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Pakistani girl elected student leader at Salford University

Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON: A Pakistani student from Lahore has been elected the Students’ Union President at the University of Salford as the first ever female international to represent 20,000 students for a year.

Another Pakistani, Benazir Bhutto, had earlier been elected as Oxford University students’ union president.

Mishal Saeed, a former student of Lahore Grammar School and Convent of Jesus & Mary who will take charge on 1 July 2013, defeated four candidates for the same post and won by 300 votes. She will be responsible for making important decisions which affect University policy and impact on the student experience. Other office bearers are local students. In her team, there will be three vice presidents overseeing the three colleges in the university will have a full time staff team of about 50 people working in the Union. The student union has an annual turnover of £2 million.

Speaking to The News, Mishal Saeed, an International Relations and Politics student, said: “It is both a great honour and a huge privilege to be trusted with the responsibility of representing 20,000 students at Salford. In these ever-changing conditions and difficult economic times in the Higher Education sector of UK, there are big challenges especially for universities like Salford. My aim is to ensure that Salford does its best to overcome the challenges and makes most of the opportunities so students can have the best possible experience at Salford. I am excited about the role I will play to ensure that students are at the heart of all the decision-making processes.”

She announced that she will campaign against the PREVENT programme of the British government which encourages universities to mainly pass information to the secret services about the activities of Muslims students and also on those students who may be vulnerable to extremist views. “I believe that students should not be targeted like this and universities should know better than to affiliate themselves with such controversial organisations. I want to work towards greater integration of international students with home students and vice versa. In my role as president, I will do my best to change perceptions about Pakistan, Pakistanis and my religion, Islam, by proving to everyone that we have values to be proud of – and that no matter who we are or where we’re from, we shouldn’t be judged by stereotypical preconceived notions but be judged at our own merit.”

Mishal said that her activism in Pakistani schools helped her to become socially responsible and conscientious but there are limitations with regards to how far one can go as a student politician in Pakistan mainly because of the depoliticisation of students unions and the general disillusionment people have regarding the study or subject of politics in Pakistan. “Everybody accepts the general trend of parents encouraging their children to pursue fields of medicine, engineering, etc but there is a lot of apathy when it comes to the study of politics in Pakistan and that is a big challenge for our youth in realising their full potential,” she commented.

Last year, Mishal received a Royal seal of approval when she met His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh during the Queen’s jubilee tour, when they visited Salford at the official opening of Media City UK.

She was chosen to meet Prince Philip because of the “inspirational work she has been involved in over the last few months”, said the university.

Source: The News

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