A large number of students, activists and political workers held a protest demonstration for student housing rights at the National Press Club here on Thursday. The protest was organized by the Student Hostelites Association (SHA), supported by the Progressive Students Federation (PrSF) and the Awami Workers Party (AWP).
The protesters lambasted the manner in which universities in Islamabad have simply abdicated their responsibility of providing accommodation facilities to their students. They stressed the need for universities to immediately start the construction of hostels for students. Imtiaz Mallah, a student at the National Defense University (NDU) and a representative of the Student Hostelites Association, said ‘universities have failed to provide hostel facilities to their students, which means that students who come to study to Islamabad from different parts of the country have to look elsewhere for accommodation. Khadija Khan, a student at a private university in Islamabad said ‘the CDA enforcement and inspection teams routinely invade our hostels on one pretext or another, and violate our privacy with complete disregard.’
AWP’s district women’s secretary Maria Habib Malik slashed out at excessive paternalism and gender based discrimination on campuses has stifled critical thought. She said that ‘hostel curfews for adult students are anachronistic and unconscionable. These patriarchal policies infantilize women and take away our constitutionally guaranteed personal freedoms. A student at PIDE and an organizer for the Women Democratic Front, Huda Bhurgri, expressed her frustration with the manner in which youth in general and young women in particular are treated by those in power who are mostly older men.
AWP’s Ammar Rashid spoke about the broader crisis in higher education which includes ‘funding cuts for the HEC, fee hikes, endemic and widespread harassment as evident from Balochistan University’s case and management highhandedness , which led to Inam’s death at Comsats’.