In Pakistan, professors and academic leaving literary institutes has become the new normal. A number of liberal academics have been sacked by their universities, allegedly over their anti-government stance.
Ammar Ali Jan, a prominent Pakistani academic and activist has become the latest victim of it. In a Twitter post, Jan said that he would be parting ways with Lahore’s Forman Christian College (FCC), where he taught political science.
Jan is a renowned progressive scholar who has been vocal against alleged military atrocities in the insurgency-marred Baluchistan province. He also lends support to the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) in the country’s northwestern areas.
“After I participated in a student demonstration, the government registered a sedition case against me. The university administration told me to stay away from these activities and warned that they would take action against me if I didn’t knuckle under,” Jan said.
He claims that the country’s powerful military is exerting pressure on civilian institutions to stifle dissenting voices.
Expressing concern, rights groups say the freedom of expression in Pakistan, particularly the freedom of press, has come under immense pressure since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power in August 2018. “The military has further consolidated its power during Khan’s government”, activists claim.
According to Pakistani media and activists, Pervez Hoodbhoy, an internationally renowned physicist, known for expressing views against religious obscurantism and militarization of the state, has also been told by the Forman Christian College that his contract will not be renewed next year.
Jan’s tweet has prompted other secular academics to speak out against curbs on academic freedom.
In a Twitter post, Aima Khosa, an academic and rights activist, said, “In 2018, I was hired to teach politics at a local university in Lahore. After spending two semesters there, the management told me that my contract would not be extended. When I asked the head of department as to why I was being abruptly dismissed, he told me that the university had received complaints about my political views.”
Similarly, Zaighum Abbas, who taught at Lahore’s Government College University from 2015 to February of this year, said he was dismissed in the middle of the semester for expressing his political views.
“We have noticed that educational institutions are increasingly sacking teachers who don’t toe the government’s line. The state feels threatened by liberal teachers and academics,” Abbas said.
“I was accused of being a traitor and an anti-state teacher who was trying to promote secular ideas among students. These are usual propaganda tools,” he added.
However, the government and the military have consistently denied such accusations, with Prime Minister Imran Khan stating that the media in Pakistan is absolutely free.