Regardless of any identity, spoilers present in the disguise of students must be brought into accountability.
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