Online protest launched against Pak intelligence agencies meddling in academic institutions | world news | Hindustan Times
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Online protest launched against Pak intelligence agencies meddling in academic institutions

Over the past two months, intelligence officials have become active in monitoring and controlling academic activities on campuses, academics have said.

world Updated: Apr 16, 2018 22:15 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
A Pakistani civil society group demonstrates last April against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan, in Karachi. An event planned at the Lahore University of Management Sciences on April 13 to mark the brutal murder was forcibly cancelled.
A Pakistani civil society group demonstrates last April against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan, in Karachi. An event planned at the Lahore University of Management Sciences on April 13 to mark the brutal murder was forcibly cancelled.(AP file)

Pakistani academics have started an online signature campaign to protest alleged attempts by the country’s intelligence agencies to stifle critical thinking and academic freedom.

An event on new political movements in Pakistan at the private Habib University was forcibly cancelled just an hour before it was to start, following a visit from intelligence officials. The focus of discussion was the Pashtun movement, said staff involved with the programme.

Academics are seeing a closure of intellectual space within the country. “Between April 12 and 13, four separate but related instances of repression took place on university campuses in different parts of the country,” they said in a statement. In the case of Habib University, one of the guest speakers was also forced off campus.

An event planned at the Lahore University of Management Sciences on April 13 to mark the brutal murder of student Mashal Khan by a mob at Abdul Wali Khan University last year was also forcibly cancelled. “It is a shame how we are being pushed into a corner,” said Noman Naqvi, a senior academic.

In another instance, an assistant professor at Punjab University’s department of sociology, Dr Ammar Ali Jan, was suddenly fired with no official reason. Jan, a PhD from Cambridge University, had been working tirelessly alongside students since July 2017 to promote the idea of non-violence and critical thinking.

In the fourth instance, intelligence officials visited the Gomal University in DI Khan and grilled its faculty and administration about the content of their courses. They were warned not to teach subjects “that would encourage critical thinking amongst the students.”

Academics claimed that over the past couple of months, intelligence officials have become active in monitoring and controlling academic activities on campuses.

In 2017, under the pretext of security, law enforcement agencies collected personal details of staff and students from universities all over Karachi. Last year, an event at IBA, the country's premier business school, was cancelled by intelligence agencies because it hosted a social media activist, Jibran Nasir.

“We were told by the ISI to stop the event at the last minute,” said Jami Moid, registrar of IBA, adding that universities cannot refuse instructions from intelligence agencies.