Bhais and bureaucracy: A look at real life at KU

Published: March 19, 2011

We know that student political parties should represent us but they make our lives harder.

Karachi University has often been called a microcosm of our country -there are violent displays of political hatred, bureaucracy and of course, the moral police.

One of the many political groups in our university is the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba Pakistan. Much like other religious groups in the country, students from this party enjoy guiding students to “righteousness.”

My friends and I hate it when the more extreme members of the party forbid us from sitting in “co-education” groups with our male friends or stop female students from riding bicycles to get around campus.

But we cannot deny that members of the same party come to our rescue if a girl is being harassed. They also prevent prohibited activities from taking place on campus.

On the other end of the student politics power spectrum is the All Pakistan Muttahida Student Organisation (APMSO). These are the cool guys; they like to party, dance, have fun and are certainly easier to befriend.

But, they are still the ‘bhais’.

“Dirty” activists we ask for favours

Neutral students proudly claim that they hate ‘dirty’ politics in the university.  But the fact is these neutral students are the ones that exploit political parties for their own purposes after condemning them.Their influence helps students a great deal. If the guards aren’t letting your car in, call an APMSO bhai and he’ll have it fixed. If the authorities aren’t letting you throw parties, they’ll handle it. And they’ll even arrange cricket tournaments for us.

I won’t hesitate to admit that I’ve called a bhai myself!

Learning to live with injustice

While I don’t belong to any political student wing, nor do I intend to, I do enjoy the vibe. This is because I believe these groups have an important influence in society.

At times, students find the presence of these parties truly irritating. Activists call off classes and exams at their own convenience and even beat teachers up if they do not listen to them.

We know that student political parties should represent us but sometimes they make our lives harder instead. We have learnt to live with this reality and perhaps it’s a good thing, because when we leave our mini Pakistan and step into the “real Pakistan”, we will face a similar situation.

Whether or not, these student “politicians” handle the country’s affairs in the future they must learn about using their power with responsibility.

I have no desire to wish away politics from the university; I just want students to be better than the leaders we complain about in the classrooms.


Ema Anis

The social media editor for the web desk at The Express Tribune. She tweets as @EmaAnis (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • saad

    even beat teachers up if they do not listen to them. says a lot about the nature of these students, doesnt it?Recommend

  • Rida

    Excellent piece! Karachi University is haunted by ghosts of politics from the 1980s.
    It is time new students reject guns and take up placards. And the administration must respond!Recommend

  • Ghausia

    First you talk all about how these parties are a headache for the students and faculty alike, then you say we need them? I feel bad criticizing your blogs, cause you write well and you seem smart, but dude, come on. Two wrongs don’t make a right, if someone is fun and a partier, that doesn’t change the fact that they’re thugs.Recommend

  • I am a responsible and civilized citizen of Pakistan

    @Saad: Yes it speaks a lot

    @Ghausia: You are right. Things in the contradict somewhat.

    I don’t think these people are going to make any positive change. If they are influencing others to get their tasks fulfilled whether they are legal or illegal, how can they be relied upon? we can’t call them as responsible people of our societyRecommend

  • Aicha

    You need to decide really what exactly you wanna say and portray ? I strongly believe that this university politics is a bad influence in the K.U. life, your article has indications that you rather enjoy the whole frenzy in the situation’s and you want them to be there. Open your eyes and realize how much damage they have been causing to the education; university is to learn not politicize and enjoy the mayhem’s.Recommend

  • yasir

    True .Recommend

  • Asadullah

    I didn’t really get the point of the article. Is it trying to say that to survive at KU, you need to have a dual-personality and just get your own favours fulfilled from anyone but criticize them later on?. I am not really sure that is the right thing to do, even if it means you getting your car inside the campus.

