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April 22, 2017

Faculty bickering feeds and feeds off lynching mania


April 22, 2017

There are no winners in staffroom politics in university departments but the ultimate losers, indeed, are always students who seldom understand it. The inhumanity and bestiality Mashal Khan went through at Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, is not but a manifestation of this killing practice.

The student involved in this episode has confessed to be following the line drawn by some faculty and administration officials, unbeknown of the fact that it could lead to such an end, which gives out the fact that Mashal’s lynching is the climax of the dangerous routine of bickering among faculty members that sucks in students. Some staff officials have been arrested and others are under inquiry.

The News has interviewed some faculty members willing to stand up to this practice and speak up for protection of students so that a hole is drilled into the ivory tower which their colleagues preferred to live in.

Prof Dr Sajid Awan, editor of different research journals and former director of National Institute of Heritage and Cultural Research (NIHCR), said dimensions of Mardan University need to be looked into carefully. Political parties have inserted their bread both in administration and faculty, he said. Mounting a move to oust the weak acting VC, these powerful factions would make use of every available opportunity to create unrest. The students engaged in this scheme usually remain unaware of the ultimate goal, he said.

“Yes, he (Mashal) was a socialist as socialist literature was recovered from his room. But at the same time, religious literature was also recovered from there. In fact, Pakhtun society is religious. It is their characteristic that they are religious even if they adhere to communist or socialist ideologies,” he said.

Ali Bangash, a lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Peshawar, was of the opinion that Higher Education Commission (HEC) has little writ on universities. He said Sheraz Paracha, head of department of mass communication at Mardan University where Mashal was lynched, was a high profile media professional with a streak of success. “Regardless of his professional credentials, faculty members of different universities were hell bent on exploiting the fact that he did not have a PhD degree, which resulted into escalation in staffroom politics and students were engaged in it. Directly or indirectly, this strain in the department has a lot to do with the lynching of Mashal.”

Kamal Siddiqui, director of the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at IBA, Karachi, rejected the notion that a media professional heading the department of journalism could or should be a cause of strain. He said sometimes a reporter refuses to be an editor knowing that administration is not his thing but sometimes a reporter proves to be a good administrator.

“I have heard that Paracha was a media professional. Being head of department, one needs to be a good administrator able to stop staffroom politics from leaving an impact on students,” he said. He said no PhD degree is required to serve a department of journalism. “There is a dire need for media professionals to join journalism departments so that quality of journalism is improved in Pakistan. I can quote you a lot of examples from leading universities of the world where media professionals are serving journalism departments well,” he concluded.

Prof Dr Muhammad Zaman, head of the Department of Sociology at Quaid-i-Azam University, said both administration and faculty manipulate students to pursue their personal gains. “Blasphemy, harassment, especially using a female student or a faculty member, and narcotics are the weapons of choice for abusers,” he laid out.

He said in the case of Mashal Khan, the method of “emotional intoxication” or “emotional energy” was used through which energy of a mob was unlocked inciting them emotionally. “Religion is invoked in such cases as it carries the power of holy symbolism,” he explained.

“Rational choice, unfortunately, is not in our socialisation,” he said.

In western ideology, rational psychology is pressed upon as a key for rational behaviour. Barring two or three occasions like Christmas and birthdays, western populations follow rational behaviour.

“We need to include in our syllabus subjects like social tolerance, truth tracking and respect for diversity if we want not to see the repeat of Mashal lynching,” he said.

Ahsan Raza, who teaches media at Punjab University, Lahore, said the lynching has put up more questions than answers. There is a need to do research on mob psychology. “We have not witnessed a lynching incident in any seminary. It is because efforts of seminarians are always guided and their attitudes are submissive,” he said.

The sad part of the lynching is that it has proved yet another card to play in the hands of players of staffroom politics. Instead of taking it as a wakeup call, they have taken it as a godsend to settle scores with their rivals. In this bickering mania, the academicians have left even the national politicians behind. It seems that jackals are still worrying the unrobed and lifeless body in Mardan.

The writer is a PhD candidate
in media studies


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