- Sources say that clashes between student unions can be avoided by appointing a permanent VC
LAHORE: Punjab University (PU) became a battlefield once again as clashes erupted between two student unions on Monday morning which left several students injured and prompted the university administration to call in a heavy contingent of police to maintain the law and order situation inside the campus.
According to details, clashes surfaced between Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT) and Pashtun Students Union soon after IJT sponsored Pioneer Festival which was vandalised by some ‘unknown’ persons in the Electrical Engineering department and some classrooms of Chemical Engineering department were also set on fire by unidentified miscreants.
The incident also caught the attention of Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif who took notice of the clash among students. He ordered the officials concerned to hold an investigation into the incident and sought a report from CCPO in this connection.
Although the festival was arranged by the IJT- the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami – members belonging to the two student groups were found blaming each other for the ugly episode. The enraged students ransacked several vehicles parked inside the varsity while also vandalising the property of the university. The situation went out of control when baton-wielding students from both the sides started attacking each other while also pelting stones on police mobiles that were called to contain the situation. The police had to resort to the use of tear gas to disperse the enraged mob.
The IJT activists accused the Pashtun students of vandalising its festival and called for the launching of first information report (FIR) against them while staging a sit-in outside the office of the vice chancellor (VC). The activists also demanded the resignation of the interim VC Dr Zakria Zakar who took the charge of his office just a few days ago on January 9.
“We left the venue of our festival at around 4.00 am last night after informing the police that the union of Pashtun students might attack our festival. We only left the venue after getting a full guarantee from the police,” PU IJT spokesman Taimoor Khan told Pakistan Today. He further added that over half a dozen activists of IJT were badly beaten up by the Pashtun students while the police did not take any action against them.
Meanwhile, a heavy contingent of police reached the campus to bring the situation under control. Meanwhile, Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Captain (r) Amin Wains along with Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Dr Haider Ashraf also rushed to the university to monitor the situation. However, they were earlier reluctant to take any action against the miscreants as the CCPO said that police would take action on the advice of university administration only.
While the situation continued to deteriorate, the Punjab Higher Education Minister Raza Ali Gillani also reached the campus and chaired a marathon five-hour long meeting in the VC office where a delegation of Pashtun students was also present.
After apprising the minister about the incident, Asfandyar Khan, a representative of Pashtun students, told Pakistan Today that the activists of IJT themselves vandalised their festival to defame us. “The activists of IJT brutally beat up some Pashtun students of intermediate level in the Islamia College Civil Lines hostels and locked them up in the hostel rooms. We talked to the PU IJT for their release but they started abusing us and also threatened to repeat the same episode in PU,” Asfandyar Khan said while narrating his story. He said that the Pashtun students of PU would continue their boycott till the arrest of the culprits who were responsible for the ugly episode that left eight students injured.
The university administration also called a delegation of Awami National Party (ANP) and Pashtun Welfare Foundation to pacify the situation. It was not the first time that such clashes have surfaced in the PU as over 16 students got injured last year in March in a clash that took place between the same IJT members and Pashtun students after some IJT activists ransacked the cultural festival arranged by the Pashtun Education Development Movement during the tenure of former VC Dr Zafar Moeen Nasar.
A senior faculty member told this scribe on the condition of anonymity that such incidents would continue till the appointment of a permanent VC, as the interim VC cannot take bold decisions against the miscreants and troublemakers. “The administration did nothing against the culprits who were responsible for last year’s scuffle and police cannot do anything without the approval of the varsity’s administration,” the faculty member said.
Meanwhile, Raza Gillani said that the university would remain open per routine and no one would be allowed to create any sort of hindrance in the teaching process. “The university administration and police will launch separate FIRs against the miscreants and the CCTV footage would also be shared with the police to arrest the culprits,” he said. The minister also admitted that the latest incident would have been avoided if the previous administration had taken stern actions against the miscreants in the past.
Furthermore, the interim VC Dr Zakar said that over a dozen miscreants have been identified and they would be nominated in the FIR on the request of the administration. He informed that notices would be sent to all those identified and they would be expelled from the university as the action would be taken across the board this time.