The following is a video that was uploaded along with a status on Facebook by a Punjab University instructor.
Below are screenshots of the status that the instructor, Ammar Ali Jan, posted on Facebook. In the post, he expresses deep concern over a recent incident in which a dozen students, allegedly belonging to the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, entered the Sociology building in search of ‘Pukhtun’ students. These men cornered a third-year student from the department, beat him with sticks, and left him just outside the department’s entrance.
The text of the screenshotted status reads:
“Today was a sad day in the history of Punjab University. About a dozen students allegedly belonging to the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba entered the Sociology building in search of ‘Pukhtun’ students. They were wearing masks on their faces and carrying sticks in their hands. They eventually cornered a sixth-semester student from our department, beat him on his head with sticks and left him to die in front of the department’s entrance.
This was a disturbing incident on multiple levels. First, how did masked men enter the largest University in Punjab, then barge into the Sociology department and mercilessly beat students, without any intervention from the security guards? After the massacre at the APS, we thought securing our educational campuses was a patriotic duty of all institutions. Why did we then fail to secure Punjab University? It makes me shiver just to think of what could have happened if these people had come with guns. How can we teach or the students learn when we know that none of us are safe in the premier institute of higher learning in Punjab?
Second, why are we continuing to allow the toxic mix of religion and politics to grow on our campuses? Last year, we witnessed the tragic lynching of Mashal Khan over false accusations of blasphemy. Today again, we heard the chants of Allah Ho Akbar in the corridors as Pukhtun students were chased down and beaten up. How is spreading terror, obfuscating learning and torturing fellow students in any way a service to our religion? Islam is a religion of peace and implores us to seek knowledge. Today, we witnessed an assault on both peace and enlightenment on our campus, giving us reason to hang our heads in shame.
This is also clearly an attempt to destabilize the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor, Professor Zakria Zakar. He is an enlightened man who as Dean of Social Sciences was instrumental in bringing new faculty and ideas to various departments. He is the reason I chose to come to PU, since he understands international academia and encourages young scholars to contribute to the department. His elevation to the post of the Vice Chancellor came as a beacon of hope, as many believed this will begin an era of openness and critical thinking throughout the campus. Yet, today’s violence is a deliberate attempt to weaken his authority and to ensure that Punjab University remains a site of fear rather than learning.
The main losers of all this drama are the students of Punjab University. I have taught here for almost a year, and it has been a rewarding experience in every sense of the term. Our students are extremely respectful and are more eager to learn than any other undergrad students I have come across. They often come from humble backgrounds, and have to face the worst consequences of total abandonment of higher education at the hands of the provincial and federal governments. Yet, they show incredible determination in overcoming such obstacles placed by familial history and government negligence.
When such incidents happen, students suffer the most as classes are canceled and an atmosphere of fear prevails on campus. But more importantly, all students are labeled part of a ‘violent’ campus, whose students need to be feared or tamed. Many of my academic friends would love to teach at Punjab University, but will not consider it because of the fear of violence on campus. We all lose out when so many qualified academics refuse to teach at the University because a hundred students out of a total of 35,000 choose to make the university a war zone at their whim.
Why should thousands of students suffer because of a tiny minority? How did this minority achieve a monopoly over violence on campus? And what should we do to ensure that the university once again becomes the center of learning that it is supposed to be? We all are waiting for an answer…
In the meanwhile, I ask all our students to resist all temptations to respond to today’s incidents with violence. This will not help us improve the situation, it will only fasten our society’s descent into the gutters. It is ok to have different ideological and political affiliations. In fact, as citizens, it is your duty to participate in your country’s political affairs. But no one has the right to attack or kill someone based on their religious, political or ethnic affiliations. It is criminal to do so, and we as a society can do much better.
As a response to today’s tragic events, I request you all to ensure maximum attendance in your classes tomorrow in order to show the world that you will not be deterred in your quest for acquiring knowledge. Be respectful towards each other, use only legal and non-violent means to air your grievances, and make a commitment that you will never allow any of your fellow students, no matter what their ideological or ethnic affiliation, to be physically attacked by anyone.
Our country needs collective healing against the ever-increasing violence we witness. You are the future leaders of this country. If you at Punjab University can demonstrate that people from different ethnic, religious and class-backgrounds can coexist, then others in our society will follow your example. All my experience with you confirms that you have the potential to succeed in fulfilling this historic responsibility.
P.s. this is the video of the Pukhtun student being beaten up outside our department.”
Education as an act of resistance
Masked and armed men entered the university in an effort to intimidate the student body. The students must demonstrate now that they will not be silenced or divided. By continuing to come to their campus, students must stand united against mafia-esque fear-mongering. As the age-old adage goes, the pen is mightier than the sword.
You can also be a part of the resistance movement!
You can also join the resistance by signing a petition, formulated by a female student at the University. The petition represents the views of 90% of the student body who wish to see peace and justice in their educational journey. Share it as widely as possible to let the world know the perspective of the majority of the students, who want to participate in campus life without the fear of violence.
Click here, to sign the petition now!