The Student Solidarity March: Students Across Pakistan Are Waking Up

Source: Pakistan Today

The progressives students across Pakistan did it. They were not threatened. They were not deterred. They were not intimated… by the threats of authority, by the threats of the state establishment, by the threats of their conformist parents and teachers, and by the threats of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Never in the living memory of the generations since the 70s, has such a large, broad, and vibrant secular, leftist crowd taking to the streets in Pakistan. It is the kind of student politics that I most certainly missed during my college days and was always looking for. I was looking for a platform to express my secular liberal views but were not finding any like-minded people, let alone allies around me. I am relieved to say today that so many of the young students today cannot say that. The struggle of the leftist activists in Pakistan has made its impact.

Students all across Pakistan, from Karachi and Sindh to Quetta and from Southern Punjab to Lahore and from Islamabad and Peshawar to Gilgit, students came out in great numbers. They made their presence felt and reminded the authorities of what to expect in the future.

The most beautiful part of the march was the participation of Iqbal Lala, the father of martyred secular student Mashaal Khan. Any such march is incomplete without saluting heroes such as Mashaal Khan who have become a symbol of resistance against Islamic fundamentalism and the tyrannical state of Pakistan who collectively murdered them.

 

The progressive students also revived the spirit of Bhagat Singh, an indigenous hero of the War of Independence against the British that the Islamic Republic has completely forgotten.

There still is a long, long way to go for us. This is only the beginning. Still, there were nearly not enough people coming out. Still, the numbers nowhere near matched the injustice and threats faced by the students, women, labor, and minorities in Pakistan. There is still a long way to the restoration of student unions in a country that only appreciates monolithic behavior. There is still a long way to go for improving access to education and better health, or even the right to life and dignity in most parts of Pakistan.

Most importantly, there is a long way to go before the secular left, socialists, and social democrats can become a considerable voting bloc in Pakistan. The ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has always been a start but it is somehow disconnected to the left in the rest of the country.

While many liberal friends were put off by the Marxist and revolutionary slogans in the march, they must never forget the bigger secular, democratic cause, In order for the struggle of the secular left to be more effective, broader coalitions need to be built without sacrificing the principles of social democracy. We are up against the dictatorship of the military establishment and the ignorant, obscurantist tyranny of the Islamic Republic, the ignorant rule of the PTI and conservative Punjab, and the violent Islami Jamiat Talba. It is in the best interest of all center liberals, secular liberals to progressive left and socialists to unite to build a secular coalition, just like in the recent Israeli elections where Kachol Lavan appeared as a major coalition.

Zia must be turning in his grave on this day because he did all in his power to destroy the left from reemerging. But on this historic day, it has. Who would have thought that these visuals would be possible in the 80s.

Congratulations, progressive students of Pakistan, you have made history.

You are waking up. You are alive.

The Pakistani Student Left is Rising Again

Source: The News

It is about time. They have been repressed for way too long. And this country cannot hide what embarrasses it anymore in the age of information. In a huge blow to the “fifth-generation warfare” effort of the DG ISPR, a completely wrong kind of group has been capturing all the limelight of late on social and alternate media like Naya Daur. The Progressive Students Collective.

We never thought we would see this day when the socialists in Pakistan will ever catch the public eye but the credit goes to the patient Progressive Students Federation. During the Faiz Festival, the “jacket girl” was seen chanting revolutionary anthems from the Independence Movement era and revolutionary socialist slogans.

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The jacket girl is now an icon.

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Immediately, the students who were vocally challenging the establishment and patriarchal structure were bombarded with abuse on social media. Arooj was attacked for being too elitist to be raising revolutionary socialist slogans with people focusing on the leather jacket that she was wearing. Even though, the trained eye could see how elitist those students in the group were.

Interviews such as these on Naya Daur allowed Arooj Aurangzeb, the leather jacket girl, and her comrades to explain themselves as far as their privilege and class was concerned.

The demands of the students organizing the Solidarity March are pretty straight forward and uncomplicated. They want free education, the reversal of impossible fee hikes, increase in education budget, reversal in cuts, access to audited reports of universities, action against sexual harassment and intimidation by surveillance, and, most importantly, the restoration of student unions in academic institutions to enable the inclusion of students in policymaking that concerns them.

Conservative Pakistan has a severe aversion to student politics because it has been systematically dismantled by the bureaucratic establishment in the country. They introduced violence in it through the Jamaat-e-Islami until platforms such as the NSF were disintegrated and so was the concept of student unions. Student Unions became synonymous with violence and intimidation and middle-class conservatives started associating politics with the same evil. The Zia regime had banned student politics and earlier Ayub Khan was threatened by it too. The military dictators saw curbing student politics an effective way of crushing any possible dissent challenging their illegitimate government.

However, this new rise of the left student politics is heartening. Seeing bold and courageous young women such as Arooj Aurangzeb is heartening. This is a sign that the future may not be all dark and gloomy for Pakistan and that we are seeing an entity other than Islami Jamiat Talaba as a part of Student Politics. This is why the Student Solidarity March is being organized this Friday.

I urge all the progressives, center and center-left liberals as well as all pro-democracy conservatives and human rights advocates to join students on the Solidarity March on November 29 at 1400 HRS across the country.

Keeping Mashaal Khan’s Mission Alive

Source: Dawn/Tanveer Shehzad/White Star

Secularism in Pakistan sounds like a hopeless cause. There are simply not enough people to give the movement any traction and nobody likes to openly express the cause save the leftist Awami Workers Party, which is sadly a fringe entity in Pakistani politics as much as they would like to tell themselves otherwise. But it is very important to show solidarity with them whenever they are out for the cause of countering fundamentalism and promoting democratic values, and all the allies who agree on the common cause of secularism and rejecting fundamentalism in Pakistan.

On the occasion of the second death anniversary of the brutally killed progressive student Mashaal Khan in Khan Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan, the Progressive Student Collective organized short protest marches all across the major cities in Pakistan. In Islamabad, the speakers include civil rights advocate Tahira Abdullah, PTM activist Khan Zaman Kakar, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar and academic and analyst Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy.

Apart from remembering Mashaal Khan and the brutal conspiracy to kill him, which was very well exposed by his teacher Ziaullah Hamdard, more contemporary issues were highlighted to protest Pakistan’s current trajectory. Post-Pulwama developments and the possibility of the country being blacklisted by the FATF was brought to attention.

 

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Pervez Hoodbhoy spoke passionately about the unabated fundamentalism in Pakistan, which is easily distinguished from the Islamist militancy that the Pakistani military took action in. Unfortunately, this brand of fundamentalism has been intertwined with Pakistan nationalism observed by social conservatives and has also become inseparable with the idea of hating Hindus and India.

It is similar hate and religious bigotry that led to the killing of Salmaan Taseer, the killing of the English literature professor in Bahawalpur, the blasphemy accusation on Multan teacher Junaid Hafeez, and of course the cold-blooded murder of Mashaal Khan. Hoodbhoy also mentioned how Pakistan could be blacklisted by the FATF soon but if it happens, it would not be a surprise considering the country’s seriousness in taking action against Islamist militants groups which are pointed out by the US, EU and several other countries including India.

Other speakers also talked about the bans on student union, which as per Ammar Rashid, could have saved Mashaal’s life. Progressive voices are already scant on our academic platforms considering the dominance of IJT or Islami Jamiat Tulaba who impose their Salafi Islamist agenda which remains a carrier for the Islamic fundamentalism that the state has promoted.

The IJT is great in numbers and the progressives only handful, but if they continue to carry Mashaal’s mission forward in some form, the seeds of secularism may even spread in Pakistan too.