Original Articles

Rumpus at the Punjab University – by Qudrat Ullah

The recent spate of manhandling of a University Professor namely Dr. Iftikhar Baloch, by Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) activists, in the largest and the oldest seat of higher learning in Pakistan is the most tragic incident in the history of the institution which claims three Nobel laureates were from this University.

According to the published media reports, dozens of activists of the Islami Jamiat Talaba stormed the office of Dr. Iftikhar Baloch – a senior Professor of the Punjab University and critically injured him; they also ransacked his office, damaged vehicles parked outside his office and attacked the Vice Chancellor’s office and the VC House at varsity’s New Campus as well. Dr Iftikhar Baloch received severe head injuries and fell unconscious for quite some time; he was first taken to Jinnah Hospital and then referred to the Services Hospital for further treatment.

This violent reaction was an outcome of expulsion of some students belonging to the IJT involved in some violent activities. Around five IJT activists, whose cases were processed by the varsity’s Disciplinary Committee headed by Dr. Baloch, were issued expulsion notifications, which further aggravated the situation and as expected, IJT resorted to violent mayhem.

Muslim Town Police have registered cases against around 30 IJT activists on charges of manhandling Professor Dr Iftikhar Hussain Baloch but who will heal the trauma of a senior Professor and can his lost prestige be regained?

Although, campus violence is no new thing in Pakistan’s chequered political history, yet such sort of violent terroristic threatening by a student group belies government’s claim of providing security and protection to its citizens. It also shows deteriorating law and order situation in the Punjab University with no security to its senior faculty members. Lukewarm police reaction of the new muslim town police officials is not only condemnable but it also helped the Jamiat goons to continue their devastating spree without any fear.

Until 1947, the politically active part of the student community in the sub-continent was more concerned with political questions like anti-colonial movements, flanked by Indian nationalism on the one hand, and Pakistan nationalism on the other. However, the nationalist spirit was soon replaced by the regional spirit after the creation of Pakistan. Various student organizations then rendered support to political parties in their struggle for regional autonomy and democratic rights.

It must be mentioned that Bengali nationalism, developed and mushroomed after 1947 in the Eastern wing, was fully demonstrated in the language movement of 1952 in which students were the main players of that bleeding struggle. Then again in 1962, for the cause of education rights, and the 1966 movement for self-rule, students’ were in the forefront. In fact, students have played major role in overthrowing the Ayubian dictatorship in Pakistan. Again, during the Bhutto regime, they were on the forefront in the anti-Qadiani movement. But this long and perilous struggle is written with their blood and toil. An earlier recorded killing was taken place in 1942 when Nazir Ahmed, a student leader of Dhaka University, was killed in a communal frenzy.

Campus violence is a worldwide phenomenon, an Associated Press survey conducted in 1993 of 580 large campuses in the USA, based on three years of Student Right to Know/Campus Security Act data, tallied 4,000 incidents of violent crime, including 493 rapes, 16 murders, 2,528 assaults, and over 21,000 burglaries, robberies, and auto thefts. A 1992 survey of 49 public and private colleges and universities reported 878 incidents of violence in residence halls in the USA. Each year, over 1.6 million people worldwide lose their lives to violence. Violence is among the leading causes of death for people aged 15-44 years worldwide, accounting for 14% of deaths among males and 7% of deaths among females. For every person who dies as a result of violence, many more are injured and suffer from a range of physical, sexual, reproductive and mental health problems.

Students’ politics is a complex phenomenon in Pakistan. Almost all major political parties and most political leaders maintain armed cadres who are supplied by student fronts and factions. Invariably, the armed cadres have their protectors or ‘godfathers’ who have the power and influence in the administration to shield them from the long arm of the law. As a result, in spite of many punitive laws enacted by governments from time to time, no government has been able to restore peace in the campuses. However, its responsibility cannot be put on the government alone; the civil society and the political organizations are responsible for this mayhem. The parents of the students used by these organizations as a pawn should remember that they are responsible for their children’s actions and parents should refrain them from doing so.

One reason for such a turn of events is certainly the lack of good governance and the Punjab government should try to make ‘campus security force’ for maintaining peace in the campuses. It should also encourage research culture for developing the universities as the engines of accelerated development for the country.

The methods and forms of campus violence are seen to have undergone fundamental changes. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the politics and ideologies of the time characterized campus violence. In the late 1980s, campus violence began to show symptoms of ordinary criminality. However, the post-Musharraf scenario needs tangible handling of the student affairs as we need to promote democratic culture in the universities.

