“Our generation has had no great war, no great depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.”
Balochistan has not only been bestowed with natural resources, but its people are also enlightened politically and socially. The majority of people have a sound understanding of politics even though political activities are limited due to a longstanding ban. Furthermore, due to murky reasons pertaining to various power groups, politics has acquired a bad name.
Despite the bans and negative propaganda against political activism, student politics in Balochistan has a golden history of resistance and courage. It has created a cadre of great names that are contributing to various fields of civic life even today.
Frustratingly though, a negative perception has somehow prevailed among the people of Balochistan that student politics cannot contribute much to society.
I joined the Baloch Students Action Committee (BSAC) of the University of Balochistan in 2013. In the past couple of years, I have observed student politics very closely. Therefore, I believe my experiences and observations will help to highlight some of the problems being faced by those in student politics.
As student politics witnessed an unfavorable environment from 2009 to 2012 in Balochistan, fear prevailed among students, which discouraged them from taking part in politics. I remember vividly that very few people acknowledged openly that they were part of any student union wings. Due to this suppression, the space shrank greatly.
The administrations of all universities and colleges in Balochistan were asked to replace the student political wings with alternative bodies so that real representation could be erased.
Subsequently, the institutions working on the agendas of their patrons almost succeeded in replacing the true representatives. If I call it one of the darkest times in the history of Baloch student politics, it would not be wrong.
Between 2013 to 2018, various student groups were formed for securing the vested interests of certain individuals that resulted in sowing divisions among the students.
Moreover, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were provided space in educational institutions. They were freely conducting programs, but student organizations faced bans in carrying out their activities. NGOs discouraged volunteerism to a great extent, which helped give birth to individualism.
Due to these acts, education became a business. As a result of this, parents started sending their children to madrasas due to inflated tuition fees of universities and colleges. I consider it one of our own blunders that we did not realize the importance of this phase and how it would affect our future generations.
During this phase one of the most significant things student politics witnessed was the formation of Baloch Students Action Committee. I would not be wrong in claiming that the recent phase of student politics has its base in the formation of BSAC. When students were disunited and masses were afraid, BSAC gave them hope – the hope that can clearly be seen on the students’ faces today.
Initially, BSAC was confined to only a few institutions in Quetta. After realizing that BSAC could fill the gape in student politics, it was extended to other institutions in Quetta and other cities of the province and country.
As I was one of the first members of BSAC, we started to unite the students on a single platform and emphasized the importance of student activism in the campuses.
To this effect, BSAC is the only student organization that is conducting book fairs in 8 districts of Balochistan.
BSAC has arranged different programs on issues concerning the students and Baloch society, in spite of threats against engaging in student politics. BSAC has provided working space to female students. To this effect, we proudly say that Dr. Sabiha is the only female student leader who is leading one of the largest student organizations in Pakistan.
Promoting critical thinking, active participation in book reading circles, encouraging students to take part in student politics, highlighting core issues pertaining to students are main focuses of BSAC. Nevertheless, I believe that there is still room for improvement in the organization, but with the passage of time, I am confident the shortcomings, if any, will be eliminated.
It is, however, disappointing that some confusions are being created about BSAC by various quarters, some consciously and some unconsciously. For instance, there are people who claim that BSAC is an apolitical organization. My answer to them is that our programs and efforts are purely for socio-political awakening of our society. Further, BSAC has clarified its key aim in its constitution which was approved in its first central council session. We have a clear agenda to educate our youth and ensure their participation in mass politics in future. We also realize that there are organizations similar to BSAC that are working sincerely, which we appreciate and support wholeheartedly.
To conclude, BSAC is a friend to all those students who wish to acquire knowledge and learn from organizational morphology.