The devastating floods in Pakistan have caused widespread hardship among the workers and peasants, and the repercussions are affecting every stratum of Pakistan society, including the youth and the students. We have received this report of a protest movement by the medical students in Bahawalpur, which is suffering brutal repression at the hands of the authorities.
On 20th August 2010, under the direction of college principal Ejaz Shah, the police baton-charged the students of Quaid-e-Azam Medical College in Bahawalpur who were protesting against a one hundred percent increase in fees and severe power cuts in the student hostels.
The students were holding a protest, in which female students were present in big numbers, outside the Principal’s office. The Principal told them that he would continue his meeting and would not listen to anything from the students. This enraged the students and they started shouting slogans, after which Principal called the police.
The police at once attacked the students, who they baton-charged, throwing tear gas and firing rubber bullets at the students. Female students were pulled by their hair and dragged on the floor by brutal policemen. City DSP Aziz Ullah also abused the students openly. Despite this the students continued their protest.
After this, the police went into hostels and tortured students, including disabled people. Many students were arrested and charged under the anti-terrorism laws. They were sent to jail and were only released after 6 days. Many local MPs tried to intervene but students wanted their demands to be fulfilled, so that all negotiations failed.
Next day students continued their protests and entered the outdoor block of Victoria Hospital and occupied it. Many political parties tried to intervene but the students said: “Our hostel fee is being increased 100 percent while all our families and their belongings are being drowned in the floods.”
Most of the students belong to the families of working class areas worst affected by the floods and there is no way they can afford to pay this fee. In this hour of need when their families are facing a big disaster how can they manage huge fee? They said that the administration is threatening them that if they will not pay their fee they will be forcibly thrown out of the hostels.
The students have been continuing their protest for ten days now, while the administration is trying every effort to sabotage the protest. Students of other medical colleges and universities in Pakistan are supporting this cause and are holding protests on their campuses. A protest was held by students of Nishtar Medical College in Multan in which comrades of PSF (People’s Student Federation) participated in huge numbers.
The comrades of the PSF and YFIS (Youth for International Socialism) in Bahawalpur are also participating in this movement and are fighting for the demands of the students. The students who are leading this movement are Safder Malik, Comrade Syed Hadi Bukhari, Rameez, Rifat Kulachi and Khurram Gilgiti.
These student leaders have thanked the efforts of comrades of YFIS and PSF for their support and are involved in discussions on future strategy. Comrade Dr. Yasir Irshad and comrade Dr. Ammar who are working in Victoria Hospital are supporting the students in their struggle. Safder Malik who is one of the main leaders of the movement has said that without the support of comrades this would not have been possible.
At present students have occupied the campus of college and are fighting for their demands. The Punjab Government has declared vacations to sabotage this movement. But the students are still fighting for their demands with protests on the main road and by burning effigies of college principal Ejaz Shah.
The students also demand the removal of the DPO and Commissioner of Bahawalpur for their brutal repression of students. Comrades inside the PSF have demanded that all the remaining dues of students from flood-affected areas in any educational institution should be waived.