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> PILDAT issues discussion paper on Revival of Students’ Unions in Pakistan
Discussion Paper
August 10, 2008

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Islamabad, August 10: PILDAT has issued a discussion paper addressing the orderly revival of Students Unions in Pakistan. The discussion paper has been prepared in the light of the announcement made by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to lift the ban on students’ unions and its activities as a part of his 100-days programme announced on the floor of the National assembly on March 29, 2008.


Students’ politics in Pakistan has had a tumultuous history. The paper highlights the events of the initial involvement of students in campus politics and their interaction with the mainstream politics. The paper also retraces the chronology of ban on Students’ Unions imposed in early 1984 during General Zia ul Haq’s era and how the ban was lifted briefly and later re-imposed. The paper recalls that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto had announced lifting of the ban on Students’ Unions in her maiden speech to the National Assembly in 1988 and effectively lifted the ban in 1989. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani also followed in the footsteps of his leader when he announced the lifting of the ban on Students Unions in his first policy address in the National Assembly, the paper notes. The ban on Students Unions lifted by the Benazir government was again slapped in 1993.


The discussion paper has been prepared to facilitate an informed discourse on the orderly revival of students’ unions in the country. PILDAT, in July 2006, also published a background paper titled ‘YOUTH AND POLITICS IN PAKISTAN’, which was compiled to discuss participation by youth and their awareness about politics being an important component for successful democratic societies.


The Discussion Paper on Revival of Students’ Unions briefly describes the present scenario in universities. Key questions relating to the revival of Students’ Unions are also part of this discussion paper. During the research for this paper and in trying to find a case study of similar conditions and the form of legislation in use, the example of India became very relevant. India has also had problems as a result of students unions and the issues tread almost the same line. It was discovered that students unions in Uttar Pardesh, the largest state in India, among other states, have recently faced a short-lived ban as well. Upon the direction from the Supreme Court of India, a committee of experts was formed in 2005 to frame guidelines on Students Union Elections in Colleges and Universities. The committee was headed by a former Chief Election Commissioner, Mr. J. M. Lyngdoh, after whose name the committee came to be known as ‘Lyngdoh Committee.’ The ‘Lyngdoh Reforms’ were endorsed by the Supreme Court of India for implementation in colleges and universities across India. Most of the key recommendations have been mentioned in the paper for possible adoption where found relevant. The Lyndogh report encompasses recommendations on the age and academic limits to nomination, modes of voting or the use of nomination, conduct during elections, restrictions on the forms of campaigning and limits on the amount that can be spent, and so forth. A case study of Students Unions in Canada is also included in the paper.


PILDAT writes in the paper that there is an urgent need that Students; Teachers; Parents; Administrators of Educational Institutions; Representatives of the Federal and Provincial Education Ministries and Departments; Politicians especially Parliamentarians and Representatives of Students Organisations enter into an informed discourse and decide the future course-of-action so that the Students’ Unions may be revived in an orderly manner. The discussion paper has a set of questions attached and it has been put out in circulation to facilitate the discourse on the subject. PILDAT has invited suggestions and ideas to update the paper which will be the main vehicle to promote structured consultation among various stake holders planned by PILDAT in various cities of the country.


PILDAT announced the holding of consultative sessions with various stakeholders in different cities during September. The full text of the discussion paper can be found on PILDAT website www.pildat.org.