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.