Academic freedom under grave threat

Academic freedom under grave threat

Karachi/Lahore, 10 June. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is alarmed by the recurring wave of vicious campaigns against academics. Earlier, Professor Sajid Soomro of Shah Abdul Latif University Khairpur was arrested on charges of blasphemy and sedition.

When Dr Arfana Mallah, a prominent human rights activist in Hyderabad, expressed her dismay at the incident, she too was immediately subjected to a vicious campaign led by clerics with political associations, calling for her to be charged with blasphemy.

Professor Soomro and Dr Mallah have done nothing more than exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression – their right as citizens, their duty as academics. Indeed, it has become frighteningly common to hear of charges of sedition and blasphemy being used to intimidate citizens who dare speak up. Lest we forget, Junaid Hafeez, Mashal Khan and Professor Khalid Hameed were all victims of a skewed, capricious system built to suppress academic freedom among teachers and students alike.

HRCP deplores all such attempts to scuttle academic freedom by targeting intellectuals on flimsy grounds. The state must ensure the safety of its citizens and prohibit the misuse of the blasphemy and sedition laws to silence independent voices or settle personal scores.

On behalf of Dr Mehdi Hasan

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