HEC’s perspective however, is not a finality and the standing committee could pass the bill and ignore the HEC’s argument. According to an HEC document, the commission does not support the restoration of student unions and instead proposes student associations on “healthy activities” such as poetry, debate, music and sports.
The ban on student unions and the related attempts to control students’ minds and expression, was a massive historical error. It has fundamentally affected Pakistani society, depriving entire generations of the capacities to think and act in productive, conscious and constructive ways. It has turned our universities into sterile, suffocating prisons bereft of creativity and innovation where students are treated as expendable commodities and no critical thought or debate is allowed. Furthermore, it has led to a gaping crisis of political leadership and governance, depriving the political arena of society’s most educated and energetic members and leaving politics dominated by moneyed elites concerned solely with their self-preservation. It has exacerbated our differences, leaving young people with few spaces where they can relate to each other and think and act collectively.
This must change. Our decrepit education system must be overhauled with students at its centre, as recognised citizen-stakeholders in its decision-making and reform. The unconstitutional wrong of not restoring student unions must now be corrected once and for all.