Politics plays an important role in the world and we are here to understand Student politics in Pakistan. The word ‘politics’ has lost its charm in Pakistan as it is only attached with negativity and of course the credit goes to our politicians. Politics is a wide topic but in this blog, we will only focus on politics and students.

Unfortunately, there is a concept that students’ involvement in politics could ruin their education career as well as their future. But historically, student unions have been part of the college and university structures in South Asia since the first grant-in-aid higher education institutions were instituted around the nineteenth century. But with the passage of time, a group of so-called politicians started negative propaganda against the unions for their political gains. Students have become cynical and pessimistic. The power of the students was broken and there are particular reasons for this.

Student Politics: Yay Or Nay?
National Students Federation (NSF) taking out a pro-Bhutto rally during the 1968 anti-Ayub protest movement

The absence of student unions has been catastrophic for Pakistani education, society and politics. But here’s a question arises that if student unions are bad for education, why are our controlled campuses ranked among the worst in the world?

Student politics in Pakistan has had a stormy but rich democratic history. If we take a glance at the history of students and politics, student unions are effectively banned in Pakistan for over 35 years now. And the reason given for the ban was the violence between student groups and it was also reasoned that students’ involvement in violent politics was destroying the education system and the only way to fix it was to end the participation of students in politics.

However, in most universities, this is enforced by making students sign an affidavit declaring that they will not take part in any political activity on campus. The ban which is still existed can be traced back to the ban imposed on student unions during the dictatorship of Zia ul Haq, who, fearful of the growing student resistance against his regime, banned unions across the country on February 9, 1984.

Student politics in Pakistan
Students gather to vote during the 1964 student union elections at a college in Karachi

Before student unions were banned, their activities were conducted through regular annual elections in universities and colleges. Students were  playing a  crucial role in democratic politics throughout Pakistan’s history, with their contribution to the anti-Ayub movement being one of their more significant contributions. But unfortunately, ban on such unions badly affected the student powers and this move reduced the ability of students to continue playing their essential role within the broader context of the country’s politics.

Even when unions were eventually revived through a slow and piecemeal process, the student bodies that emerged as a result were shadows of their former selves; repeated delays in elections, clashes between rival groups egged on by different political parties, which resulted into a ban and restrictions on their activities.

Student Politics in the Third World
The winning candidates at a student union election at Karachi’s Dow Medical College (1972)

The ban was apparently an attempt to curb increasing violence and clashes between students, but it has failed to end violence on campuses and resulted in stifling the intellectual growth and social development of students.

Student politics in Pakistan

Why Student Unions are Essential?

  • Participation in unions and politics as students can contribute to a holistic education, in which academic knowledge is supplemented with the practical experience of mobilizing, voting, and debating.
  • Debates between students from opposing parties, helps create tolerance for differing viewpoints and helps students learn the ‘agree to disagree’ approach.
  • Students learn the power of a vote and leaders learn that they must be humble or face a rout in the next elections.
  • The youth is the future of Pakistan. If they do not learn the basics of mature politics, how can you expect individuals of high calibre to appear in the politics of the country?
  • Involvement in student politics has been the basis for launching many a political career.
  • Unions provide platforms for learning more about the issues that society wrestles with and can even be forums for effective activism.
Student politics in the third world
ZA Bhutto addressing an NSF gathering in 1967


The ban was never the solution, the issue demands proper legalization of students unions. Most of the leaders in these unions are affiliated, or in future will get affiliated to political parties. Legislation needs to actively exterminate this insatiable desire of power and pelf in these unions, for them to actually work. A blueprint for the legislation can be drafted by taking in account, the code of conduct implemented by other countries.


The current prime minister of Pakistan, also happens to belong to the very same party which enjoys massive support from the youth. However, the parliament rarely speaks for the youth.  When passionate, determined students enter politics, they can change the system by keeping true to their principles of integrity.

Most importantly, they can take charge of Pakistan and, with the help of an independent judiciary and a free media help Pakistan face all her problems in a mature, solution-oriented way. I think you guys can see that politics is definitely a ‘yay’ for me. I hope it’s the same for you.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The University of Faisalabad. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author.