ISLAMABAD: A preliminary investigation carried out by the administration of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) indicates that ‘an outsider’ may have advised the team hosting the Model United Nations (MUN) to include Israel in the team line-up for the event.

A report, a copy of which is available with Dawn, details the events that led up to the setting up of a stall representing Israel at the ‘Global Village’ part of the Women’s International Model United Nations (WIMUN) 2014, which began at IIUI last Friday.

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Dawn also spoke to participants of the event, as well as members of the WIMUN Secretariat – the body that oversees organisational affairs at any MUN event – who said that after the stall became controversial, participants and guests from other institutions were told to flee the campus as “things had gotten bad” and had to go into hiding for fear of reprisals from the IIUI chapter of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT).

The report also backtracks on an earlier claim by the IIUI administration, which had said that the organisers had not sought permission to set up cultural stalls as part of the wider WIMUN schedule. “Various programmes were scheduled in the afternoon… (including) a Masters Round [for committee chairs], carnival and scavenger hunt, committee session(s) and setting of stall(s) of various countries,” says the report, adding that, “students were allowed to set their stalls in thirty minutes”.

The report states that a committee was formed to investigate how ‘Israel’ was allocated to students participating in the MUN, which questioned the students involved and established that the advice to have Israel as part of the competition came from ‘an outsider’. According to the report, the president of the WIMUN – who was a student at the IIUI’s Faculty of Management Sceinces – did not seek approval for this decision from the programme in-charge.

However, the IIUI administration denied having issued an investigation report, saying only that a probe was currently underway. No one from the university seems to know who the outsider named in the report was.

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But Dawn spoke to the ‘outsider’ in question, who is an experienced MUNer and an MBA graduate from a prestigious university in the capital. He was also the chair for one of the committees where Israel was represented during debates.

He told Dawn that the WIMUN Secretariat had submitted the topics for debate well in advance to the faculty, which had approved a discussion on the ‘Palestine-Israel conflict’, to be held at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) committee at WIMUN 2014. “Obviously, if you are going to have a debate on the Israel-Palestine issue, you must have both sides present. This is how it is done at all MUNs across the country and around the world,” he said.

On the first day of the event, he said, the student representing Israel at the UNSC committee came up to the committee chair and said she was not comfortable with her role. However, in the interests of having a fair debate, the ‘outsider’ said, she was told “No one is rooting for Israel, but if the issue is to be discussed, there must be someone representing the other side as well.”

At the end of the first day, when the ‘Global Village’ event was being staged, the stalls of the various countries represented at the event were displayed in the Quaid-i-Azam Complex hall at the university’s old campus near Faisal Mosque.

Objections raised

WIMUN participants event, who were present in the hall at the time, told Dawn that it was not members of the IJT that raised a hue and cry over the Israel stall. “The Global Village was attended by attaches from the Iranian and Palestinian missions, who were also interacting with students at the events and telling them about their own countries,” said a participant, who was also one of the committee chairs at WIMUN.

“Apparently, it was the two attaches who were offended by the presence of the Israel stall and complained to the administration. We found out because the next day, the student who had been representing Israel at the UNSC came up and said that she had been allocated Saudi Arabia instead. Since debate on the Palestine-Israel issue could not continue without a representative of both countries, the committee chair asked one of the observers present at the session to fill in for Israel temporarily,” he said.

“Although we were quite displeased at the narrow-mindedness shown by the university, the event got back on track soon enough. However, the third day was completely cancelled and we were told that ‘things had gone bad’ and the IJT was looking for us. We were told to hide and warned not to go back to our guesthouses as goons may be waiting for us there,” another participant from a Lahore-based university told Dawn.

The IIUI investigation report also states that the administration had disallowed WIMUN from having teams represent India or Israel at the event, but the participants Dawn spoke to did not confirm this.

The report states that following the fiasco, IIUI relieved the dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences, suspended the chairperson of the faculty, constituted a committee to establish the role of two faculty members who were associated with the social events of the WIMUN 2014, and referred the cases of five students from the WIMUN team – including the three who set up the stall – to the Students Disciplinary Committee.

Published in Dawn, October 29th , 2014