Unrest simmers on at the Punjab University, even several weeks after an incident in which activists of the Islami Jamiaat-e-Tulaba (IJT) beat up a senior professor who also happened to be in charge of disciplinary affairs.
There is nothing that is new about the thrashing of the teacher. Such events have taken place many times before, especially since the 1980s when the IJT had an iron-clad grip on campus. The disruption of academic life, with exams postponed and hostels emptied, is also familiar. Indeed it goes to demonstrate some of the reasons why higher education is in such a sorry state today.
What is refreshing though is the determined bid by an outraged faculty to strike back. Organisations representing academic staff have kept up a campaign of protests. It is true a few department heads sided with the IJT. The induction of candidates of their own choice has of course been a key part of the group’s strategy over the past few decades. But despite this, the resistance put up this time round by teachers is welcomed. If we are to see any return to an environment truly conducive to learning on campuses, groups such as the IJT need to be driven off them. They have in the past stifled life at Punjab University and other institutions, especially in Lahore and Karachi, by attempting to impose their own moral code on students and staff alike. This can end only when more efforts are made to rescue education from their grip and campaigns such as the one launched by the university’s teachers, whole-heartedly supported by all those interested in safeguarding the future of our young people and our nation. This means that the provincial government unequivocally throw its weight behind the teachers so that our campuses can be weeded of these ‘militants’.