(ByZoya Anwer) “Looking at the students who have come out to protest against the lynching of Mashal Khan, I feel a tinge of hope; but it would’ve been better if all of us had stood united against this brutal incident.”
Addressing the students and teachers participating in the demonstration organised by the teachers of University of Karachi on Thursday, Prof Dr SM Taha of the Department of General History said the need to hold discourse over such incidents was more important now than ever.
Last week, student Mashal was killed at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan over blasphemy allegations, sparking a lot of debate over intolerance in the country.
“We need to understand that Mashal’s murder was not an isolated incident,” said Taha, “and if anyone of us still feels that we’d remain safe, then it’s our naivety. Any of us can be the next Mashal Khan, because we believe in voicing our opinions.”
He asked the students to spread the message by holding constructive discussions among themselves to eliminate the possibility of such a situation in future. “Mashal’s murder is undoubtedly tragic, but the silence of majority of the people is more distressing.”
The teachers addressed the protesters, who began their rally from the Arts Lobby, went around various departments shouting slogans. The rally culminated outside UBL near the Admin Block.
Mohsin Ali, who teaches at the Department of Chemistry, urged people to exercise patience to respect the views of others and give room to voice ideological differences.
“If a person doesn’t believe in a certain ideology or is breaking a law, then the state should look into the matter instead of citizens taking the law into their own hands.”
Dr Riaz Ahmed, associate professor at the Department of Applied Chemistry, said that it was commendable that students had come out to speak in Mashal’s favour.
“Although teachers gave the call instead of the students, this protest has proven that people are grieving about the loss and want to speak against injustice.”
He said that in future “we would try to focus our efforts toward a more tolerant culture, but we also need to pay heed to the rising Islamophobia in the West, which is leading to insecurity regarding the belief system. We need to challenge the mindset to curb violence caused by extremism”.
Another teacher associated with the Department of General History said: “We want a tolerant and pluralist society, and we refuse to cower down from such tactics at universities.”
Ever since Mashal’s murder, added the teacher, students wanted to organise a protest and they were looking for a platform to do so.
A political science student, Waqas Aalam, said the Mashal episode had frightened many students, because it happened on the premises of an educational institution, that too on mere allegations.
“Students are now hesitant about posting on social media because fear has gripped many of them. However, they do feel sympathetic towards the cause, but at times sympathy isn’t enough.”
Instead of curtailing freedom, he added, “we need to give space to people to voice their opinions without the fear of being killed for having a different view about things”.
As the demonstration concluded, a student, perplexed by the need to protest, inquired about the gravity of the situation. Luckily, there were many who explained the dangerous outcomes of mob justice.