General Ziaul Haq’s ban on student politics has yet to be lifted since 1984, but in the militancy-ridden tribal belt, a college has established enviable democratic norms.
At the Government Degree College Wana for boys, elections are held along the lines of the US presidential system. The college has been holding student union elections every year since 2006, with a brief break in 2012 when polls were banned by the local Mullah Nazir Taliban group.
Two contesting candidates deliver speeches in the college hall as part of their election campaign. Each contestant presents his plan of action and answers questions posed by potential voters.
The students are then guided towards the balloting area set up by the election committee. This year, Yaseen Khan Masti Khel and Farid Khan Zalee Khel, students of BA third year, contested in the elections.
“I have a huge task ahead of me,” said the student body President Yaseen Masti Khel. “My predecessors have failed to resolve many of the issues we have been facing,” he said, adding he will do everything he can for the only college in the area.
Yaseen said anyone can apply for presidency. “Candidates can participate under a party banner or independently, irrespective of religion or ethnicity,” he added.
Established in 1974 by late prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the government degree college currently has 1,273 students enrolled. During slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s government in 1993, the college was given a degree-level status. Over the past years, however, this college in South Waziristan remains neglected.
Among its many issues is a shortage of teaching staff. Many students go to DI Khan and other parts of Pakistan for tuitions in winters, as teachers usually remain absent in the college. Lack of transport and funds only aggravate the problem.
Every elected leader tries his best to improve conditions at the college, but the government and local political administration never assist in matters, former student body president Amanullah Wazir told The Express Tribune.
“We have held press conferences and strikes, presented our college issues to the political administration, the FATA Secretariat and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor, but nothing changed.” We even burnt our college books last year during a strike in Wana Rustam Bazaar in protest of the government’s non-serious attitude, Amanullah added.
The Express Tribune contacted college Principal Zaheer Khan for comments, but he could not be reached.
Students say even though the college is not providing them with the best education, it nurtures political awareness. Many students who participated in student union elections later joined national politics. Amanullah Wazir from Pakistan Peoples Party’s ticket, Muhammad Asghar from Qaumi Watan Party Sherpao and independent candidates Imran Khan Gangi Khel and Allah Noor Nangyallai are among the alumni that contested
the general elections in May this year.
Source: The Express Tribune.