With democracy an alien word in their own countries, the handful students from Afghanistan and Iran studying in Panjab University are awed to see the hustle-bustle in the wake of the student council elections. Cavalcade of vehicles covered with posters, student leaders seeking votes with folded hands and girls raising slogans in favour of candidate of their choice - everything interests them. The festive colours the university adorns during the elections is one of the most defining moments of their campus life.
Amina Dilaram, daughter of a farmer-businessman of Takhar province in Afghanistan, seven hours' drive towards north from Kabul, says, "It (campus elections) is a new experience for me. Girls zooming around in cars with stickers on their sleeves; girls and boys campaigning together in groups, is something I would like to see in my part of the world," says 22-year-old Dilaram, who is a fourth semester student of economics at PU.
Pouya Davardoust, 27, an Iranian student, who is pursuing masters in education, says, "In our countries, politics is something students don't indulge in. Student elections are not held in our country." He is the son of a retired accountant with the government of Iran.
"But I was astonished to see the way elections are conducted here. I have my doubts whether student leaders actually have power to do anything substantial for the good of the students," he says.
Salar Tavakoli, who is also from Iran, says, "It is very fascinating to see students, especially girls, taking rounds of the campus with adorning stickers of the parties they are associated with. This is missing in our country. It is interesting to see how seriously students take campus elections," Tavakoli.
But even the foreign students have tasted the 'hollow' promises of the student leaders. "I voted for three years for a party. Last year, a student leader came to me and asked what he could do for me. I brought to his notice lack of fans in galleries and frequent power cuts. He promised to get the problem solved. But I didn't see that happen. I think, they are around only till elections, after that they forget everything," says Nazir Ahmed, 27, who comes from Farah province of Afghanistan nearly 1,000-km west of Kabul. He is pursuing masters in economics and had done his graduation from a city college.