Haris Ahmad Khan
I’m a student of Punjab University also associated with Progressive Students Collective(PSC) Lahore. I came to Lahore on 26th January from Muzaffarabad after three months. Students were protesting here against physical exams after online classes. As PSC works to solve student issues so it has joined peaceful protests. Protest at University of Central Punjab (UCP) turned violent as guards attacked students. President of PSC Lahore Muhammad Zubair Siddiqi got injured and taken to hospital. UCP filed FIR against students and 36 of them were arrested people on the spot. Zubair was not arrested because he was injured. Next day I woke up at about 9’O clock and reached the court as arrested students would be presented there. I reached there with a comrade waited till 4 pm when students were brought by police to court and court ordered physical remand for three days. Zubair got pre-arrest bail from Session Court. Then we went to the Press Club for a press conference after which we had dinner and then moved to a place where other friends gathered. We spent two hours there and then I went to the house of a friend named Sanaullah with Zubair and Salman. I fell asleep because of tiredness.
Suddenly, I got up when I heard someone knocking the door violently. We didn’t open the door because we were frightened. When they were about to break the door I opened it. I couldn’t believe what I have seen in front of me. They were about 15 persons in the lounge having their guns directed towards us and they asked about my name and I told them. Then they asked the same from the other two. I wasn’t completely in senses so couldn’t notice what actually happened there but a watched a policeman who slapped on the face of Ali Ashraf who asked them for the arrest warrant. Then they told us to come with them for the sake of investigation. They took all of us to a van except a lady Sidra Iqbal wife of Sanaullah. I saw that the whole corridor was filled with policemen and a long queue of police vans outside the home. They first put all of us in the same van then transferred Sanaullah and Ali Ashraf to the other. Then they brought us to an unknown place where a person in a police uniform noted our names and taken all of the accessories that we have including belts. Then they transferred us to a 12×12 cell. There was a toilet at one corner having only a commode and about two feet walls around it. The smell was all over the cell. We asked them to tell us about where we are but they refused. We could see the sky from there and a black Vigo was present outside. We only had a single blanket which one of us brought with him, fortunately. We were detained there for about 12 hours. They treated us like culprits and disrespected us. They gave us kalay chanay in lunch which was a privilege there. In the evening they transferred us to another place with our heads covered. That was about one hour drive. During this drive what we felt is another story. But the new place was quite comfortable because there were other prisoners in the cell and toilet was separated having full walls. Dinner was shared by all prisoners in the cell which were about twenty in number. Everyone present there had a story, where some were professional criminals and others were innocent. Smoking was allowed there.
At about 8 pm we were again put into the police van. Now we were handcuffed but we have the privilege to see around us. One of the constables told us that we were labelled as terrorists and we had rocket launchers and grenades. It was shocking for all of us as there was nothing in our hands. They told us that they are bringing us to township police station. We were happy with this because till now we didn’t know about our whereabouts and our fate. We were brought to an office and sat there for about 5-6 hours and it was difficult for them to decide what to do with us. At last, at about 2 pm we were transferred to a cell. This cell was better then all the previous ones having a separate tiled floor and there were 3 other prisoners who welcomed us. The behaviour of constables was good here. So, felt quite easy here.
In the morning they filed FIR against us and presented to the court and we met to our friends there who were striving politically to take us out. I called my brother who relieved my stress by giving motivation to me. Court had given Physical remand of 3 days and we were again transferred to the cell. In the next few hours, 4 of us excluding Zubair were presented again to the court and the case was dismissed against us. They opened our handcuffs and let us go. There were many other things which I missed here because of lack of space.
The whole drama stands around protests of students who were demanding online exams after taking online classes. We as an organization stood by their demand and our members participated in the protests. The question that arises here is why students want online exams and why universities are against their demand? The answer to the first question is that students come from all around the country to Lahore and Islamabad. Most of then can’t afford their travelling and living expenses here for only a month because they were not assured to take on-campus classes after exams. Physical exams should be taken if and only if universities have a perfect mechanism according to which each student can get all concept similar to the classroom and this mechanism is not present here. Teachers should give conceptual questions about subjects so that students can not cheat from somewhere. But this concept is not present here in the whole country because the education system is all about memorizing some pages of a book and them paste the same words down on paper to get maximum marks. Even teachers don’t know how to ask concept based questions. So, it is not only the inability of students because of which they protested but it is actually the inability of system which failed to adopt modern means of education.
The answer to the second question is quite simple. Universities want physical exams because they know they didn’t teach students well in classes and most students are not able to pass physical exams. They will get failed and in return, the university will get a large amount for the second attempt. We can easily understand this by comparing private universities to public universities that agreed to take online exams.
To sum up I want to say that private ownership of universities should not be allowed in the country. Students Unions should be revived to include students in the decision making of universities. The criminal justice system of the country needs complete reformation. They can abduct you from anyplace without telling you any reason. No one in this country is safe in the presence of this system. A big lesson that I learned from the incident is that the life of a human doesn’t have any value in this country