The Student Solidarity March in Pakistan, scheduled to take place on November 29, is gaining momentum and has already gained support from important sections of the Pakistani left. The left party, Awami Workers Party (AWP), was the latest to express its support to the organizers. Students from across Pakistan are mobilizing against fee hikes, criminalization of activists, budget cuts, harassment scandals involving members of university administration, among other things.
According to Yousuf Mustikhan and Ismat Shahjehan – two leaders of the AWP, the education system in Pakistan is “stifling critical thinking and creativity by propagating a narrow right-wing statist ideology.” The party members went on to say that the students and teachers need to resist this “decrepit system and the corruption within it.”
The AWP, in a statement, further claimed that the state has criminally neglected public education. The critical task of providing education is being increasingly relegated to the private sector, which has made education unaffordable for the majority. The party has also called for the restoration of student unions, along with the protection of the students’ right to association, including participation in the decision making process within universities.
“The 35-year-old ban on student unions has allowed universities and authorities to abuse students with impunity and has exacerbated the deterioration of the education system. AWP believes the ban on student politics has also been irreparably harmful for the country’s social and political fabric and has led to the monopolization of politics by a small class of feudal, capitalist and military elites, while inhibiting the political participation of the youth, middle and working classes,” the AWP said in its statement.
While citing the recent incidences of sexual harassment and blackmail in Pakistan’s Balochistan province where security forces are being accused of abusing their position to use surveillance and heavy-handed policing to curb the students movement, the AWP demanded the “de-securitization of campus spaces.”
Particularly in Sindh and Balochistan, Pakistani Security Forces have been stationed to control student activities.
“All those students who have been arrested for organizing protests in Balochistan and Sindh provinces should be released, and the sedition charges imposed on students of the Jamshoro University for demanding clean water should also be revoked,” the party added.
One of the organizers of the March in Islamabad, Ammar Rahid, also proposed the need to “form empowered campus committees to curb sexual and other harassment against students, along with women representation to eliminate the scourge of harassment and violent assault on campuses.”
Meanwhile, a video captured at the Faiz festival organized by the Students Collective in Lahore, on Sunday, has gone viral and triggered a massive countrywide debate. In the video, dozens of students can be seen reciting the poems of revolutionary poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, and sloganeering passionately against the state of governance in the country.