On a cloudy day, the Punjab University’s Philosophy Department looks serene and lush, with relaxed and preoccupied students strolling down the corridors. Yet this department pertaining to Iqbal and Nietzsche became the centre of violence last week when its teachers and students came in conflict with the Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT).
According to one student, on June 21, he was sitting with a girl student at around 8am. She gave him money for medicines but this gave an IJT member lurking around some wrong idea. When the member approached this student, the two boys got into a squabble.
According to students of the Philosophy Department who don’t want to be named, on June 22, the IJT members misbehaved with some girl students of their department swho later went to the Vice Chancellor. The next day, many IJT members gathered around the Philosophy Department and misbehaved with a female teacher along with the students, who then decided to protest, along with the staff members on June 24, the students went on. The protest materialised and later that day the IJT also protested.
The situation precipitated on the night of June 25 (last Saturday) when about 150 IJT members, some of them armed, went into Hostel No.7 of Punjab University. This hostel’s superintendent Shahid Gul, also belongs to the Philosophy Department and many Philosophy students reside here.
One Philosophy student was reportedly attacked with iron chains which damaged his back and another got head injuries. Both were rushed to the Jinnah hospital. They are out of danger now and have rejoined the university.
Reportedly, on June 25 when the IJT students came to the hostel, There was a counter attack on the IJT members, who escaped by climbing the hostel walls. However, when one lone IJT member was cornered by the students, he took out his pistol. He held the superintendent at gun point asking him to open the gate. He fired in desperation and the rebound bullet hit a teacher. IJT members from outside then beat the guard and broke the gate lock to rescue their fellow.
An FIR was registered against the assailants but the victims are sure nothing will come out of it. They consider the IJT too well-connected for such accountability. The VC, heads and deans of the university the HRCP chairperson Zohra Yosuf have condemned this event.
However, the following day, IJT members came to the department and apologised for the event.
Prof. Dr. Sajid Ali, Chairman Philosophy Department, commented on the events. “The philosophy department has always had an issue with the IJT. They expect us to call their members as guests or chair seminars but we don’t do so. Neither do we let them harass our students. So this is an ego issue for them,” says the chairman.
He verified that IJT has issues with boys and girls interacting or being seen together. When they see people sitting together, they usually recommend that the students sit in classes not outside. IJT members are always lurking around the departments monitoring activities.
Students allege that organisations like University Student Federation and Insaf Student Federation were dismembered due to IJT violence and pressure. Some students are adamant upon resisting this phenomenon. “The IJT won’t let any organisation work,” says one student. “But it cannot do much about the protests and resistance. We take the threat and abuse of our teachers just as seriously as our own.”
Departments like Biochemistry, History, Political Science and Hailey College suffer such violence but stay quiet.
“The issue was a misunderstanding. Two boys had a fight, which was resolved by a faculty member within 30 minutes,” says Zubair Safdar, Nazim Punjab University IJT. “The girls protested for the next two days. On the third day some 70 students and staffers rallied to the vice chancellor. Around 70 members of IJT also protested and later apologised to the faculty.”
On being inquired about the violence in Hostel No.7, Zubair Safdar, Nazim of IJT in Punjab University, agreed they were IJT members: “They went to persuade the hostel residents against the anti-IJT protests but there was a clash. The hostel students had sticks. Four boys, including two of ours, were injured. That event took a poor turn.” He added that IJT wants to teach Islam in educational institutions so the students implement it later. He believes the USF and Insaf Student Federations did not have an ideology and were disbanded when their respective batches graduated. Safdar asserts that IJT is democratic and popular, doesn’t want resistance, coercion or media-trial.