Jamaat e islami Pakistan should also make a decision that whether it will side with democratic forces or continue to conspire against democracy? It should remember that the age of violence and rule through coercion and torture is all but over and now students cannot be tamed by show of force and strength.

Campus violence is a demon and no one likes to see it again, the government is also keen to make campuses violence free and making student activism a process of leadership building for the future, people concerned want to see immediate steps from the government and the politicians in this regards.

Defining moments are around us; let’s seize them.

Related articles: Detailed news reports: Hooligans of Islami Jamiat put Punjab University professor in hospital

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  • IJT troublemakers elude police

    * Over 100 cops search Hostel No 16, come up empty-handed
    * PU sources allege SSP ‘leaked’ information to IJT members minutes before action
    * Students, faculty demand answers

    By Adnan Lodhi

    LAHORE: The much-awaited search operation against the Punjab University’s Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) activists, illegally residing in the varsity hostels, proved an eyewash, as all the alleged “hooligans” fled from the hostels as soon as they got news of the operation.

    On Sunday noon, around 150 policemen – under the supervision of Muslim Town Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Naveed Arshad – launched a search operation in the university’s hostel No 16 against IJT “hooligans”, who had been “informed” about the operation earlier from some senior police officials and “well-wishers” and fled from there. University sources alleged that a senior superintendent of police (SSP) “leaked” the information to the IJT members. The PU vice chancellor also expressed concern about this during a meeting with the faculty on Saturday. He also informed the Punjab chief minister about the SSP backing the IJT. The CM had assured the VC of stern action but even that too never happened.

    Evidence: Following the IJT activists’ attack on a senior faculty member, police on Sunday conducted the search operation in hostel No 16, however, circumstantial evidence showed that the operation was just a “formality” for calming the situation down. Sources in hostel No 16 told Daily Times on Sunday that the IJT “hooligans”, who had attacked senior faculty member Professor Dr Iftikhar Baloch last week, were currently holding their routine meeting.

    Identify them: Students and faculty members said PU VC Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran should conduct an inquiry into the matter and identify those who had failed to rid the varsity of the IJT. The sources said police officials not only provided the IJT activists information around 15 minutes before the operation, but also suggested them some hideouts and told them to return once the “operation” was over. PU Resident Officer Shahid Gull said they had received a tip-off from PU’s security personnel that the IJT activists, who attacked Dr Iftikhar, were present in hostel 16 and called in the police to take action. Police personnel with weapons and teargas had closed all hostel gates and instructed the students to stay in their rooms. Shahid Gull and PU official Ghulam Abid led the police contingent during the hour-long operation, but ended up recovering nothing.

    The PU administration and Punjab police launched the search operation on orders from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif after he was informed of the situation by the PU VC. IJT activists last week injured PU Disciplinary Committees Principal Prof Dr Iftikahar Baloch and rampaged through his office. Ghulam Abid said Dr Iftikhar’s attackers were holding a meeting, which they called “Ijtama-e-Arakin”, and around 20 IJT activists were present there. He said it was unbelievable that they had disappeared just 15 minutes before the operation.

    Failure: PU faculty and students said the operation’s failure was due to mismanagement on the part of the PU administration, as their own security personnel had failed to control the situation and helped the IJT activists escape by calling in the police for help.

    The students demanded an inquiry by the Punjab CM into who had provided information to the IJT activists about the operation. Waqar, a student, said there were around 200 security guards who could not capture the “hooligans” despite information of their whereabouts. He said IJT activists usually disappeared after creating such troubles, as they were not fool enough to stick around in the hostels carrying weapons. Meanwhile, PU IJT Nazim Hassan Bin Salman said the failed operation proved all allegations against the IJT baseless and the varsity’s claims of weapons in the hostels false. He admitted that the group was residing in the university’s hostel No 16, as they were regular students.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\05\story_5-4-2010_pg13_3

  • This act of violence against a senior faculty member of the university is absolutely condemnable, is totally against the true spirit of democracy. Of course all those who are involved in such activities are supported and directed by political parties who want to pursue their respective agendas. Particularly in this case, the same political party has been holding power in this campus for quite a long time now; the previous government launched a crackdown against these miscreants, but I feel this is also not the right way to handle this problem, because action always produces a reaction.


  • ‘IJT hooligans will face the music’

    * PU VC says admin, Punjab Police making efforts to nab IJT activists nominated in first information reports
    * PUASA president says IJT acting as if it ‘owns PU’

    Staff Report

    LAHORE: The assailants who attacked Professor Dr Iftikhar Hussain Baloch will not go unpunished as the university administration and Punjab Police are actively working to arrest the extremist elements of the Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) who have been nominated in various first information reports (FIRs) and have been illegally residing in the varsity hostels, Punjab University (PU) Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran said on Monday.

