Across the world, Universities are a place where anything can be debated at length and professors are respected due to their scholarship and grasp of the subject matter. But is it the case with the Pakistani universities? On February 4, 2010 in Islamabad, the registrar of the National University of Modern Languages beat-up a university Professor Tahir Malik at a students’ reception ceremony organized by the International Relations Department of the university.
The registrar of the university is an ex-military serviceman who got maddened after hearing the criticism on General Musharaf’s role in power brokering deal with the PPP through the National Reconciliation Ordinance. The registrar also got enraged when Professor Tahir Malik questioned the registrar’s appointment which was made without any advertisement or following the prescribed selection criteria. The registrar is neither guilty of his act nor the university administration has taken any disciplinary action against him as yet other than calling for an inquiry of the incident.
According to “The News” this is not the first incident at NUML where a University professor has been assaulted because of criticizing army. At another such incident, Azaz Syed, a journalist teaching in the NUML’s Journalism Department, was sacked from his job because of criticized ISI’ chief. The News also reports that after these two incidents the tension between NUML’s civilian and military staff (retired army officers) has grown to a great extent.
Surely, NUML is one of the many military businesses or “MILBUS” in Pakistan and as Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Agha discusses in her book “Military Inc.”, the purpose of these MILIBUS like NUML is to ensure a very dominant social presence as well as gain political and economic control. Besides, the recent incident of assault of a professor by the NUML administrator also suggests that criticizing army can not be tolerated by any means if you are being employed by any of the MILIBUS. But then where goes the fundamental constitutional guarantee of “freedom of speech and expression”? Or probably freedom of speech and expression is only limited to books and it has not yet been accepted by the masses and institutions. Or probably we are not that democratic yet and therefore freedom of speech and expression has not become a norm here.
Update: The President of Pakistan who is also the Chancellor of the NUML has ordered an inquiry into the incident. More Details can be found here http://thenews.jang.com.pk/top_story_detail.asp?Id=27097
originally written for http://islamabad.metblogs.com