Dozens injured in Punjab University clash

LAHORE:22 March:Ethnic diversity is difficult to celebrate at the best of times and becomes virtually impossible when certain elements are out to sabotage it all costs. A stark reminder of this was Tuesday’s clash at the Punjab University which left dozens of students injured. Pakhtun Culture Day celebrations, which aimed to mark the Nauroz festival, reportedly came under attack by students from the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) — the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. Pakhtun Students Federation (PkSF) spokesperson Jaffer Khan said 12 of his activists were injured either as a result of the attack or the consequent police action. IJT’s Taimoor, meanwhile, claimed around 20 of his colleagues suffered injuries. Jaffer said he had already informed the university administration, police and media about the security threat to the federation’s plan to celebrate Pakhtun Culture Day and Jashn-e-Nauroz. “It is unfortunate that we were not provided security,” he added. Pakhtun students had set up their stalls where musical instruments, traditional Pakhtun dresses and literature was on display. The students also performed their cultural dance called the Attan. “We had announced the venue of the programme a week ago after getting permission from the university administration,” Jaffer said. Witnesses said the IJT set up its camp a few yards across on the opposite of the road. When the Pakhtun students started the Attan, the IJT tried to disrupt the dance. Activists of the student group allegedly set fire to the camp of their rivals. The inevitable clash saw both groups exchange blows while the police arrived and resorted to its customary baton charge and tear-gas shelling. Jaffer alleged it was a pre-planned attack and IJT purposely set up a camp in front of theirs at the last minute. Taimoor, on the other hand, said they had been preparing for the Youm-e-Pakistan Rally on March 22 for the past two weeks. The IJT, he added, was running awareness campaigns and had set up camps throughout the campus to invite students for the sharing of ideas. He added female students of IJT were also preparing for the rally at the Philosophy Department lawn. “Pakhtun students, while dancing, came to our camps and put our sound system on fire. They proceeded to harass the females and that was when we retaliated,” he admitted. The IJT representative believed that holding Pakhtun Culture Day was the conspiracy of a few “miscreants or outsiders” to disturb peace at the campus. “Nowhere in the world or the country, even Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, is this day celebrated,” he claimed. “Holding such an event this close to Pakistan Day is to promote a certain ethnicity or provincialism.” Jaffer denied the allegations, saying the students were celebrating Jashn-e-Nauroz, a historical event of the region. He said the allegations of provincialism or promoting ethnicity were mere propaganda. “We staged the programme with the permission of the PU administration and police. If it was a counterproductive activity, the administration would not have allowed it. Taking action is the job of the university administration and state-institutions, not non-state actors.” As word of the clash spread, extra police contingents arrived at the spot. They also launched a search operation and took dozens of suspects into custody. The Punjab University vice-chancellor also reached the spot and vowed to take stern action against those responsible. PU spokesperson Khurram Shahzad confirmed Pakhtun students had taken permission for the event and even told the administration about the threats. “The university provided security to them and guards were also present,” he said. “The camps set up just opposite by IJT, on the other hand, were without permission.” Muslim Town SHO denied receiving any information about the threat of an attack the day before. “The students told us they were holding the event and we provided security accordingly. We escorted them throughout the rally,” he added.Published in The Express Tribune,

Add new comment