By Minerwa Tahir Law enforcers recently claimed to have unearthed a network of terrorists, operating under the name, ‘Ansarul Sharia Pakistan’. After the suspects were taken into custody and interrogated, it was reported that they comprise students or graduates of Karachi University. Soon after, we learnt that Karachi University is going to hand over students’ data to intelligence agencies. But is the scenario really all that simple? Before we delve into the significance of sharing KU students’ data with intelligence agencies, a look at the timeline of events is perhaps mandatory to comprehend the gravity of the situation. The highly-qualified-terrorists saga began with the attack on MQM MPA and Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hassan on Saturday. His attacker, identified as Hassaan, was killed in crossfire immediately after the attack. Hassaan held a PhD, was an engineer and a lab technician at Dawood University of Engineering and Technology. The next day, police raided different parts of Gulzar-e-Hijri. During the search operation, an encounter took place in Kaneez Fatima Society, in which a policeman was killed while a suspected militant, who fired upon the police, managed to flee, said Malir SSP Rao Anwar, who led the police team. His father was taken into custody. This suspect was identified as 29-year-old Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui. According to the police, he belongs to Ansarul Sharia Pakistan and was enrolled in the BS programme of Applied Physics department at Karachi University. SSP Rao Anwar described Abdul Karim Sarosh Siddiqui as a central commander of Ansarul Sharia Pakistan and a dangerous terrorist. He is still at large. The same day, police announced the arrest of the spokesperson of Ansarul Sharia, Dr Abdullah Hashmi, from Defence Housing Authority area in connection with the case. Amid growing concerns about young individuals’ involvement in militancy and terrorism, Karachi University’s Academic Council decided, in a meeting chaired by Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Muhammad Ajmal Khan on Tuesday, to cooperate with the national security agencies. Sources said the council decided to share the record of students with intelligence agencies in order to ensure the arrests of criminals and terrorists. The decision would be approved be next meeting of academic council, they added. They also reviewed a proposal about police character certificate for students. The same day, two more students of KU were taken into custody by intelligence agencies. Law enforcers claimed the two were students of the public policy department and were arrested during raids in different parts of the city. DHA, Mubina Town, Kaneez Fatima Society and Sohrab Goth were among the areas that law enforcers raided during the day. On Wednesday, the police found out that Dr Abdullah Hashmi is just an alias being used by the suspect. His real name is Sheheryar and he is the chief of Ansarul Sharia Pakistan. That day, it was reported that Sheheryar was arrested during raids in Kaneez Fatima Society – contrary to earlier reports that he had been arrested from DHA. According to the police, he worked as an information technology expert and was employed in the computer department of NED University. He received his Master’s degree in Applied Physics from Karachi University. He used to radicalize students at the varsity, said the police. The arrested leader of Ansarul Sharia also revealed that they were a network of 10 to 15 young men qualified from different universities of Karachi and were trained in Afghanistan. The group started operating towards the end of 2015. Meanwhile, Senator Raza Rabbani expressed reservations over providing Karachi University students’ data to intelligence agencies in a letter addressed to the varsity’s vice-chancellor on Wednesday. He further demanded that student unions be restored as per the resolution passed by the Senate of Pakistan. In his letter, he also expressed reservations over demanding police character certificates from students prior to admission. “These two institutions [intelligence agencies and police] are the hard face of the state,” he wrote. “An interaction with them will further consolidate the anxiety and fear in the minds of the students.” According to him, immediate steps are required to address the issue of extremism and violence in the youth. He listed ‘a total review of the curriculum and implementation of the Senate of Pakistan’s Resolution on restoring students’ unions’ as the measures that will help curb extremism and violence. “Diverse literary and academic activity will produce a counter paradigm,” he stated. The revival of student unions Now, it comes as no surprise that two weeks ago, the Senate's Committee of the Whole passed a resolution on August 22, calling for the revival of student unions in educational institutions. The student unions provide a platform for students to engage in social and educational activities and defend their rights at the same time, read the resolution passed in the Senate during a session chaired by Chairman Raza Rabbani. Speaking to Samaa, Khurram Ali, former central organizer of National Students Federation (NSF), Karachi, pointed out how the fact that the Ansarul Sharia terrorists are university students is still irrelevant. “The primary reason is that the network in question – triggering scrutiny of university students – was being run via religious institutions and activities in Gulzar-e-Hijri area,” he said. “Although Sarosh and other members were university students, which most of the urban youth are, they hardly attended the universities. So, it is more than evident that university culture or formal education is not responsible for their deeds. The only institutions that need scrutiny are the religious ones.” According to him, universities, especially those in Sindh and Balochistan already resemble cantonments, impacting the psychology of students. “No short term solution could solve this menace,” he said. “Only re-opening of democratic institutions like student unions, youth and debating clubs, libraries and cultural centres along with strong mohalla [neighbourhood]-level political institutions could solve this problem. Otherwise, the lack of political space would force the youth to voice their opinions and concerns via such proscribed organizations and end up becoming their pawns.” As a recent graduate of Karachi University and as a citizen of Karachi, I fear that sharing of data of students is eventually going to have detrimental effects on the youth of this city. Our alma mater has produced the likes of Senator Raza Rabbani. It has served as the mother who begets democracy. The solution of all sorts of extremism and terrorism lies in the revival of student unions so that freedom of debate is granted to students. There are many students who become radicalized because they have never heard the other side, never seen the other picture. The presence of security forces on campus is already a painful sight for students who ponder. We surely do not need our data to be provided to intelligence agencies for further victimization of the students of Karachi.