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Taliban on Campus

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By abdul sattar

At the time when the armed forces of the country are trying to find out the remnants of the Taliban in Waziristan and other parts of tribal belts, they seem to have forgotten that these Taliban also exist in cities like Karachi. It is not the slum of this city where they have been regrouping but in fact it the seat of learning, the University of Karachi, where they demonstrated their power on November 5 at the STC hall. Sources said that around eight to 10 activists of Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, including Ata from the department of Political Science, Abu Lala from the department of Computer Science and Asif from another department, attacked the hall, smashing the things on display.

The attackers alleged that the exhibition was promoting obscenity and vulgarity, said a frightened student at the condition of anonymity. “I do not know what is their idea of obscenity. You can see that we had clothes on textile display, computer and posters on graphic and products on industrial designs”, said a female student of final year who wished to be unknown. She said that they did not even bother to look at the materials on display but they stormed the place and smashed anything that was in their range. Thanks God they did not see the whole exhibition, she said, adding that the KU administration came and assured us that compensation would be paid but what about our hard working and our efforts. Can they be compensated, she questioned.

The students did not take any action against the attacker because our chairperson did not want any disturbance and even if we wanted, we could not have done anything because the campus was full of these obscurantist and retrogressive elements who had become the lord of the campus and nobody could do anything against them, she opined. Imran Patel, student of Hons final year, Department of Visual Studies, said that the attackers destroyed his 21-inch TV and nine pieces of photography. I received threatening calls saying “we have just broken the materials of your thesis but we could also break your legs and hands.”

He said that one student Hafiz Murtaza’s computer was also broken besides the attackers also beat him. Azeem from textile department was also manhandled and his presentation was smashed though there was no music in the presentation of the textile. Imran said that he could not hold his display as he had lost everything. This incident has really shocked me and I would never forget it, he said, adding though director finance of KU came to us, assuring that he would compensate. But it is not only what about my efforts and struggle. Imran said, “I m psychologically very disturbed. What I prepared after a long struggle was smashed in a few minutes by some miscreants”. He said that Rangers failed to save our valuable thesis. He disclosed that the attackers were not repentant at all on the contrary they vowed to fight against such departments. They threatened that they would not let Visual Studies Department to become National College of Arts, Lahore, which is popular on account of its liberal environment

Sources said that the thesis of Saba, a student of final year, was also broken, including a pc, a monitor and speakers. If this tendency continued, nobody would take admission to this department, the sources added. Sources said that a handy cam camera worth Rs15000 to20000 was also taken by the attackers. Sources said that except the victims, whose theses were broken, most of the students were not ready to comment on the incident. It seemed that they just wanted to hush up the matter owing to their fear that any action against the attackers would lead to further disturbance on the campus


A student of the department said that why did they not raise the question of Islamic and non-Islamic when the Passban, a sister organization of Jamaat-e-Islami, prepared the biggest bat in Karachi and played music in whole of the city. These so called Islamists played music in their function and nobody disrupted. Similarly they did not have any right to disrupt any body’s function. He said that under what law the song Qazi Taynu Akhyaan Odekdeyan was played during the elections of 1993. An ex-student of the KU, who had come to see the exhibition, said that almost ten years back the IJT held a big function in the KU and one of its activists sang a humorous poem with a drum and the entire crowd of the function gave him a big hand. Many die-hard activists of the IJT, who are now the part of MMA, were also present there and amused themselves with the poem.


At that time nobody said that it was unislamic. Sources said that the Visual Studies Department of the KU is the most neglected one. It has no permanent faculty. Durriya Qazi is still project consultant. There are around 60 teachers from outside the university to deliver lectures. Despite the fact that the department has meagre resources, it has earned a name just in few years and received around 700 applications for admission though it has only 70 seats. On the contrary Indus Valley that has been working for last 12 years received only 200 applications.

The department charges only Rs1200 per semester and out of that Rs2000 is given to KU administration and the KU does not give them enough facilities. What it gave was insecurity that resulted in the loss of students’ efforts and hardworking. It is interesting to note that the teacher community did not take any effective action to protest this incident. Some teachers were even unaware of the incident and read it in the newspaper. When this ascribes contacted Mr Sohail Barkati, President Karachi University Teachers Society (KUTS) he said that he did not know about the incident and read it in the newspaper. He said that he could not comment as he knew very little about the incident. KUTS Secretary General Sarwar Naseem said that though he had not received nay complaint in this regard, he would raise the issue at the executive committee’s meeting of KUTS

He said that the management of KU should have taken effective measures to stop this violence. KUTS Former Secretary General Dr Riaz Ahmed said that it was an attempt to discourage creative art. No action is taken against these kinds of elements that is why they are emboldened and do what they please, he said, adding that why did the Rangers not take any action against the attackers. He said that acts of violence had also taken place earlier the question was that what the university did against them. Students Advisor of the KU, Rais Ahmed said that we were informed about the programme by an invitation only. Had we been informed that such an exhibition was going to be held, we would have taken adequate measures to protect the students. He informed that he had made reports on Nov 5 and would submit the same to the VC and then the action would be taken against those who were responsible for the attacks. About the losses he said that the students should come to us and inform about the losses and we would look into the matter. He said that every thing was normal after the incident and the teachers of his office were sitting there to keep an eye on everything. He said that the exhibition would last till Nov 10 and nothing of this kind would occur again.

Durriya Qazi, the chairperson of the department, deplored the incident and said that it was due to lack of tolerance. She said that the KU administration took prompt action and now every thing was normal and the department was receiving good response. The question is that why the teacher community did not take any action. The answer may be very simple that it also has political affiliation. Sources said that Sarwar Naseem, the secretary general of KUTS, attended the annual gathering of IJT at Lahore. It showed that he also had soft corner for that party. How can one expect a partial teachers’ body to raise any voice against this vandalism.

Commenting on the incident the KU Syndicate member, MPA Faisal Subzwari said that he would raise this issue at the meeting of the Syndicate. He said,” We are living in a liberal society and nobody has a right to thrust his ideas upon others. If a party does not like anything, it may register its protest in a dignified way but breaking things and beating students is not appropriate to lodge protest.” He said that it was deplorable that the KU administration had not determined yet as to who were the attackers. He demanded strict action against the attackers. Criticising KUTS he said that why did the teachers body not react to an incident in which students were beaten, teachers were insulted and assets of the KU were damaged.
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