    Addressing a meeting of the general body of the PU Academic Staff Association, held at the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology New Campus, the VC said the entire PU faculty had displayed exemplary unity with their senior colleague for the ouster of ‘hooligans’ who had destroyed the sanctity of the oldest seat of learning and held the students and faculty hostage for the past several years.

    Assured: He said Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had assured him of his fullest support for ridding the university of unscrupulous elements, and providing complete security to the varsity students and teachers. “The PU administration is sparing no efforts for strengthening its security apparatus through the purchase of walky-talky sets, surveillance cameras and recruitment of retired SSG guards to ward off any recurrence of unfortunate incidents like the attempt on Prof Iftikhar Baloch’s life,” the VC said. The meeting was attended by Pro Vice Chancellor Dr Jamil Anwar, Registrar Prof Dr Muhammad Naeem Khan, PUASA President Prof Dr Mehr Muhammad Saeed Akhtar, General Secretary Javed Sami and a large number of faculty members.

    Acting: Earlier, the PUASA president said the IJT activists had been roaming around in the university as if they ‘owned the place’, adding that the entire PU faculty had boycotted classes and no academic activities were being held since the attack on Prof Iftikhar. He said the faculty would continue its protest until the culprits involved in the attack were arrested and brought to justice, adding that the daily meeting of the general body would be regularly held to review the day-to-day progress made in regards to the efforts being made for the arrest of IJT activists nominated in the FIR. He said a committee of the varsity’s senior-most teachers had been constituted for contacting the legal fraternity and civil society activists for seeking active support in the ongoing campaign against the wanted elements of the IJT. Later, members of the PUASA staged a protest march from the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology to the New Campus Canal Bridge, with participants carrying placards and banners against the IJT. They were then joined by students and members of civil society at the Charing Cross, where they protested against the IJT. Representatives of the Aurat Foundation and Awami Jamhouri Forum also participated in the protest to show solidarity with the varsity teachers.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\06\story_6-4-2010_pg13_7

  • A highly organised structure meant to maintain dominance, rampant use of violence whenever perceived interests are threatened, vandalising property, enforcing a self-styled moral code and disrupting student functions hardly matches the image of the student wing of a patently ‘Islamic’ party. But this is what Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT) is all about ever since the consolidation of its hold over the Punjab University (PU) campus back in the 1970s. Incidentally, this notorious student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami is also active on other campuses across the country and involved in similar activities there too. Last week, the hooligans of IJT, violating all norms of proper conduct for a student, vandalised the PU vice chancellor’s office and later went on to beat up the principal of PU College of Earth and Environmental Sciences Professor Dr Iftikhar Baloch. His crime was that under his chairmanship, the PU disciplinary committee had unanimously decided to expel four and rusticate two students belonging to IJT for violation of discipline. It is unfortunate that instead of mending their ways, the IJT decided to go a step ahead to show solidarity with their errant colleagues. Academic activity in PU has been suspended since.

    IJT has a long and sorry history of terrorist actions. From university vice chancellor to security guards, nobody dares to touch them because they wield arms and are not averse to violence, as the current incident shows. How can we expect institutions of higher education to promote learning and critical thinking when both the teachers and students are held hostage to the terror tactics of a student body, which considers itself above the law? The provincial authorities must discharge their responsibility to assist the PU management in maintaining a violence-free atmosphere on campus. It has a long time now that the PU authorities and teachers associations have been requesting the Punjab government and police to nab subversive elements disrupting peace and academic activities all too often. The university guards cannot be expected to confront armed hooligans. Each new incident invokes fresh vows, but no action. The chief minister, realising the gravity of the situation, should order a coordinated and sustained operation against elements that, in the garb of students, serve vested interests and spread mayhem in PU.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\07\story_7-4-2010_pg3_1

  • A rogue called the IJT

    Our educationists have had to embark on a critical cause of reclaiming the higher education institutions from goons, toughs, and religiously-politically motivated mafias masquerading as student organisations. The Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami, has held the Punjab University (PU) and other colleges in Lahore in their iron grip through terror for the last 36 years. In an encouraging move to resist this continuing regime of violence on campus perpetrated by the IJT, teachers participated in countrywide protests marking a ‘black day’ on an appeal from the Federation of All Pakistan Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) to categorically condemn IJT’s culture of savagery. The faculty seems to have finally run out of patience after the IJT’s attack on the chairperson of the PU disciplinary committee, Professor Iftikhar Hussain, who was beaten black and bloody by these goons the other day. It is the first time that teachers from 55 universities from across the country united to protest against the IJT. Before this, the university and college administrations were more or less silent spectators of the IJT activities.

