Today, a roundtable on “Unsilencing Balochistan” to be held on Thursday 9 April at LUMS was cancelled due to state intervention.
The event was an academic event, gathering academics and activists involved in, or concerned by the situation in Balochistan. The guests were I. A. Rehman, director, HRCP; Aasim Sajjad, Professor, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad; Sajjad Changezi, Activist, Alif Ailaan; Mohammed Ali Talpur, Columnist; Mama Qadeer, President VMPB; Farzana Majeed, General Secretary VMPB.
Such cancellation is a gross violation of freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of information, academic freedom and political pluralism.
Pakistan is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees these fundamental freedoms and rights. These rights are also guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan, notably in its articles 16, 17, 19 and 19a.
We, as students, staff and faculty at LUMS, are most concerned about this cancellation, and the gross lack of democratic freedom and political pluralism that it manifests. It is all the more unacceptable that Balochistan has witnessed important human rights violations for the past decades, notably enforced disappearance of citizens. Persecution of religious minorities has also become commonplace in Balochistan, which has led to migration by non-Muslims and minority Muslim sects in large numbers to other regions of the country as well as abroad. The targeting of the Shia Hazaras of Balochistan is one of the most violent and persistent persecution of any community.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan notes that in spite of the large amount of financial and natural resources of the province, no serious and sustained attempt to deliver the benefits of that to the people of Balochistan has been made.
Human Rights Watch states that the failure to address disappearances and other human rights violations in Balochistan “remains one of the key factors contributing to the persistent cycle of abuse and impunity in the region, which takes a heavy toll on the Baloch community. It not only affects the victims whose lives are brutalized and lost, but also their families who live in the anguish that they may never learn the fate of their loved ones. It also deeply undermines the efforts of the Pakistani government to win the trust of the Baloch people and achieve reconciliation in the province”.
In short, a serious, informed, academic debate on Balochistan is not only important, it is urgently needed to address the issues that adversely affect the state of Pakistan today. After the Peshawar attack in December 2014, the government vowed to put Pakistan back on the track of the rule of law and the respect for human rights. Informed debate on the human rights issues affecting Pakistan is a precondition thereof. Sadly, today, the State did not allow this to happen.
Concerned Faculty, Students and Staff at LUMS
There were quick responses on social media regarding this incident:
— Nudrrat Khawaja (@NudrratKhawaja) April 8, 2015
Serious question. If there really is a letter from DG-I to cancel a talk at LUMS, how is it not on every website, everywhere yet?
— Mosharraf Zaidi (@mosharrafzaidi) April 8, 2015
'Talk was cancelled on the orders of the government' – stated in official LUMS email on cancellation of the Balochistan panel discussion.
— Umair Javed (@umairjav) April 8, 2015
Getting this LUMS talk cancelled is pretty stupid. Nothing gained except bad PR.
— Daaniyal (@le_Sabre) April 8, 2015
This man @SikanderSajid1 is telling me that LUMS professors are lying, students are lying too. Sorry dost, feed that to someone else.
— Wengerullah (@ASYusuf) April 8, 2015
— cyril almeida (@cyalm) April 8, 2015
The greatest gift of agitation, now over, to try and topple a civilian government will be curtailed free speech. Lums will be repeated.
— Abbas Nasir (@abbasnasir59) April 8, 2015