Last year the Progressive Youth Alliance was launched in Lahore. This was a landmark event gathering youth from all over Pakistan. Here we publish a report on the latest activities of the PYA, its intervention across Pakistan in recent student protests and its successes in winning leftward moving nationalist youth organisations.
The Progressive Youth Alliance was launched last year on December 5 in Lahore. In its founding convention students from various educational institutions participated from across the country. This year after the summer break the PYA once again launched its campaign for Free Education, the restoration of student unions and against unemployment. The website of the PYA has been launched along with a new leaflet printed in large numbers to spread the message among students and unemployed youth.
Lahore: Registration Camps
A registration camp was held in Ali Town in front of the University of Lahore (UOL) on 6 Oct. The camp started at 2:00pm and ended around 6:00pm in the evening. 127 students visited the camp and registered with the PYA which was organized around free education, employment for all and restoration of the student unions in educational institutions.
A lot of students registering in the camp were students of the University of Lahore, which is a private university. The PYA leaflet was distributed among the students. The students visiting the camp said that education has become a big business and they are forced to pay hundreds of thousands of rupees for a single semester.
The students showed a keen interest in the socialist literature at the camp, especially in the newly published biographical booklet on Che Guevara which was bought in large quantities, which is very encouraging. Students said there is no platform available right now through which the students can organize and raise a voice for their rights. They fully endorsed this effort by the PYA and promised to organize in the struggle for students’ rights.
Another camp was organized in front of the University of Management and Technology in Johar Town, Lahore, on 20 October. 101 students visited the camp and registered with the PYA. Students expressed a keen interest in the discussions on socialism and the struggle for their rights. They explained the difficulties created by the management every day and the exorbitant fee of this private university. Students asked for the next activity arranged by the PYA so they can become a part of it.
In the coming days more camps are planned at various Universities and Colleges in Lahore and other cities across the country.
Meeting on the topic of “Worldwide Revolutionary Movements of Youth”
Following the camp of 6 October, a meeting was organized in Ali Town on 18 Oct, on the topic of “Worldwide Revolutionary Movements of Youth”. The meeting was organized in a hostel in front of the University of Lahore in which 20 students participated. The majority of the participants belonged to UOL.
The participants briefly introduced themselves and then Zain-ul-Abideen of the PYA opened up the topic for discussion in which he elaborated on the youth movements since 2008 and video clips of various youth movements across the globe were also shown which were especially helpful in highlighting the issues.
Zain expounded on the various hardships faced by the youth after the 2008 crisis, especially rising costs of education and unemployment. The cuts in education budgets, the attacks on free education and other public spending are in fact a manifestation of the 2008 economic crisis against which movements rose up in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa, etc. and still continue to arise. All the movements, from the Occupy Wall Street in the U.S., to the students’ movement of Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, show the anger and hatred of youth towards this barbaric and exploitative system. The issues and problems faced by the students in Pakistan and their solutions were also frankly discussed.
The most interesting thing about the meeting was that all the participants were keenly listening to the discussions and raised many questions regarding the restoration of student unions in Pakistan. They also gave their thoughts and recommendations regarding work among the youth. The participants in the meeting from PYA Lahore were M. Qasim, Khalid Jan, Shay Razai and Adeel Hassan.
New Study Circle in the Engineering University
A new study circle with the topic “What is Socialism” was organized in the University of Engineering & Technology (UET), Lahore, on Tuesday, 27 September in which students from different departments participated. The discussion was opened by Adam Pal.
