Faculty, students and residents alarmed by rise in campus violence
tudents and faculty members from educational campuses across the city were in mourning last week after a teacher of the historic Islamia College was shot by a security guard.
The CCTV footage of the incident showed that both the guard and the teacher were armed. The shooting followed a heated argument.
Violence on educational campuses is not a recent phenomenon in Peshawar. Intolerance has been brewing over time.
This environment of fear and violence is not only counterproductive to education but has spillover effects on the city as a space and its residents.
Reports of clashes between student groups and with university administration are commonplace. In the aftermath of Mashal Khan’s murder, one would want to think that things had changed, and they may have – but perhaps for the worse.
Last month, the Islamia College administration had suspended academic activities for a week following the campus shooting.
Noman Sher, a student of Pakistan Studies at Islamia College University said that students were in shock after Bashir Ahmed, a professor of English, was murdered by a university guard.
“After the incident, the university administration shut down the hostels,” said Sher.
“Most of these students belonged to far-flung districts. Some of them are from Chitral and other northern areas. The classes have also been affected,” he said.
Muhammad Azeem Sarwar, a PhD scholar in economics at the University of Peshawar, says educational institutes are expected to promote harmony. “These are places for instruction, dialogue and debate. They exist to further the boundaries of knowledge and to free the minds of people,” says Sarwar. “Guns should be banned on campuses. The police should be the only exception if we want to avoid such incidents in the future,” he suggests.
Lehaz Ali, a Peshawar-based journalist and alumnus of Islamic College said that the security situation in student hostels was dismal. He claimed that there were entire rooms dedicated to storing pistols and batons in the city’s hostels.
Prof Dr Nasir Jamal Khattak said, “we’re living in an intolerant society where people, mainstream media and some media influencers are using abusive and violent language.”
In the aftermath of Mashal Khan’s murder, one would want to think that things changed.
“Teachers are the builders of a peaceful society, but we have no support from the state. If we don’t address violence at campuses seriously, incidents like Mashal Khan’s lynching and Bashir Ahmed’s murder will continue to recur,” said Khattak.
“We should encourage creative gatherings, music, dancing, stand-up spaces and promote cultural activities because these are essentials for a healthy and tolerant society,” he said.
Arooba Ibrahim, a student at the Journalism and Mass Communication Department in Peshawar University, said that violent incidents distracted students from focusing on growth and education.
“The toxic environment affects the students mentally. Those who have witnessed the firing and killings have been traumatised for a long time,” she said.
“Now the students will be more guarded. It will be very difficult for these students to trust the hostel’s security guard and teachers who carry guns,” said Ibrahim.
Dr Israr Atal, an author and an assistant professor at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Higher Education Department, said that it was very unfortunate that gun violence, the use of abusive language, drugs and harassment cases had become a routine matter on many campuses across the province.
“The students and campus administration video clips are viral on social media platforms. The use of abusive language and physical violence at a historic educational institution deserve state attention,” Atal added.
Riaz Ghafoor, a resident of Peshawar, termed the killing of a teacher an extreme act of violence. He said he held the university administration responsible. “Surely, they were negligent since in the past, arguments had been reported between the guard and the teacher,” he said.
“The assassination of a teacher has spread insecurity among the students and teachers,” he said.
Sabokh Sayed, a researcher, said that one way to prevent such incidents was to establish stringent protocols in the recruitment phase.
“Faculty members and other officials at educational institutes should pass a psychological test to ensure that they are suitable for these positions,” he said.
“Before hiring, the administration must consider their past record, behaviour and tolerance level,” said Sayed.
“The vice-chancellors, the Higher Educations Commission and the HED must prioritise these matters,” he said.
The writer is a multimedia journalist. He tweets @daudpasaney