Revolutionary Students Front fights against harassment in Pakistani universities

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Blackmail, harassment forced Pakistani women
Blackmail, harassment in Pakistani university (Photo: Aljazeera)

The Revolutionary Students Front (RSF) is demanding the involvement of student representatives in the investigation of the recent Islamia University incident, which has brought to light hundreds of cases of sexual exploitation and harassment of female students in Bahawalpur., Pakistan. The RSF also seeks the punishment of those responsible for these heinous acts.

In a statement released by the RSF, they express concern over the longstanding disempowerment of students in educational institutions and the deplorable consequences of the restrictive and competitive examination system. The incident at Islamia University is not an isolated case, as similar incidents are becoming increasingly common in universities across the country, shedding light on the ineffectiveness of the higher education administration.

The RSF blames the education system, especially the examination and grading system, grants power and authority to certain individuals, which they exploit to manipulate and impact the lives of students. They also reveal the existence of a drug network within educational institutions involving people from both the administrative and legal machinery. Heartbreaking incidents like these occur daily, leading to emotional and psychological trauma for the affected students.

Furthermore, religious fundamentalists leverage such events for their propaganda against women’s education, leading to some girls being expelled or barred from pursuing education by their own parents. The RSF points out that this is not the first time such a systematic network of harassment has been exposed, as a similar incident occurred at Balochistan University, but no proper action or accountability was taken.

The students in these institutions face humiliation and disgrace on a regular basis. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has also become increasingly restrictive, banning recreational activities like celebrating Holi, which further stifles the educational environment, promotes regressive fundamentalism and is suffocating.

From university employees, management, and state officials to the highest echelons of power, the Revolutionary Students Front (RSF) alleges that certain individuals, including capitalists and political elites, are part of a brutal system that perpetuates systematic sexual exploitation and blackmail. The RSF emphasizes that the oppression and exploitation within this system have made the entire society sexually and psychologically sick.

The RSF further highlights the alarming cases of sexual abuse and exploitation involving ruling class members and state representatives. They assert that these incidents are sometimes linked to women’s veils and clothing, directly or indirectly conveying the message that women are not human beings but merely objects of desire, confined in a sheet and four walls. The RSF finds such reprehensible statements and actions deeply concerning and points out similar sentiments expressed by Imran Khan in the recent past.

On Saturday, police in Lahore and Bahawalpur made arrests at the Islamia University of Bahawalpur (IUB) on drug charges and discovered ‘objectionable’ content related to students and staff members. A special police report indicated the involvement of a “group of teachers” at the university in the drug trade and sexual exploitation of female students and teachers. The police intercepted the university’s transport in-charge and found meth in his possession.

Earlier, the university’s treasurer and security chief were also arrested on drug charges, with sexually explicit content found on the latter’s phone. The investigation revealed a network of students involved in drug peddling and links to organized ‘indecent’ parties on and off-campus. The university authorities refuted the charges and requested a high-level inquiry into the arrests. Additionally, multiple committees were formed to investigate the cases further.

In light of the recent incident at Islamia University Bahawalpur and other similar cases, the RSF presents a set of demands:

  1. Inclusion of elected student representatives in the investigation process.
  2. Abandonment of regressive tactics that focus on individuals’ private lives and instead prioritizing the social aspect of the crime.
  3. Transparent investigations with each stage’s report made accessible to the media.
  4. Public disclosure of investigation results and the overall report.
  5. Holding those responsible accountable and ensuring they face severe punishment.
  6. Formation of special committees in educational institutions to prevent harassment, with significant student participation.
  7. Lifting the ban on student unions and releasing a schedule for union elections to foster a transparent, healthy, and progressive education system, giving students a voice in decision-making at all levels.

The RSF is calling on the relevant authorities to take these demands seriously and work towards establishing a safer and more inclusive educational environment that protects the rights and dignity of all students.

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