HRCP alarmed over expulsion of Pashtun and Baloch students

LAHORE: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has expressed grave concern over the recent actions of the administration of the Punjab University against a number of Pashtun and Baloch students.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Commission said: “HRCP has expressed serious alarm over the mistreatment of Pashtun and Baloch students by the administration of the Punjab University. On January 22, 2018, there was a clash between different student groups at Punjab University’s Quaid-e-Azam campus in Lahore, following which a crackdown was initiated against the students alleged to have been involved in the incident. Cases were registered against a number of students and more than 200 students were arrested. A large majority of the students who were arrested were Pashtuns and Baloch. The university administration sent show cause notices to the students alleged to have been involved in the clash and suspended some of them. The arrested students were released on bail eventually and the provincial government claimed that the charges against the students, which included sections of the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA) in some instances, will be dropped.

Following these developments, the administration of Punjab University expelled a number of Pashtun and Baloch students on 17th February 2018. At the same time, the university administration had issued further show cause notices to more students. The cases that were registered against the arrested students are still in effect and the bail of the students, who were released, can be cancelled at any time which can result in their arrest. The students who have been expelled and suspended have been protesting the decisions against them for more than a week now.

The protesting students demand that the decisions of their suspension and expulsion should be taken back and they should be allowed to attend their classes. They also demand that the cases registered against them should be withdrawn as promised. The students demand to be treated with respect and any campaigns against the Pashtun and Baloch students branding them as being “Anti-Pakistan” in the university should be taken notice of by the administration, which should further ensure that such campaigns are not allowed in the university campuses.

The impression that the university administration has been targeting Pashtun and Baloch students because of their ethnic identities is cause for grave concern. HRCP urges the university’s administration to take immediate measures to address these valid and serious concerns. HRCP also calls on the university’s administration to engage the protesting students and initiate a process of dialogue with them as soon as possible.