Today the economic system in which we are living is known as capitalism, a class system in which the means of production are owned by a handful of people while the vast majority of humanity are workers who are actually toiling to run the society. But this economic system in its historical decline is now unable to further develop the means of production and take humanity forward. Unprecedented and horrific attacks are being carried out on the youth and the working class all over the world by the ruling class. These attacks are triggering mass uprisings and revolutions everywhere. The vast majority in Pakistan is living without the basics of life, such as education, health, employment, lodgings etc. while the rulers, on the orders of their masters IMF and the World Bank, are hell bent on taking away whatever little people have left. This is being expressed in the form of wholesale privatizations of schools and colleges, hospitals and other public services and entities. University fees are constantly being increased. The ban on student unions has resulted in a zero role for the students in educational institutions. There is a constant rise in unemployment. These conditions are not just prevalent in Pakistan but are also being faced by youth and workers in the U.S. and Europe. The only solution to all this is a socialist revolution in which all the means of production are taken into collective ownership and a classless society is formed. Capitalism is at such a stage where there is no possibility for any further development. That is why today the struggle for socialism has to be organized internationally. Today the crisis of capitalism can only be understood by using the method of Marxism. Afterwards a question session was opened, in which the all the participants eagerly participated. The young participants asked questions about socialist revolution, the role of the state in a socialist society, the need for a revolutionary party, the fall of the USSR, religion and many other topics which were dealt with in detail. All the participants agreed to hold the study circle on a weekly basis.
Islamabad: Protest in Islamic International University
On 18 October students of the Law Department of the Islamic International University held a protest against Management. Students were demanding improvements in the criteria to appear in exams or they will need to spend extra time in classes. Students were also raising slogans against the highhandedness of the management in the University. But management didn't address their demands, so on 19 October students blocked the campus and organized a rally. Students from other departments also joined in. After this the management accepted only two of the demands, after which protest ended. But the students said that they will continue their protests in the coming days. Comrades of the PYA supported the protesting students and participated in the protest.
Dadu: Meeting to discuss Current Situation and future of Education
In this small city in the Interior Sindh a meeting was arranged by the Progressive Youth Alliance on the topic of “The Current Situation and the Future of Education” in which Comrade Aftab Ashraf from Lahore was invited to speak. Unemployed Youth, students, workers from public sector and different private factories were invited to attend.
Comrade Aftab started his leadoff on the evolution of society and the role of knowledge in its progress. He explained in detail the class formation in different societies and the class contradictions in capitalism. He lambasted the false contradictions propagated by the media and educational institutions and expounded the fact that there is only one true contradiction in capitalism and that is the contradiction of rich and poor, capitalist and worker, landowner and land tiller, the haves and the have nots. The 1% are owners of 99% of the world’s wealth and the 99% own 1% of wealth. When such injustice becomes rampant, revolutions are on the order of the day and we can see how in the last eight years not a single region of the world has been spared. Revolutions and counter-revolutions have become the norm.
In such conditions of decline, education has become big business. Billions of rupees are being plundered in the name of education while the state universities and schools have become jokes. Only one institute has been built by the state in the last thirty years while the population has exploded. The whole country is made to pay either to the imperialist lenders or to pay for the atomic bomb which has made us the only country in the world where the whole population is told that it is a sacred duty to protect the atom bombs while the army generals have become real estate tycoons whose only glory is measured by the weight of their unearned medals.
The participants attending the proceedings intervened with questions and comments enthusiastically. At the end Comrade Aftab Ashraf summed up the whole discussion while answering all the questions.
Protests against the unfair marking of papers in Punjab College Examinations
Protests against the unfair marking of papers were held in many cities in the Punjab province when the results of Intermediate Part 1 (Eleventh year of study) were announced on 17 October. Within a few days these protests spread to many cities and students were protesting against all local examination boards. The protesting students say that the board managements are playing with their future. Hundreds of thousands of rupees are being spent on education and still we have to face failure. We will not accept this injustice any further.
In fact, the government of Punjab is doing its utmost to privatize government educational institutions. These protests are the result of the fact that in these examinations students from state-run colleges were deliberately given lower marks to make out that they only achieve poor results compared to the private colleges. This will be used to make the argument that government institutions cannot provide proper education so they should be handed over to private investors. On the other hand, private colleges buy top positions in exams through bribes and use this to expand their business. Although, apart from these top positions most of the students of these colleges fail in the exams.
