LAHORE: Hundreds of students and some teachers staged a protest demonstration on Thursday at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) against the cancellation of a conference titled: Unsilencing Balochistan.
The event was scheduled to be held on Thursday at 6.30pm. However, it was cancelled on Wednesday. Speakers at the event included Mama Qadeer, the Voice of Baloch Missing Persons president; Farzana Majeed, its secretary general; Human Rights Commission of Pakistan director IA Rehman; Aasim Sajjad, a Quaid-i-Azam University faculty member; Sajjad Changezi, an Alif Ailaan activist; and Ali Talpur, a columnist.
On Thursday, scores of students got together in front of the main cafeteria with red tapes on their mouths.
Marching from one building to another, they listened in silence to Baloch music. They also announced that they would wear black armbands in their classrooms and continue the debate about the situation in Balochistan.
The students had held a similar protest on Wednesday at 9pm.
Requesting anonymity, some of the students said some government representatives had shown a letter to Ali Khan, the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences head, telling him to cancel the event and prevent any debate or discussion on Balochistan in the university.
Faculty member Taimur Rahman highlighted the incident in a Facebook post. It read: “Unsilenced Balochistan at LUMS that brought together academics and activists to talk about the situation has been SILENCED. A delegation met with our head of department and showed him a letter, stating that the event has to be cancelled.”
Rahman told The Express Tribune that the conference was meant to be a discussion between academics. He said that the fact that the authorities felt compelled to intervene was a violation of academic integrity.
An official statement was issued by the university on Thursday. “An event scheduled at the LUMS for the April 9, 2015, had to be cancelled on orders from the government, which was most unfortunate indeed. The university is committed to working with the government to find a way to allow the university to hold analytical talks on various topics that need to be debated in an objective and unbiased manner,” it read.
This conference was the third in a series titled: Remapping Justice on Human Rights in Pakistan. The first event was held in February and was titled: Legal, Political and Constitutional Issues Concerning the Rights of Ahmedis.
The second titled, Debating Military Courts – the 21st Amendment, was held in March.
Asked about it, LUMS senior communications officer Syed Hassan Bokhari told The Express Tribune that he did not have any information about which government department had issued the directive to cancel the event.
Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan and Punjab Government Spokesman Zaeem Hussain Qadri were not available for a comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2015.