A Criticism — Nadeem Paracha’s Account of Students Political
History in Pakistan
There is no bigger injustice to history than to write a flawed document and there is no bigger damage to the cause than to misrepresent the facts. Only thing I can acknowledge about this article is its length and a failed attempt of glory to emerge as the historian of student politics. Our view is that Nadeem F Paracha’s narration and views regarding student’s politics are assumptions in general. His description of history in general and NSF in particular are either poorly researched or somewhat biased in nature. Though it’s a good effort to write on these types of issues but one should not make an attempt to create facts, which had never been part of the history or omit the comprehensive nature of reality. We would like to put the record straight as far as National Student Federation history is concerned, especially in the time Mr Paracha has spent his life as a student political activist. It appears from his article that experience he gained in his student life was limited to Karachi University and probably belonging to an isolated group of self proclaimed and nonexistent NSF Meraji Group or may be one of its few sympathisers. I, as a student leader of NSF from Dow Medical College (79-86) and Asim Ali Shah, a student leader from Lahore and former General Secretary of NSF Pakistan would like put it right.
Since its formation in 1956 NSF played a leading role in every struggle for the rights of students and working class.
Below is a short summary of three major students’ movements in which NSF played historic role.
1-The Jubbalpore Movement 1961
2- Movement against three year degree course 1962
3- Movements against university ordinance 1963
According to this ordinance any student or teacher could be expelled or his/her Degree could be revoked if their activities are considered to anti-government.
4- Anti-Ayub movement 1968
On 7th October 1968 NSF started its camping ‘Hafta-e-Mutalibat’ in response to Ayub Khan’s ‘ASHRA-E-TARRAKI to celebrate a decade of his rule in which he made exaggerated claims about the development in the country. It soon turns into a mass movement and consequently On March 25, 1969 Ayub Khan has to resign.
5- Movement against the Ban on students Unions 1984
After seeing the fate of Ayub Khan, Zia realised that student power needs to be curbed and crushed. He also wanted to pave his way to freely act as an American agent to fight a proxy war for America in Afghanistan, which eventually led the downfall of the Russian Imperialism. On 9-11 February 1984, he banned students union starting from Sindh and than carrying out the orders to the rest of the country. Dow Medical College had always been the focus of the left politics and produced great student leaders from time to time. One of the reason that Dr Rasheed Hassan Khan was elected the Central President of NSF after the defection of Meraj Mohd Khan to Pakistan Peoples Party. It was not a surprise that Dow Mediacl College was first to react to the ban on student political activities. At that particular time there were five elected unions in Karachi, Dow Medical College (Khalid Anwer NSF panel), Sind Medical College (Rizwan Naeem, NSF panel)) and Dawood Engineering College (Rao Jamal Hamid, NSF panel) had elected Presidents from NSF we had no alliance with any body. We were never in alliance with USM as quoted by Nadeem Paracha. NED Engineering University had President from PSF
( Safwan Shah PSF) It must be kept in mind that PSF in NED was Progressive Student Federation and not Peoples Student Federation. This was a party of progressive students in alliance with left leaning organisations. They were not a part of Pakistan Peoples Party and contested the election as a single party rather than an electoral alliance. Karachi University was the only institute with panel elected from Islami Jamiat-e-Talba. On the morning of the ban, we were running an admission campaign to facilitate new comers to Dow medial and Sind Medical College. We refused to accept the Ordinance and immediately put black armbands and took students to the streets and ran a campaign for 100 days (photos no.1 Umar Daraz Khan and Irfan on NSF admission campaign stall with black armbands on the morning of the ban, no 2&3 protesting and leading a procession on MAJinah Road with NSF and black flags, no 4 relaxing between pathrao in DMC on a hot day`Back row Naushad Mohiuddin, Rashid Hashmi, Farrukh Hashmi, Izharulhaque, Umar Daraz,Tanveer Imam, Saim Iqbal, Najeeb Sherwani, Adil Jamal. All but Umar Daraz and Izhar (UK) are in America.). NSF was the only student party in Karachi which started the protest and all started from Dow Medical college, Islami Jamiat Talba joining later for face saving and in the broader interest of the students we had a combined meeting in Dow medical college where two organisations joined hands for the same cause (Photo5 Jamiat Nazim Rehan and Umar Daraz Khan NSF Unit secretary in General Body meeting on 22May 84). It must be reiterated that NSF kept the lead in the hand because of the brave nature of the workers and readiness to sacrifice for the cause. I myself was arrested along with other workers but we were not deterred from the cause (photos6-8 showing arrest and reception after release). During the process of protest, Sind Medical College was stormed by police and shelled with tear gas and while on the run I had a motor bike accident with sever head and facial fractures, I was brought to Civil Hospital unconscious and on regaining consciousness, I found myself on a stretcher of casualty, I fled from the Emergency Department of Dow and Civil Hospital bare footed without treatment to avoid arrest.(photo9. Attending a friend Mehndi in between accident and operation. Left to right Rashid Hashmi, Umar Daraz, Waqar Yousuf, Tanveer Imam, Salman Ali Khan and Shaid Nusrat) Ten days later, once I had the money, I had my operation done privately in a clinic to get my facial bones put together but on knowing that Late Irtiza Hussain Zaidy, Eid Gah Police Station SHO, is seen in the private clinic with police mobile, I ran from the clinic on my first day after operation. I came back to Civil Hospital and Dow Medical College to join our other comrades Like Athar Hamid, Tanveer Imam, Aleem Khan, Furqan Zafar, Safdar Rasheed and many more.(no10 Sitting in front of the union office with victory sign and left swollen face) Our workers like Hakim Baloch, Humayun from SMC, Babar Asad, Kaleem and Shahid from Dawood Engineering College and Sohail Jaffar and Bashmi Mumtaz from NED and Iqbal, Riaz Pekar from Karachi University were few to name on the forefront. Thousand of students protested across Pakistan, hundreds were put behind the bars and tortured. This movement was brutally suppressed by the dictator but they were never able to stop student activities in the colleges.
