By Maisie Sanders
Students in Pakistan have been protesting for the restoration of student unions, which have been banned since 1984.
On Friday 29 November there were protests in over 50 cities under the banner Student Solidarity March, with workers and trade unions joining the protests too.
They are also demanding free education and no fee hikes, the end of privatisation, the abolition of hostel curfews which are different for men and women, and the release of all student political prisoners, as well as other demands related to the right to political expression on campus and a more equal education system. Read all 14 demands here.
In Lahore, police have charged organisers and hundreds of participants in the demonstrations with sedition. Students at Punjab University protested outside their Vice Chancellor’s house after organiser Alamgir Wazir was arrested.
Presidents of Pakistan Societies at universities around the world have signed a petition in favour of student unions. They say: “the ban imposed on the operation of national
student unions in 1979, and reinstated in 1984, was draconian in nature and was imposed with the sole intent of quelling freedom of speech, the inherent right to politically assemble and critique the government of the day.”
“The ban on student unions has not only significantly restricted the ability of students to politically mobilise themselves and silenced their political voices, but also prevented students from campaigning on issues crucial to their well-being such as campus safety, fee hikes, accommodation security and many others.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan has said he supports student unions but only alongside a “comprehensive and enforceable code of conduct” so they can “play their part in positively grooming our youth as future leaders of the country”.