Govt missing in action
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders justified the violence committed by the IJT and said the group has the duty to intervene when something in violation of the Islamic values happens. JI central leader Liaquat Baloch told a local TV channel that “dance and music programs should not be arranged”
Punjab University on Tuesday turned into a battleground as radical student group Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) clashed with Pakhtun students who were holding an event to mark Pakhtun Culture Day. The brawl left over seven students injured.
IJT members reportedly attacked the camp, where the program was being held, before setting it on fire and also tortured the attendees.
The IJT had arranged a ‘pictorial exhibition’ in connection with Pakistan Day near the camp of the Pashtun students but no prior permission was sought from the administration. The organisers of the Pakhtun cultural event had however been allowed by the university administration 10 days ago to go ahead with their event.
IJT attacked the camp and beat up the Pakhtun students for performing a cultural dance.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) leaders justified the violence committed by the IJT and said the group has the duty to intervene when something in violation of the Islamic values happens. JI central leader Liaquat Baloch told a local TV channel that “dance and music programs should not be arranged.”
State of lawlessness in educational institutions — worrying:
The IJT, commonly referred to as ‘Jamiat’, has been accused of similar violent activities multiple times in the past. The student group is affiliated with conservative political party Jamaat-e-Islami and acts as moral police in major universities of the country, enforcing its own version of Islam. There have been several incidents where IJT tortured people for what it terms ‘un-Islamic activities’ that include Valentine’s Day celebrations, mixed gatherings, dance and music, among other things.
When a group gets away with taking the law into its own hands time and again, it puts a question mark on the writ of the government. It won’t be wrong to say that extremist groups in Pakistan have been reigning supreme for far too long and enjoy complete impunity because they carry out their activities in the name of religion. And this is precisely why the IJT is always able to get away with violence.
DNA spoke to IJT spokesman Hafiz Idrees who kept dodging the questions and said the camp set on fire was IJT’s. “We have our own system of accountability, and if someone from our group is found responsible for the brawl, we will certainly take action”, he said.
When contacted, Punjab University spokesman Khurram Nawaz denied IJT’s claims and said it was them who started the clash. He confirmed that the Pakhtun students had taken permission to hold the cultural event, but the IJT was not authorised to organise their event.
“We will expel all those found responsible for creating trouble on campus. An ‘operation clean-up’ especially in the hostels is needed immediately, and a decision in this regard will be taken soon,” he toldDNA.
Students demand action against perpetrators under ATA
A day after the clash, a number of students staged a protest on the campus against IJT and called on the authorities to act against those responsible for the unrest.
“We demand the authorities to try the IJT goons under Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The government knows who the perpetrators are,” said protesting student leader Jasim Baloch who was among the organisers of the Pashtun cultural event.
“We knew the IJT would try to create problems for us, but a heavy deployment of police made us think we were safe. We were proven wrong when the police tear-gassed us instead of protecting us from the goons,” he told DNA.
“Militancy has forced Pakhtun and Baloch youngsters to leave their homes and study in Punjab, but they are being victimised and the authorities have failed to act against the perpetrators.”
Despite repeated attempts to reach him, Punjab Education Minster Raza Ali Gilani was unavailable for comment.
IJT has a long history of violence on campuses where it has presence, but the governments over the years have done little to stop the nefarious activities of the group. Now is the time to act against all such groups
Eye witness account
DNA got in touch with an eye witness who is not affiliated with either of the two student groups but was present at the site of the incident. “About 60-70 IJT goons attacked the camp where a cultural show was being held”, said Fazal Kakar, who has been studying at PU for the last five years. “Over 200 police personnel including SHOs and inspectors were deployed to secure the venue, but no one could stop the IJT”.
“They had stones in their hands and stormed the venue shouting “turn off the music”. Police didn’t intervene but started tear-gassing the Pakhtun students who wanted to retaliate.”
The enraged student shared how he saw policemen torturing a Pakhtun student who was only protesting the IJT’s assault.
IJT needs to be stopped
IJT has a long history of violence on campuses where it has presence, but the governments over the years have done little to stop the nefarious activities of the group. Now is the time to act against all such groups because the country is engaged in a full-fledged operation against militants in the tribal areas, which cannot succeed unless all groups that share their ideology are confronted. To undo decades of radicalisation, the government should start with forming a deradicalisation plan for educational institutions.
Everyone from students to officials to eyewitnesses say IJT initiated the brawl. The government should wait no more and act against the perpetrators and all those who backed them to carry out the attack. It’s about time those destroying the peace of educational institutions in the name of religion are taken to task.