Police in Pakistan have arrested a youth leader and registered cases against the organisers and participants of a massive students rally recently held across the country demanding restoration of student unions in the campuses, media reports said on Monday.
Students union were banned in 1984 by the military dictator General Zia-ul Haq and were never fully restored despite demand by the students.
Thousands of students in 50 major cities in Pakistan held rallies on Friday demanding restoration of their unions and improvement in educational facilities.
The protest termed as the Student Solidarity March was organised and led by the Student Action Committee (SAC) – a representative body of different student groups.
In Lahore, the Civil Lines police on behalf of the State registered a case on sedition charges against the organisers of the march besides 250-300 unidentified participants, the Dawn newspaper reported.
Zulfiqar Hameed, a capital city police officer, said the case was registered on behalf of the State because the students were delivering provocative speeches and chanting slogans against the state and its institutions.
A student leader, who was also among the organisers, was arrested by the police.
“One of the organisers Alamgir Wazir was arrested two days ago and the police would arrest other people involved in the case as well,” he was quoted as saying by the paper.
Wazir, a former Punjab University student who went on to become chairperson of the Pakhtun Council, had gone missing from the campus two days ago.
The Pukhtun Council students protested against the arrest of Wazir outside the Punjab University Vice Chancellor’s house.
A case under sedition charges has also been registered against Iqbal Lala, father of Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan was lynched by an angry mob over blasphemy allegations in 2017, the Express Tribune reported.
Khan, since his brutal murder, has become a symbol of students’ resistance.
Big gathering of students were also held in Karachi and Lahore which traditionally have been the magnet of students’ activities.
A rally was also held in front of the Parliament building in Islamabad, demanding that the restriction on student union should be lifted.
Similar rallies were held in the provincial capital of Peshawar and Quetta.
Meanwhile, different political leaders, including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, supported the students’ demand to restore the student unions.
This is not the first case registered against students and activists on sedition charges.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday said the government would first come out with a code of conduct before allowing political activities at the campuses.
“We will establish a comprehensive & enforceable code of conduct, learning from the best practices in internationally renowned universities, so that we can restore & enable student unions to play their part in positively grooming our youth as future leaders of the country,” he tweeted.
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