    Nice style of writing, but the content was self-contradictory at some places. The morally shady stuff being something else entirely. Recommend

  • TightDhoti

    Politics is an inevitable part of higher education. Its unavoidable, especially in public institutions where a wider variety of individuals are members of the faculty and student body. Why shouldnt they be present? Universities shouldnt be bubbles alienated from the real world. Politics is part and parcel of real life. University students are adults and show be exposed to the reality of political life in Pakistan for better and for worse. That is not to say that I would condone thuggery or violence. Perhaps the solution lies in strengthening university constitutions and regulation of students organisations. Then again its a double edged sword. If you ban them, then you either halt their evolution into more sophisticated and mature political organizations or they resort to even more widespread violence and thuggery. Recommend

  • Confused

    So, I guess we should ask the bhais to make the complaining students better than the leaders they are complaining about. If they haven’t fixed them already.Recommend

  • Usman Ahmad

    Agree! I had been to KU for and I can confirm that. Things are in contradiction because politics at campuses is a necessary evil and at the same time thuggery is unbearable too. If we can get a little more civil and tolerant of each other, can we hope to have a civillized and vibrant political system at the campus as well as national level.Recommend

  • Mohi

    perhaps this is a good thing ? When we start saying that about these student activitists and thugs, who are known to be involved in carrying out the dirty work of their political parties such has target killings and harbingers of gun culture in Karachi University, it shows that we have gone numb and our moral ethics are damaged. Ask the victim’s families on what happened here in Karachi on 12th May 2007, and then say it is okay for things to go like this. There is ALWAYS a clear Right and a Clear Wrong. There are no shades of gray in this.Recommend

  • N M Javed

    On one hand Ena portrays the ugliest picture of APMSO and on other, she ‘does not hesitate’ to confess that she has been using their ‘illegal services’ as well. And in a somewhat ambiguous
    tone she seems to be justifying their misdeeds. It pretty much shows the mindset of the writer and her coherence with these thugs. Recommend

  • parvez

    You have drawn a vivid picture of student union affairs at K.U.
    This prompts me to think as to what is the administration doing. Looks like they have resorted to the ‘ chalta hai ‘ philosophy.Recommend

  • Humayun

    Well, the presence of student bodies from both leftest and rightist parties in KU is a blessing. In other parts of country, usually Jamiat is the only influential self-righteous political entity. In our university (PU), all the protests and vigils have to be under the banner of IJT. From allotment in the hostel rooms to the rustication matters of the administration, Jamiat is the only pressure group students have. Since they exploit religious sentiments of the student body, no one can dare to challenge them. I hope a versatile and democratic political setup will also evolve here soon.Recommend

  • khurram

    confused article…we, kuiites st present or past know that both parties or every party in ku are nothing but bad cookies. No ap or ijt or other party member are like great students but drop outs from collegz, schoolz. Guys specially of ap are like gangsters and they act like it. Others are also nothing short of bad carmas. wee need to kick them out from ku and need to pick/enter people who want to serve at least their parents if not Pakistan Recommend

  • Hunain Ali

    Wasn’t that a little less about IJT? They have been claiming things at KU for a long time and they don’t want any opposition with that either. I wonder why can’t a guy sit with girls but they or their ‘comrades’ can enjoy Valentine’s day, huh. Recommend

  • Bebo

    disgraceful!! Recommend

  • Absar

    You are right. And after a decade or so we are going to see these students, of KU or PU whatever, who spit on roads and browbeat other students, as our leaders. That is how it is going to be.Recommend

  • Fizza

    Disagree! I myself have studied at KU so please don’t generalize it by saying, “Dirty activists WE ask for favours.” Plus, if these student wings of political parties somehow represent future leaders then students like the writer represents general Pakistani, who bribes a constable after breaking a signal and later on curses corruption sipping tea at a dhabba.
    Pardon the bitterness in tone but it’s true. Admit it.Recommend

  • Jibran T. Siddiqui

    Nicely written, although lost focus at times.

    Now on the topic, everyone has right to practice politics but here in KU, everything is done by the parties except politics. Wall-chalking (with absolutely no social responsibility), flag and banner display, beating neutral students and students (badmaashi), protests, calling off classes, using the power for own convinience (form submission, exams, marks etc)… EXCUSE ME WHERES THE POLITICS IN IT?