We would like to bring attention to Mr Paracha’s comments on 1981 elections and referring to USM as winning most of the elections in Karachi. It is, to my surprise, such a politically ignorant comment that a student from Karachi will find hard to swallow. USM or United Student Movement was an alliance of different anti Jamiat parties and was limited to Karachi University only. I am very surprised for Mr Paracha’s lack of grip on his contemporary political arena of student politics He, in his subsequent paragraph, has again used the names of USM and Punjab Democratic Students Alliance as the left leaning sole representatives of Karachi students, not realising that one was a conglomerate of a hotch potch political parties limited to Karachi University and the other was a nationalistic student party not native to Karachi or Sindh and had no popular student support. He has repeated his political ignorance again in subsequent paragraphs that USM and Punjabi Student Alliance were creating chilling waves in Islamabad and the capitol was worried in 1984 because of these two parties, which in fact did not, existed outside Jamea Karachi. Both were a collection of students without ideological views or will to pursue a political programme. Mr Paracha,s hallucinations peaked when he subsequently cited elections in Pakistan student colleges and universities in 1985 and 89 and giving a break down of the composition of the constituent’s student elected bodies. His political bankruptcy and lack of awareness to the reality is beyond imagination and I found it quite extraordinary because no such elections took place. Mr Paracha in his absolute insanity quoted different medical, engineering and other colleges as his source of information bringing those institutes into disrepute at the same time.
We also would like to make it clear that NSF never supported any group or organisation involved in preaching or promotion of ethnic hatred. This is no longer secret that APMSO and MQM were armed by notorious Pakistan Inter Services Intelligence ISI to divide and weaken working class power base in Sindh in general and Pakistan Peoples Party in particular. NSF itself has been targeted by APMSO and MQM goondas and had several clashes with its workers. Some of our workers had to leave the country with out completing their education and house jobs. Some of them were kidnapped and tortured at the same time. APMSO and MQM have a proven record of being pro-establishment and army. NSF never preached a policy to promote violence in campuses and NSF never encouraged any group, leave alone arming, for violence even against its bitter political rivals. If it was done by any self proclaimed NSF splinter group, as cited by Mr Paracha, mainstream NSF cannot be blamed for this activity or in other would like take the credit of it. We have never initiated violence but have always resisted such aggression with our feet anchored deep in the ground.
Meraj Mohammad Khan remained president of NSF till 1967 and was later replaced by Rasheed Hassan Khan (student of Dow Medical College Karachi and General Secretary of NSF in Meraj Presidency) and endorsed his leadership in a central council session held in Lahore in 1970.
Following were the main reasons which led to the withdrawal of NSF support extended to PPP in the past.
1- After PPP won the election and emerged as a single largest party in West Pakistan, PPP refused to acknowledge the mandate of Awami league and their demand of greater autonomy and furthermore its policies regarding army operation in East Pakistan . NSF and Mazdoor Kissan Party were the main left organizations who strongly opposed army operation against Bengalis. This is also to reiterate that many among left supported such unpopular actions carried out by army in East Pakistan leading to fall of East Pakistan, surrender of arms and 93,000 soldiers were taken as prisoner of wars.
2- Differences further deepened when NSF realized that ZA Bhutto has made a U turn from his promises he made to students and working class regarding radical changes to the system.
3- Bhutto wanted to silence his critiques and dissidents and crackdown on workers and students blatently.
The breaking point between Bhutto and NSF came when Bhutto crushed labour movement in Site on 7-8 June and in Landhi, KARACHI on 17-18 October in 1972. Several workers were killed and hundreds arrested. Rasheed Hassan Khan then a president of NSF has to go underground.
Consequently NSF withdrew its support from PPP and exposed Bhutto’s hypocrisy and opportunistic politics fuelled by his feudal background and supported by his gang. Meraj Mohamed Khan decided to remain in PPP and when he was asked to withdraw his support (until than Meraj and Rasheed Hassan Khan were still part of the same group) his reply was that it was the establishment that is trying to create conflicts among workers and that PPP and its policies are clean but he was proved wrong later. In years to come, the gulf of difference between ZA Bhutto and Meraj khan widened and Meraj Mohd Khan has no choice other than to leave PPP and form his own political organisation which he named as Qomi Mahaz-e-Azadi and his own faction of NSF. Once, a flamboyant student leader, Meraj fell in to political isolation and he never regained his position as a representative leader of working class, a position he enjoyed once.
Umar Daraz Khan
Asim Ali Shah