On 17 October a large number of college students were present in front of the Press Club for the protest against the Lahore Examination Board. The protesters closed the Shimla Hill crossing, blocking all traffic. The protesters explained that the government is trying to fool them with the promise of re-counting but the real issue is checking which of the right answers had been wrongly marked. On the other hand the board management has issued a directive for the students to make applications, not directly to the board for re-checking, but to the concerned colleges. The colleges will toe the line of the powerful boards and will try to appease the students by taking in all the applications, waiting for the students to cool off and the bogus result will be maintained.
At the protest gangsters of Islami Jamiat Talba, a fundamentalist student organization, were also in the protest attempting to hijack it. The goons, following their traditions of student animosity, physically assaulted a student and as a result attention was diverted from the protest to the brawl. In this way, Islami Jamiat Talba again proved itself to be the lowly pimp of the state and tried to sabotage the protest. Protests have been going on all over Punjab but such an incident has not been witnessed before. Today Jamiat participated in the protests for the first time and as is their tradition, tried their level best to sabotage the protest. This incident was also highlighted a lot by the eagerly waiting media.
Comrades of the PYA were also present at the protest with placards against the management. They gathered the students and explained that to prevent such incidents from happening and to safeguard against enemies of students’ rights, the students will have to organize and elect their leadership democratically and develop strategies and tactics to take the protests forward.
Students in Multan, as elsewhere all over Punjab, also protested against the results of Intermediate Part 1. The students organized a protest first in front of the Press Club and then they protested in front of the Multan Board offices.
The protests were attended by students of different colleges of Multan and the announced results on Saturday were rejected by the students. The students demand that the results be declared null and void and the papers must be rechecked. This time the results are totally wrong as some students have been awarded 101 marks out of 100 and 87 out of 85!
The students said that their future is being played with and they will not accept this injustice. Protests will continue till the demands are met. The youth team of the PYA not only participated in the protest but played a critical role in organizing it. They fully support the protests and have assured the students total support till victory.
The Part 1 result of the Intermediate exam has been wrongly marked and has affected the majority of students. Students are protesting against this everywhere and accusing the board managements of destroying the future of students. Students are self-organizing everywhere and a lot of students have participated in these protests.
A protest was organized in front of the DG Khan Board in which a large number of students participated. PYA members also participated in this protest with banners. PYA clearly stated in discussions with the students that this is not a random act and clearly all of the boards are involved in this maleficence which shows the government policy of allowing as few students as possible to pass. On the one hand, this process earns huge profits for the boards, and on the other the government is trying to cover up its hollow education policy so that as few students as possible pass exams.
This reflects the impotency of the state in providing further education for students. The PYA announced its full solidarity with the students and offered them to join the PYA platform and organize for their rights.
On 15 October a protest was held here in which a large number of students from various colleges participated. The students had organized this protest themselves as they were facing strict measures from their colleges. In some colleges the administration closed the doors to stop students from participating in protest. In spite of this, the students came out and participated in the protest. They moved towards D.C. Chowk and raised slogans against the education department. Some agents of the state tried to harass the students but they stood firm with their demands. In the end a delegation from authorities came out for negotiations which were not fruitful. The students have vowed to continue their protests till their demands are met.
The campaign for the protest started on social media. Students contacted each other and gathered at the main crossing of the city, the Milad Crossing. Students raised angry slogans against the Punjab Board and Multan Board and blocked the Multan-Bhawalpur main road which resulted in a huge traffic jam, after which the local management took notice and tried to assure the students that their issues would be taken up seriously and they should open up the road. But the guarantees the students were demanding were not being given. So the students continued the protests and the road was closed for almost two hours. Afterwards, the teachers of the students who had not participated in the protest gave false assurances to the students, after talking to the local management, that their issue would be resolved by next Monday. The students opened up the road but were brimming with anger threatening to protest again if their demands are not met. The PYA is standing in solidarity with all the students of the Punjab till their struggle is successful.
