Iran not funding ISO: Shirazi
By Amir Rana and Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: Iran is neither funding the Imamia Students Organisation (ISO) nor influencing its working, said ISO President Syed Nasir Shirazi on Sunday. He said the ISO was just taking spiritual guidance from Syed Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran.
In an interview with Daily Times, Mr Shirazi said the ISO was not a sectarian organisation, but was working to protect Shia students’ rights. “We believe every student organisation should be banned if found involved in sectarian activities,” he said. Mr Shirazi said the ISO came into existence in 1972 when secular and commonest student organisations were dominating educational institutes and the majority of students who were close to them were Shias. “The ISO was formed to save the faith and ideology of Shia students,” he said.
“The ISO provided financial assistance to deserving Shia students because there was no other financer to aid them in the 70s,” he said, adding it was the time when various political and student organisations with different school of thoughts were dominating student politics like the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam of Deobandis, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan of Brelvis and the Jamaat-e-Islami. “Only Shias were not in the mainstream of politics, and when General Zia imposed the rules of Hanfia sect on Shias, only the ISO responded to the call of Shia leader Mufti Jaffar Hussain and converged on Islamabad for their rights,” Mr Shirazi said and denied any support from Iran at that time. “It was our own fight, and it should be clear that the ISO has no political links with Iran. Iran is only the source of ideological inspiration to us,” he said, adding that according to the Shia sect, they obeyed the orders of the mujtahid in their religious affairs. “Before Imam Khamenei, our mujtahid was in Iraq,” he said.
Regarding differences with the Tehrik-e-Jafaria Pakistan (TJP) and its head Allama Sajid Naqvi, the ISO president said they had no link with the TJP. “We have our independent identity. Allama Naqvi didn’t prove himself a Shia leader and Shias suffered due to his political policies,” he said.
Mr Sherazi said his prime objective was to expand the ISO. “We have planned to double the number of organization members,” he said, adding the organisation was training and inspiring students to follow the sayings of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). “We have a training cell called Alhuda to educate students how to spend their lives according to the preaching of Muhammad (PBUH) and his descendants,” he said.
He said the ISO had decided to expand its offices and membership to rural areas, particularly the Northern Areas, where the literacy rate was very low because of poverty. He said according to a survey last year, around “50 to 70 percent” of Shais were ISO members. “We have a structure of around 1,200 units in Pakistan,” he added.
Mr Shirazi and ISO Secretary-General Syed Aftab Naqvi demanded the government lift the ban on student unions. “This will open the environment of campuses. The unions shouldn’t be seen as a political or negative element in universities,” Mr Naqvi said. He said the government should monitor the organisations but not ban them. Mr Shirazi said Youm-e-Hussain was one of the most important events on campuses, which was being peacefully every year.
Mr Shirazi said the Muttahida Talaba Mahaz (MTM) was the finest example of unity among student organisations. However, he said the MTM had been unable to become effective nationwide. He said the quota system in universities was causing campuses to lose.
Mr Shirazi said ISO members had always been supportive of the liberation movements in Palestine and Kashmir.