A Political Void: the Disruption of Student Activism and its Consequences

Dull classrooms, robotic minds and an utter lack of political vision have become the norm for the students of Pakistan.
The perception of student activism is severely misconstrued in Pakistan. Violent outbursts, rioting and propaganda are its defining feature. These supposedly lead to a dogmatic divide in the nation. After the 1984 ban of the Student Unions by Zia, this simplistic “Student Politics Bad” idea has gradually seeped into the young minds. Many decades later the average Pakistani college student seems to have little to no well-informed political convictions of their own.
So, has banning student unions turned out lucrative for the uniformity of socio-political thought in Pakistan?
No. Because this simply is not possible.
The idea of a uniform political thought and nationhood itself is inherently flawed and tyrannical. Human beings are psychologically predisposed-disposed to categorize themselves into groups and sub-groups of society and the political hemisphere. According to the “Minimal Paradigm Group” by Henry Tajfel, people from different groups and sub-groups by preferential characteristics without sometimes even being conscious about it. The “in-group, out-group approach” is inevitable however the arbitrary discrimination and ignorance of personal, racial and religious biases is what leads to an antagonistic attitude towards the out-groups. The only way to avoid this arbitrary discrimination is informing the mind with all forms of knowledge, engaging with opposing views and then coming to one’s own individual opinion regarding the world and how it should be run.
Campus violence is one of the largest adverse side effects attributed to student political activism but the attribution itself is a gross generalization of a larger issue. An example of ruthless violence on the campus was the Mashal Khan case where a mindless mob murdered an innocent student over false blasphemy allegations in Mardan. Even with the ban on student unions and a general discouragement of student activism, these incidents continue to occur. The violent outbursts are often too emotionally charged with the lack of understanding behind their political motives. Punjab University departments are rampant with the rule of IJT (Islami Jamiyat-e-Talaba) members. With a clear discriminatory attitude towards minority groups and female students, they have a hold over all the student activities and can at any time disrupt the activities of any other student councils.
Excluding the few highly active and often violent groups that indulge in student politics, the rest of the student generation in its entirety is like a blank slate when it comes to their political ideology. They do not understand where basic systematic political issues stem from or have even a fleeting motivation for bringing a change. This dullness is a direct result of decades-old general disdain towards student activism nationwide. Those who benefit from this political ignorance, in the end, are the exploiters who can easily dismantle any risings against oppression now. Since the large majority are largely ignorant of their political rights and liberties, they remain inactive and play no part in contemporary social movements.
Reducing violence on the campus was a mere excuse since it continues to persist and exceed each day. From the years 2013 to 2019, there were over 115 deaths of scholars in Pakistan. The true motive behind the ban was to create an obedient herd of sheep that could not stand and speak for their basic rights. While continuing to fund and support favorable groups that are not sanctioned or held accountable for their reign of violence on campuses. Students associate the word politics with aggression and danger and refrain from participating in any political activities. This strengthens the generational political void that has been carefully created to prevent rightful public outrage and backlash against atrocities. This is the main reason why very few leaders rise from the youth nowadays and the same recycling of old political faces and their families has now become our grave future.

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