The issue of moral policing on university campuses is not a new one in Pakistan. But is such an action an overreaction, or a reasonable response? According to some media writers, not only is such a reaction valid, but also necessary!
Case in point: Engineer Iftikhar Chaudhry’s opinion piece for Daily Ummat lauded the role of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) in light of its actions against ‘vulgar’ activities in Punjab University Lahore. The op-ed writer not only defended the group’s actions but also stressed that the student group shouldn’t be banned for ‘minor mistakes’. He said conspiracies were rife against the IJT and certain forces wanted it banned.
A screenshot of Daily Ummat op-ed
He urged that IJT shouldn’t be remembered as the group that once manhandled incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan during his visit to Punjab University. He says IJT’s use of force is aimed at putting an end to evils like use of drugs on campuses and gender mixing. The writer said he doesn’t condone violence but it is a ‘necessary evil’.
Highlighted text says JIT’s baton-armed group is the remedy for students who use drugs or mix with opposite gender.
He reminded his readers that IJT has served Pakistan since long, and mentions how militant wings of Jamat-e-Islami, Al Badr and Al Shams came to the aid of Pakistan Army in fight against Bengali militant group Mukti Bahini in 1971.
If IJT is banned, Pakistan will lose its religious identity, the writer fears.
The writer goes on to credit IJT with triggering the anti-Ahmaddiya movement that led to their declaration as non-Muslims in 1974. He claims that the students of Nishtar Medical College Multan who were allegedly subjected to torture by members of Ahmadiyya community at Rabwa were members of IJT.
It is pertinent to mention that Daily Ummat was the only newspaper to give space to views supporting IJT’s ways, whereas the majority of mainstream newspapers wrote scathing criticisms of the group’s strong-arm tactics.
Leading English daily, The News while commenting on the recent violent episode said that the group continues to hold the universities hostage.
“There have been incidents where the group has tried to segregate male and female students, harass those walking along campus together or prevent certain subjects from being taught.” The newspaper said.
“Discussions and debates on various topics have also been ‘disallowed’ by the IJT through the threat of violence they so frequently use.” It added.
In its editorial English daily, The Nation equated IJT to a violent mob. It said:
“The IJT can come up with any number of excuses, but it doesn’t change the fact that all the violence in Punjab University can be directly attributed to this group.”
Prominent activist and teacher, Professor Ammar Ali Jan alleged that the IJT is being tolerated by the university administration and is often used to attack dissenting students; therefore it plays the role of an undeclared policeman on campus.
The attack on Baloch students is not a secluded incident. IJT has been earlier involved in a number of attacks on students, including one particularly violent assault on Pashtun students in 2017.