Pakistani academics and scholars have always faced a hostile establishment. However, over the last few years there has been a steady rise in targeting of any form of dissent.
In a recent statement, South Asians Against Terrorism and for Human Rights (SAATH), a grouping of pro-democracy Pakistani intellectuals and activists, expressed its alarm at “the growing trend of targeting academics and scholars in Pakistan. While the tendency to control and censor the academic environment and scholarship is not new, but this wave of intensified attacks is worrying for all pro-democracy forces of the country. The recent cases of abrupt dissolution of employment contracts of college and university professors, e.g., world renowned physicist and pro-peace activist, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy; Ammar Ali Jan known for his progressive views and open support for human rights movements for the Pashtun, the Baloch and other marginalized communities; Prof. Zaigham Abbas, the prominent political scientist and critic of state policies; and Mohammed Hanif, playwright, novelist and opinion writer for world renowned publications. All of them have been shown the door by hurriedly terminating their contracts or refusing to extend them.”
SAATH “members note that all these transgressions by the state or non-state actors in Pakistan have been going on with impunity for a very long time. They demand that the relevant institutions especially the parliament and judiciary must ensure that these acts of oppressing dissent and stifling of academic expression does not go scot free. SAATH will keep monitoring and documenting the situation, followed by advocacy drives with international forums for human rights because the members believe that academic freedom is a human right.”