    Politics in public universities should be BANNED like other private universities and for those who are eager to practice it, a huge society is around you to practice. Try your neighborhood!.Recommend

  • Jibran T. Siddiqui

    Its our tragedy that our 2 most important sectors are badly politicized which shouldn’t be… Education and Health. You see armed political parties in universities and party offices at hospitals, then you complain that your nation is not developing. Wow!Recommend

  • GH

    Well, nicely written but we only needs these political parties when we need a wrong way out of a solution. if we go with proper way we don’t need any political parties worker. So this means that “THEY ARE THUGS, CORRUPT etc etc.Recommend

  • Hammad Mehmood

    Karachi university is far better than Punjab university where Islami Jamiat e Tulaba ruled like dictators and even torture students just for sitting besides a girl.Recommend

  • Ahmad Shaheen

    Islami Jamiat Talaba is a unit. there is no difference among the JAMIAT of KU or PU. Jamiat always works for the sake of Islam and betterment of students.Recommend

  • Muhammad Junaid Akhter

    I am not getting y the cementers r arguing on Jamiat that they donot let guyz sit wd girls . Don’t u know that this is in Islam. Y u need anyone to tell u bout that? one should be ashamed of saying such thing that already doing a sin and above that arguing if somebody wana show him the right path.

    now one can say tht everyone is responsible for his own deeds.. I do agree wd that to a particular point only, because as a Muslim v should do “amar bil maroof wa nahi an al-munkar “. It is possible that the way they do this is wrong but what they want to do is right ..

    WALLAH O AALAM Recommend

  • ali

    great research work. excellent.Recommend

  • faraz

    Over past few year, IJT has been considerably weekened in Punjab university. Many IJT goons were expelled by the VC, and many students are now part of ISF. Now if IJT wants to hold a demonstration, it brings matric/FA kids from nearby colleges.Recommend

  • ali

    @Ahmad Shaheen:
    100% agreedRecommend

  • PU Brigade

    Student politics is must these days, we the students of Punjab University are proud of being warriors of this country, we are are proud to be the force who kicked out Imran Khan out of university. Allah o AkberRecommend

  • Farah Kaleem

    This is probably the most immature article I have read yet!!! What are you saying here??? That we should learn to live with things as they are? You are justifying the presence of those elements by saying that they provide a training ground or a precursor to the actual life?? That is pathetic!! I have studied at KU and those two years were of absolute struggle because I do not believe in resigning to circumstances! Your using them just to get your work done shows absolute selfishness, indifference and weak composition as a person!! Come on, give us a break!!! It is because of this indifferent apathetic attitude that we have ended up a mass of people living in this city and more in the country, who cannot be defined as a society by any means… who only care for themselves and no one else and would use any means to get their work done!! That is called being corrupt!! Why do we then cry about the mass deep-rooted corruption in the country?? It starts with the very call to a certain bhai to get your small work done!!! That was the beginning of it!! Secondly your casual attitude towards ‘beating up of teachers’ shows the respect you carry for the teachers, or rather the lack of it. I don’t care how much ‘beneficial’ these student political parties are, if the main broader parties allow their young followers to beat up teachers, then I spit on them!! In my student days I had seen members of all student parties disrespecting teachers both verbally and physically… and I HATED all of them with an intense passion!! What kind of a society do you think we can make where teachers are disrespected by their students like that?? No wonder we don’t have one. We just have a mass of chaos!! Those of you who are praising the article and its ‘research’… all I have to say is you have once again proven that our education system has completely failed!! Totally disappointed with the Tribune for even letting this one publish online!!Recommend

  • Syed Ahmed Ali

    Respected fellow, me myself student at karachi of department of COMPUTER SCIENCE.. (may be your neighbour if you belong to masscom lol) . I doesnt belong to Jamiat neither m in their favour but u mentioned that they do not allow us to sit with our male friends….The environment which i saw at KU , especially mascom dept.. I just wanna ask how can u say dat :) ???? what you want further?? lol …..There is full freedom i guess may be as i am in 2nd year so i do not know in detail but the environment i saw in uni is “FREE”… one stops to sit u wid male friends infact i have myself saw JAMIAT”s workers sitting wid females……Recommend

  • imme

    off course little mulaszz won’t mind a bird company Recommend

  • Faraz Hussain

    I like the view on this, but in my view that there should be no need for any political party in any educational instituion. as we are there to study not to become a politacal party member.Recommend

  • http://- maimoona

    there is no any issue to have a political party but here in public uni we face lots of difficulty to face and manage the chaos situation
    we r the victim of many things where teachers show there Lil concern over there students and students also related to there teachers i feel and think lots of time what will the future of our public varsity when and how we get compete with other varsities on national as well international level Recommend