Habib University Student ‘Shell-Shocked, Absolutely Flabbergasted’ over Censorship at Campus
On Friday, Habib University cancelled an event on ‘Ethnic Rights, New Social Movements, And the state of the federation in Pakistan’. The varsity is known for its policy to allow and encourage debate and events discussing some of the most controversial topics in Pakistan have been organised here in the past.
However, it was different this time as a debate on the topic of ethnic rights was cancelled in the wake of the rising censorship on the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) during the last few days. The rise of PTM as a popular Pashtun rights movement has unnerved some people at some key slots in the country and it is pertinent to mention here that the cancellation by Habib University is not an isolated event either.
Popular daily newspaper The News started taking down articles on the subject on Sunday and an opinion piece by renowned lawyer and analyst Dr Babar Sattar was also refused by the paper. Similarly, The Nation did not publish Gul Bukhari’s piece titled ‘I am Pashteen’ on Monday. The article can be read on NayaDaur. Similarly, certain people on Friday ‘visited’ Gomal University too, advising the administration to teach ‘right kind of lessons’ to the students. Another prominent academic Ammar Ali Jan was also ‘fired’ fro Punjab University on the same day.
In the wake of such strong censorship at the universities and the press, here’s a letter by MK from Habib University. The author of the letter is clearly depressed at the level of suppression the students, academics and the journalists are being subjected to. The text of the letter is as follows:
I am an undergraduate student of Social Development and Policy at Habib University, Karachi. Now this institute is known for being the most well-equipped in all of Pakistan, with the best facilities and a world class teaching faculty from all over the world, and so it’s hardly surprising that it also charges its students the heftiest fee out of any university in Pakistan, whether public or private. You can imagine my shock when only yesterday university security personnel forced guests who had been flown in to Karachi for a talk on the PTM and ethic violence in Pakistan out of the campus without so much as an explanation. Professor Rafiullah Kakar was one of them.
All the students were shell-shocked. Absolutely flabbergasted. You see, at Habib we have been taught the importance of engaging in all sorts of dialogue – even if it makes you squirm, so what happened yesterday was definitely a frst. We normally pride ourselves on arranging conferences and talks and seminars on some of the most controversial, most sensitive issues within South Asian society, as well as the rest of the globe. But yesterday’s event has me feeling betrayed and utterly helpless. I can’t help but feel like there’s eyes and ears everywhere and you won’t be safe even within such an ostensibly “secure” and “accepting” and “welcoming” environment. Somebody remarked to me yesterday that it felt like we had been apprehended for committing a thoughtcrime. And how very accurate that analogy is. It’s horrifying.
It’s become very hard to maintain even a modicum of hope or optimism as far as this country is concerned. I am only writing to you because I follow your social media accounts and I really felt the need for an outlet to vent my frustration, and possibly seek some sort of closure. I am at a complete loss as to how to react and what to do. Our hands have been tied.
Two events cancelled at two private universities: one on the #PashtunTahaffuzMovement and the other on #MashalKhan. One teacher fired from his job at a public university because he was too critical. The message is clear: reproduce the status quo or shut the hell up.
— Nida Kirmani (@nidkirm) April 13, 2018
Hi @HabibUniversity could you please explain why this event was abruptly cancelled and information on it removed from your website and social media accounts? Does a discussion like this fall outside your guidelines about the scope of academic freedom on campus? pic.twitter.com/xwOdGjghG3
— Ammar Rashid (@AmmarRashidT) April 13, 2018
Habib University has just informed us that the event below has been cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances. The topic of discussion for the event was Pashtun Tahafuz Movement. @aliarqam https://t.co/xKVwTYVR9v
— Rafiullah Kakar (@rafiullahkakar) April 13, 2018
Between this and Habib University abruptly cancelling an event on the PTM yesterday (the same way LUMS had done on Baloch rights in the past) seems clear our universities are bent upon imposing an authoritarian notion of nationalism and suppressing all activism.
— Asad Hashim (@AsadHashim) April 14, 2018
Unknown-Known people have targeted 3 universities today. Cancelled an event at @HabibUniversity on PTM, removed Ammar Ali Jan from PU as he gave space to PTM & visited Gomal University asking faculty there to teach students right kind of lessonshttps://t.co/zyhtWoaE66
— Saleem (@memzarma) April 13, 2018
An open letter was published by the Pakistani academics on this increasing censorship at the educational institutions.
The document was signed by over a hundred and fifty prominent academics from Pakistan and abroad. Renowned scholar and author of several books on media and censorship Noam Chomsky has also signed the document.