Daily Times : ‘We can’t just sit idle’: For students, a reawakening

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

‘We can’t just sit idle’: For students, a reawakening

Daily Times Monitor | November 13, 2007

LAHORE: An article by Emily Wax published in the Washington Post on November 12 describes accounting majors at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) as rarely demonstrating and preferring pop music to protest songs.

The report quotes these students as saying that cynicism about Pakistan’s parade of autocratic and corrupt leaders has replaced civil disobedience.

“But in computer labs and cafeterias on this campus and others across the country over the weekend, students were busy making placards reading ‘Democracy Now’ and ‘Students Against Martial Law’, as they prepared to demonstrate against emergency rule,” it says.

“With police lining the streets on Sunday, and a Bhutto rally blocked by authorities in Rawalpindi on Friday, many students say they doubt the protest will take place. But even if the long march turns into only a short protest, one thing is clear: Students are beginning to step forward in Pakistan’s protest movement,” it adds.

The report quotes Ashar Hussain, an engineering student at LUMS as saying: “We’re getting ready, no matter what. It’s time for students to show that the future generation has a voice. We can’t just sit idle and do nothing when Pakistan is suffering. This country is our future.”

According to the writer, “Student protests and campus unions were once a vibrant part of political activism in Pakistan, even during the nation’s birth, but several dictatorial governments have depoliticised campuses by banning protests and requiring students to sign agreements not to participate in such activities. Students also blame themselves. Disillusioned by a string of corrupt and repressive governments, many said, they stopped caring.”

She quotes 20-year-old architecture student Fatima Babar as saying: “It’s like all this bad stuff happens and you just go numb. Nothing will help anyway, and even our favourite films and songs became about fluffy stuff and love. This time, though, student consciousness is starting to awaken, and it feels really good.”

She says Imran Khan is one of the driving forces behind some of the student protests. “So far, there has been no violence during the student rallies. Some opposition leaders, including Imran, predicted that the government would lose sympathy among the general population if it cracked down on the students too harshly.”