    Even though three out of the four activists nominated in the FIR of the attack on Dr Iftikhar have now been arrested after continued protests by the teachers, the IJT remains hell bent on causing mayhem. The IJT made an attempt to hijack the teachers’ demonstrations by holding a parallel protest against the academic boycott by teachers. Nevertheless, the teachers’ protests have dealt a big blow to the IJT support base among the students, faculty and the administration. IJT carries out its activities through a complex network that is spread in almost all public sector colleges and universities. In cognisance of this fact, the PU issued warning letters to the Government College of Science, Wahdat Road and Government Islamia College, Civil Lines — which are situated close to the PU Old Campus and New Campus respectively — of cancellation of their affiliation if they failed to control their students from becoming part of the IJT.

    The IJT has enjoyed impunity for far too long. Educational institutions are meant for encouraging thinking and welcoming differences in opinion with tolerance, but the PU seems to have been held hostage by the politics of IJT, which has never failed to use violence and force to impose its own brand of Islam. The undisputed avowal of teachers and civil society actors to declare zero tolerance for the IJT shenanigans must send a strong message to the Punjab government that it is time for officials to take concrete measures to stop the violent threat to higher education posed by the IJT.

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\14\story_14-4-2010_pg3_1

  • IJT activists elude capture yet again

    * Second crackdown on PU hostels fails to yield single arrest

    LAHORE: A second crackdown on the Punjab University hostels ended in failure on Sunday as police failed to arrest even a single Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) activist illegally residing there.

    Conducted under the supervision of Muslim Town Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Naveed Arshad and spearheaded by Iqbal Town SP Captain (r) Sohail, around 150 policemen took part in a search operation in the varsity hostels against IJT activists. The operation, which continued for three hours and ended with arrests, proved to be futile as all the accused hooligans fled from the hostels as soon as they got news of the operation.

    The PU vice chancellor expressed concerns regarding the unsuccessful crackdowns during a meeting with the faculty. He said he had informed Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif about the elements backing the IJT. Shahbaz, on his part, assured the VC of ‘stern action’ – which was not carried out.

    Earlier, following the IJT activists’ attack on a senior faculty member, police had conducted a search operation in Hostel No 16. However, circumstantial evidence showed that the operation was just a “formality” for calming the situation down.

    Students and faculty members demanded that PU VC Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran should conduct an inquiry into the matter and identify those who had failed to rid the varsity of the IJT. Sources said that police officials not only provided the IJT activists information minutes before the operation but also suggested them places to hide. The PU administration and Punjab police launched the search operation on orders from the chief minister. PU faculty and students said the operation’s failure was due to mismanagement by the varsity administration, as their own security personnel had failed to control the situation and helped the IJT activists escape by calling in the police for help. staff report

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\19\story_19-4-2010_pg13_4

  • PUASA demands arrest of IJT ringleader

    LAHORE: Punjab University Academic Staff Association (PUASA) took out a protest rally on Friday to press for the early arrest of the Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) ringleader Usman Ashraf. Led by PUASA acting President Professor Dr Abdul Ghaffar and PUASA General Secretary Professor Javed Sami, the protesters demanded the arrest of Ashraf, who had orchestrated the brutal attack on PU Disciplinary Committee head Iftikhar Hussain Baloch. Faculty members participating in the protest wore black gowns, badges and ribbons and carried placards and banners inscribed with slogans against the IJT. They demanded the government to ensure foolproof security arrangements on the campus for the maintenance of a violence-free academic atmosphere and for the restoration of teachers’ honour. The protesters also decided that during the coming week, they would convene a meeting of the PUASA Executive Committee to chalk out the next line of action for organising future protest rallies, until the authorities successfully arrested all the culprits and their accomplices. Three accused IJT activists have already been arrested, but the police have failed to capture the chief accused, Usman Ashraf, who is also involved in number of other FIRs. staff report

    http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\04\24\story_24-4-2010_pg13_4

  • Violence on campus
    By Huma Yusuf
    Sunday, 25 Apr, 2010

    The Punjab University should revive a healthy culture of student politics on campus. Although the govt lifted a long-standing ban in March 08, no student union elections have been conducted. History has already shown that democracy is the best antidote to the IJT’s shenanigan, the group, which was known to terrorise progressive students in the 70s, was trounced in student elections, most notably in 78, 83 and 89.
    By now Pakistanis are accustomed to ‘non-state actors’ — nebulous creatures that are blamed for the nation’s ills and help the government defer the burden of accountability. In a nod to these elements, we learnt this month that the violence and intolerance that permeate this country’s campuses are the work of ‘non-student elements’.