On 10 October, the Gujranwala Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education announced the 1st year results, which came like a bolt of lightning out of the blue for all colleges and the aggregate passing was 30% of total students. The students here were inspired by the call of Lahore students to protest and a message was floated on social media. 15 October was the date agreed upon in which a large majority of students from private colleges also participated.
The PYA fully participated in the protest. A TV reporter asked an activist of the PYA, Mishal Wyne, why she had come to the protest? She told the reporter that “a great injustice has been done against the students and a majority has got very low marks. We demand that re-checking be done without any fee submission.” Mishal was the only girl representing the students of the government colleges as the students are very scared of repercussions and girls cannot even think of protesting on the roads. After this protest, the chairman of the board announced that all the papers would be re-checked without fees. But this feels like a lie because when the students have been going for re-checking they are asked for fees. More protests may be needed to achieve success.
Students in Pakistan are also facing terrorist attacks from religious fundamentalist organizations. In December 2014 at the Army Public School in Peshawar around 149 students were butchered in a terrorist attack. Later terrorist attacks were held in Bacha Khan university and others in which many students were killed. The government used these attacks to further curb the rights of students. On the pretext of security, gatherings of students have been banned in educational institutions and hostels, and the campuses are teeming with security personnel. In the name of security the fees have been increased massively and if someone speaks against this they are silenced or expelled as a traitor of national security.
The PYA demands that only through the lifting of the ban on student unions and restoring these can we ensure security in the educational institutions. Security arrangements have failed many times and only the students themselves can ensure the best security of their institutions.
the PYA has published a booklet on Che Guevera which is getting a good response from students across the country. This is the Urdu translation of the article by Alan Woods "Who was Che Guevara, and what he fought for", with a preface by comrade Paras Jan.
Students in Pakistan have very militant traditions and have been at the forefront of struggles against dictatorships in the 1960s and 1980s. But after a ban on student unions in the 1980s under the dictator Zia ul Haq, and later with the collapse of the Soviet Union, left wing politics suffered a big setback among students. Subsequent “democratic” governments have maintained this ban on student unions. Now, after three decades, student unions are still banned.
In these years a huge movement of Baloch students emerged against Army oppression and for independence from the Pakistani State. Students joined the armed struggle in big numbers against the Pakistani Army, fighting for their rights. But after the betrayal of the leadership and without the ideas of revolutionary Marxism this movement couldn't achieve its goals and has been drowned in blood, with almost twenty two thousand killed.
Now the students in Balochistan and across the whole of Pakistan are keen to learn the ideas of genuine Marxism and draw the correct conclusions from this struggle. A faction of the BSO has already joined the PYA and is organizing around these ideas. For all these students this booklet is very important and they are drawing important conclusions after reading it.
Apart from Balochistan, Nationalist organizations in Sindh, Pushtoonkhwa, Kashmir and South Punjab have abandoned any left-wing ideas they touted in the past. Therefore students are in search of such ideas and that is why this book and other revolutionary literature of the PYA is very important. Along with this, the student wing of the People’s Party has also collapsed and is lost in corruption, looting and plunder.
In this situation the PYA has emerged as the only platform for students keen to fight against the injustices of capitalism and in which to unite all their immediate struggles around one platform and carry forward these towards a socialist revolution of Pakistan and the whole world.
All this is clearly mentioned in the founding document of the PYA which was unanimously passed in the founding convention last year.
Note: The PYA is currently organising study circles in Balochistan University, Peshawar University, Malakand University, BZ University Multan, Islamia University Bahwalpur, Islamic International University Islamabad, UET Lahore and in other places. Study circles in Sindh University, Punjab University, FC College University and others will start in few weeks. All progressive students are invited to join these circles on the ideas of revolutionary Marxism. You can contact us through our website.