LAHORE - The historic Punjab University (PU) could be shut down next week if the Punjab government leaves the university administration at the mercy of Islami Jamiat Taliba (IJT) activists who are adamant that they will go ahead with their plans to hold a book fair in the university premises despite being refused permission.
In case the Punjab government does not support the university administration, the latter will have no option but to close the university for a few days as it did in 2008. In 2008, faced with similar circumstances, the varsity administration closed down the campus for four days for the first time in its history. Sources said that administration is likely to get the hostels vacated and call in police to thwart IJT activists’ attempt to hold a book fair.
The VC has asked the government for help against IJT activists who have resorted to violence against the PU staff. In this regard, PU senior administrative heads met last week Chancellor Governor Sardar Latif Khosa and senior police officials. IJT activists beat PU employees who were removing book fair banners from the PU walls. The PU administration announced last week that it would hold a three-day book fair from May 13 to May 15. Soon after this announcement, IJT announced a separate book fair from May 10 to May 12. They have already started a publicity campaign for their book fair.
A PU official, who asked not to be named, told Pakistan Today said that on the day of torture of PU employees, senior administrative heads called on the governor and senior police officials and discussed the situation with them. He said PU VC Professor Dr Mujahid Kamran would meet Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif in this connection to seek his advice and support. “Whether the university will get the government’s support or not, much depends on the outcome of the meeting between the CM and VC. In the past, CM did not intervene in the PU affairs despite being briefed on the IJT’s activities,” the official said.
A PU spokesman said that criminals in the ranks of IJT have been extorting money from publishers in the name of “Aayanat,” and it was only for that reason it wants to hold a book fair, he added. The spokesman said that the incumbent PU administration have been holding annual book fairs for three years now, which has annoyed the diehard members of Jamiat. The spokesman clarified that the administration would not allow a student organisation that has a criminal record of involvement in car theft and other crimes to hold any such activity in the university premises.
He said that the IJT must understand that the present days are not like the past and that they have lost the support of university students. He said more than half of the IJT members are either expelled students or outsiders who are involved in anti-education activities. Contradicting the idea of closing down the university, PU Resident Officer (RO) Javed Sami said the university would not be closed because the current situation is different from the situation in 2008. He said IJT would be not allowed to hold its own book fair.
On the other hand, IJT PU Nazim Zubair Safdar said the administration is doing propaganda against their book fair. He said IJT is committed to holding the book fair on the announced dates. He rebuffed allegations related to “Aayanat” as mere propaganda. Safdar said the IJI book fair is a constructive activity which they have been doing for the last 30 years and this year is no exception. “We have a contingency plan in place in case the administration tries to stop us from holding the book fair,” he added.