Updated – Proposed Revival of Students Unions in Pakistan: September 2008

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Publication No: YTH-012

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Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani announced the restoration of Students’ Unions while spelling out his government’s agenda after receiving a unanimous vote of confidence from the National Assembly on March 29, 2008. The ban on students’ unions was originally imposed through Martial Law Orders issued in 1984 during the rule of the then Chief Martial Law Administrator cum President General Zia-ul-Haq. Growing cases of violence in the campuses and the concern shown by the society were cited as reasons for the ban. However, it is also believed that the decision was based on reports that antigovernment student alliances had gained considerable influence and strength and these could pose a threat to General Zia-ul-Haq’s government. The Government, it appears, feared a students’ movement, the sort that helped topple President Ayub Khan’s government in 1969 and decided to forestall such a possibility by banning students’ unions and other organisations of students. The ban was put to effect by issuing Martial Law Orders (MLOs) by Martial Law Administrators (MLAs) of various zones which roughly corresponded to the provinces. Martial Law Order No. 1371 was issued on February 9, 1984 by Martial Law Administrator Zone A (Punjab) to ban Students’ Unions. Similiarly Martial Law Order No. 227 was issued on February 11, 1984 by Martial Law Administrator Zone C (Sindh) to ban Students’ Unions and Federations.

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