    This coinage comes from the Punjab University (PU), which re-opened recently as a 19-day faculty boycott came to an end. The faculty was protesting the beating — many describe it as attempted murder — of a professor. As is well known by now, Prof Iftikhar Baloch, the principal of the College of Earth and Environmental Sciences and chairman of the committee on discipline, was severely beaten by dozens of members of the Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT), the student wing of the Jamaat-i-Islami. The IJT activists were responding to the expulsion for ‘rowdy behaviour’ of five of their crew a day earlier by the committee.

    Prof Baloch’s horrifying encounter with a student mob landed him in hospital, and sparked outrage among faculty and students who declared that the IJT had held the PU campus hostage for far too long. As the faculty boycotted classes, there were calls to purge PU of the IJT.

    Some of the four main accused in the attack on Prof Baloch were arrested (after Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif personally intervened). When the university re-opened, the vice chancellor used a conciliatory tone — he emphasised that the administration was not prejudiced against any particular student group, and rather than continue to point fingers at the IJT, blamed the recent unrest on ‘non-student elements’.

    But on online forums, many in the PU community are asking why the university’s administration has not taken stern action against the IJT. There is a prevailing sense that a ‘golden opportunity’ has been missed to rein in this intolerant, militia-like group.

    Thanks to coverage in TheNewYorkTimes, the issue attained global proportions. That esteemed paper read the showdown between Prof Baloch and the IJT as a microcosm of Pakistan, where “an intolerant, aggressive minority terrorises a more open-minded, peaceful majority”. In pointing out that the PU incident reflected the broader Pakistani reality, the paper was spot on. But by reading recent violence through the lens of extremism, the paper limited the scope of its own interpretation.

    No doubt, the IJT is a rightwing group with extremist views on music and mingling of the sexes. But the April 1 violence was not ideologically motivated — it was a reaction to the disciplinary committee’s decision to expel IJT members. As such, the incident was not a case of extremism vs liberalism; rather, it was a case of thuggery vs democracy, of rule by the fist vs rule by the law.

    Members of the IJT did not beat up Prof Baloch because they have a skewed interpretation of Islam. They beat him up because they believe brute force is the only effective tool in a broken system. In other words, the IJT attack was yet another manifestation of the widely held belief that violence is the best form of coercion.

    In light of this, the university administration’s response — to boost campus security — seems inadequate. A new chief security officer along with 30 trained guards has been appointed and provided with equipment such as surveillance cameras and walkie-talkies. A 150-strong contingent of police has raided PU hostels in search of IJT members. By focusing on security, the PU administration is stooping to the level of the IJT. Rather than fight fire with fire, Pakistan’s leading intellectuals should be grappling with difficult questions about how to return values to our educational system. How do you encourage youngsters to find negotiated solutions to a conflict? Can teaching methods that encourage critical thinking help students better judge the actions of their peers? The university should be asking itself why a dreaded student group has been able to supplant the administration in its leadership role.

    Indeed, none of the university’s actions imply that it expects, even requires, the IJT to change its modus operandi. Bold actions are needed to emphasise that brute force is unacceptable on campus. As a start, the administration can relocate the music department — which has been operating in the basement of the Alhamra Arts Council since the IJT deemed it ‘un-Islamic’ — back on campus. The administration can also allow canteens to stay open during prayer time and set their own prices (the IJT insists that businesses close for prayers and runs ‘price-control committees’). It is only by confronting the group that the administration can teach its members to respond in a measured way.

    The PU administration also needs to regain the trust of the student body. To achieve this, it must conduct a transparent inquiry into the alleged politicisation of certain faculty members. Moreover, the university can retroactively take action against the IJT in previous incidents of violence. Most importantly, the administration should ensure that those charged with beating Prof Baloch are served speedy justice.

    Above all, the PU should revive a healthy culture of student politics on campus. Although the government lifted a long-standing ban in March 2008, no student union elections have been conducted. History has already shown that democracy is the best antidote to the IJT’s shenanigans — the group, which was known to terrorise progressive students in the 1970s, was trounced in student elections, most notably in 1978, 1983 and 1989. The more violent the group became with Gen Zia’s backing, the more effectively other students came together to sideline it using the power of their vote. Allowing student politics to flourish will ensure that the progressive forces win.

    huma.yusuf@gmail.com

    http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/19-huma-yusuf-violence-on-campus-540-hh-09