Hum kae tareek rahoan mein marae gye.

Clip_51We were ambushed in dark alleys a line from a poem by Faiz, unarguably the leading progressive muse of Urdu in the twentieth century.

During their rule over India, the British colonizers, among other self-serving measures, had introduced an education system, which catered to their needs.

In the last five decades of foreign rule, students emerged as a credible force for change. Post WWI the vibrant movement for independence found a resonance among thousands of students. Students organized groups and unions in colleges and universities throughout the Indian subcontinent, but an organization at the national level could emerge only in the third decade of twentieth century

In August 1936, an all India Students Conference was held in Lucknow (UP). Pandit Nehru inaugurated the moot, and M.A.Jinnah presided over it. Nine hundred eighty six delegates chosen by 200 local and eleven provincial student bodies participated in the deliberations.

All India Students Federation (AISF) was founded during the conference. In his welcome speech, Reception Committee Chairman, Prem Bhargva stated that though AISF would not be beholden to any political campaign, yet we will inevitably get involved in the struggle for independence.

Three months after the initial conference, another meeting was held in Lahore, (Punjab). Sarat Bose presided over this moot. Bose in his presidential address dwelt at length on analysis of the political upheaval in the country and shared his thoughts about the role of students. He exhorted the audience to embed intellectual activism in working class and proletariat movements. This session also approved a constitution of AISF.

AISF held its sixth session in Nagpur (CP, now MP) on December 25, 1940. The agenda of this conference was to chart a line of action and policy against the colonial rule. Majority of delegates advocated a more militant stance against British rule than favored by Indian National Congress (INC) under Gandhi. Dr Ashraf, a revolutionary leader branded Satyagraha-passive resistance offered by Gandhi, a weak reed response to the aggressive control of the colonial power. Disagreeing with the prevalent opinion and after failure to evolve a common platform, the section, which favored INC, seceded from the main body and held a separate session under the leadership of M.L.Shah and Aurobindoo Ghosh and formed All India Students Congress (AISC).

AISF gained further strength from the struggle and led by Dr Ashraf and M.Mukerjee, emerged as a credible player in the struggle for independence and remained active in post independence days. In 1947 its membership was 74,000.

In 1937, All India Muslim league (AIML) held a session in Lucknow. In addition to reorganization and expansion work, it changed its political posture and demanded complete independence for India. All India Muslim Students Federation was also launched in this session. It held its first conference in December 1938 at Calcutta (Bengal). M.A.Jinnah presided over the session and Raja Amir Muhammad of Mahmoodabad was elected the President.

Students played a vital and historic role in the movement for establishment of Pakistan. They reflected the yearning of the public for shedding the burden of foreign rule.

At the time of partition the number of educational institution in West Pakistan (now all of Pakistan) was limited to Punjab University (1882), Government College, Hailey College, Dayal Singh and Sanatan Dharam College (current MAO College), DAV College (current Islamia college, Civil Lines) and Islamia College Railway Road all in Lahore, and Murray College in Sialkot, DJ Science College (1887), SM Arts college (1943), SM Science College (1945) Dow Medical college (1945) and Sind University (now Karachi University-1945), all in Karachi.

Before partition Hindu and Sikh students dominated the educational institutions in the Punjab. When they left for India, immigrant students to the province found berths in schools and colleges.

Sindh on the other hand did not experience whole scale exodus of non-Muslims and Karachi was inundated by refugees; its population quickly swelled from about 200,000 to 1,200,000. Educational institutions could not cope with the influx. Private institutions lacking physical structure, libraries, laboratories, or playgrounds mushroomed. They simply attempted to enable students to take examinations and obtain a degree. The system faced all kinds of problems.

In October 1947, the Government of Pakistan (GOP) convened a high-powered educational conference in Karachi. M.A. Jinnah, inaugurating the conference, declared that education and especially relevant education does not require emphasis; it was self-evident. During foreign domination for over a century adequate attention was not paid to public education. If we are to really develop at a fast pace we will have to give prime importance to education in our national agenda. Our education should not only reflect our history and culture but also pay due heed to progressive thought and economic and scientific progress. Our future will depend on how we educate and bring up our children. We must impart technical and scientific training to our people so that in future our trade and industry can obtain a scientific and technical base. We must not forget that the world is moving ahead fast. We will have to keep pace. Our educational system has to impart concepts of honesty, honor and sincerity among our young people.

An educational research center was established after the conference. Its mandate was to advise and guide the government on education policy.

It got mired in sloth, inactivity and indifference.

For lack of basic amenities in educational institutions, students of the Punjab and Sindh were gradually getting restive. Muslim League had degenerated into internecine conflict over distribution of government ministries. Students could not escape these self-centered politics. Muslim Students Federation (MSF) split into factions. And the groups became an appendage of League leaders who used the students unscrupulously. The federation lost credibility among the ranks of students. They faced vestiges of problems created by colonial dispensation and its creations, the feudal and bureaucratic systems. The vestiges pervaded all walks of life and controlled economic, political and social life.

The educational system had been created to provide clerical and subordinate staff to assist colonial rulers to tighten their grip on India. It had not offered any thing but despair, hopelessness and unemployment.

The country succumbed to wide spread corruption, nepotism and favoritism. The face of Pakistan was not what people had aspired to; they had been let down with a thud.

At the end of 1948, responding to this atmosphere of gloom, a few progressive students founded a small group in Lahore called Democratic Students Federation (DSF). DSF did not have a written or formal platform or agenda. It only aimed at amelioration of the educational and academic problems of students. It participated in Union elections in different colleges and obtained a measure of success.

For the next two to three years its activities remained confined to Lahore and Rawalpindi. Prominent among its leaders were Abid Manto in Rawalpindi and Naqvi (A nephew of A.T.Naqvi, the chief commissioner of Karachi) in Lahore. MSF maintained its simultaneous existence, but was not popular and remained ineffective.

In Karachi DSF was formed first in Dow Medical College in 1950.

Post establishment of Pakistan feudal lords had obtained control of the government, which became total after PM Liaqat Ali Khan, Jinnah’s designated heir apparent was assassinated in October 1951.

Jinnah himself and Liaquat had discouraged students participation in political life. They felt that student would better spend time in acquiring education and become good citizens. Their feudal successors had another agenda. They wanted students to behave like good children and train themselves as good servants of the ruling class. Whenever students agitated for their rights and demanded amenities, they were exhorted to refrain from politics. Pakistan had come into existence; there was no more reason to participate in public life. Those who did not toe the line were subjected to discrimination and torture at the hands of state security apparatus. A few sold themselves for a piece of gold.

MSF had disintegrated. Islami Jamiat e Talaba, the student wing of Jamaat e Islami formed in 1948, confined itself to proselytization and convened small gatherings in mosques. They were later to publish a few pamphlets.