ISLAMABAD: Dozens of students, angry at not being allowed to hold a cultural programme, brought all academic activities to a halt and forced the main campus of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) to shut down on Monday.
The university administration, though, has claimed that they could not allow un-Islamic events to be held on campus.
Students of the varsity had wished to hold a cultural programme to mark the International Pashtun Culture Day on Sunday. The programme was due to include a poetry recital (mushaira) and was allegedly due to be accompanied by a showcase of cultural music and dance that is part of the Pashtun culture.
But the varsity, apparently succumbing to pressures from a religiously-inclined student body, refused to allow the event to be held.
This angered the students who contended that the event was supposed to offer a cultural display.
The students claimed that the varsity had initially granted them permission to hold the event and that they had made all the necessary arrangements, including sending out invitations to guests. However, later, under alleged pressure from the IJT, the varsity administration withdrew their support.
“The university hyped the issue as if it is a war between Islam and heterodoxy,” remarked Aimal Khan, a student. He added that instead of promoting cultural events, the varsity was promoting extremist values by siding with student wings which have radical ideologies.
The students further complained that false information had been spread that they were allegedly inviting Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader Manzoor Pashteen.
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Following a call from Pashtun students on Sunday, students hailing from all ethnic groups including Saraiki, Chitrali, Sindhi, Balochi protested against the varsity administration and held a strike on Monday.
The students locked entrances to classrooms and did not allow varsity’s bus service to pick up students.
Roads in the varsity were blocked by placing tree trunks and other obstacles while doors of departments remained bolted.
Students also occupied roads leading to campus and chanted slogans of “Give respect to Pashtuns”.
The varsity administration finally called the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) to disperse the students.
The administration tried to convince the protesting students to call off their strike and even arrested one of them.
After negotiations, the students agreed to reopen the campus. In return, the varsity administration agreed to reduce the degree fee, and resolve a host of issues faced by students including at the hostels and other administrative issues.
The students and varsity administration also came to the agreement that in future, events will be held according to a new code of conduct which all student councils or wings will be bound to obey.
IIUI Rector Dr Masoom Yasinzai, while confirming that all academic activities on campus will resume normally on Tuesday, said that the university will be drafting a code of conduct according to its rules and that this code will be equally applicable to all.
To formalise the code, he said that they will seek an endorsement of the draft from the university’s statutory bodies.
The university cannot allow any activity against Islamic principles, he said while explaining why permission for the cultural event had been withdrawn.
Talking about the event at the heart of the matter, Dr Yasinzai claimed that students, in the guise of a cultural event, were planning to play music and perform the Attan — a cultural dance of Pushtuns —which the administration could not allow.
In a separate meeting between IIUI President Dr Ahmed Yousif Al-Draiweesh and a delegation comprising senior office bearers of the Academic Staff Association, the Officers Welfare Organization and the University Staff Welfare Association (USWA) it was noted that there were efforts under way to create a disturbance on campus.
The delegation assured the varsity president that all the negative efforts to defame the university will be foiled.
According to a statement released by the varsity, it was also agreed that all students and officials of the university will be told that they must utilise the relevant forums to take up disputes and seek their rights since such matters are discussed outside the varsity when they receive no response to their complaints.
The delegation also condemned efforts of some elements who were conducting a witch-hunt against the varsity administration.
This is not the first time that such commotion has occurred during or before an event on campus.
The varsity is considered to be a stronghold for the Islami Jamiat Talba, a student wing of the conservative religio-political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). It has often been in the headlines opposing musical or cultural events on campus with the IJT terming such functions as anti-Islamic. Unnecessary restrictions on female students have also prompted strikes and protests in the past.
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