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Outcry on social media as LUMS cancels talk featuring Mama Qadeer

Updated Apr 09, 2015 03:46pm
Activists condemned the cancellation of the talk however, the cause behind it could not be ascertained. Photo courtesy: lums.edu.pk
Activists condemned the cancellation of the talk however, the cause behind it could not be ascertained. Photo courtesy: lums.edu.pk

LAHORE: Students and activists took to social networking websites to condemn the decision by the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to cancel a talk featuring Baloch human rights activist Mama Qadeer Baloch on Thursday.

Mama Qadeer Baloch, a sexagenarian activist, is known for highlighting cases of enforced disappearance of Baloch activists which rights groups accuse the military and intelligence agencies of kidnapping and killing.

The talk titled "Unsilencing Balochistan", a part of the series "Remapping Justice: On Human Rights in Pakistan" was scheduled for today at 6:30 pm at LUMS Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences (MGSHSS), according to a promotional poster.

Promotional poster by LUMS school of humanities and social sciences
Promotional poster by LUMS school of humanities and social sciences

A representative from the office of LUMS Vice Chancellor told Dawn.com that the university "would soon be issuing an official statement regarding cancellation of the talk" on their website.

Meanwhile, Dean of the Students Affairs Department at LUMS said that he was not in a position to give an official statement about the cancellation of the event.

Soon after the announcement the hashtag "#Shameonlums" started to trend on social networking site Twitter.

However, a Twitter user Fasi Zaka correctly pointed out that the hashtag was being used by activists to both criticise LUMS for cancelling the talk and for organising a talk they considered "anti-state".

A LUMS student said that students received an email from Associate Professor and Department Chair, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS Ali Khan announcing the cancellation of the talk.

The email said that the scheduled talk on Balochistan was "cancelled on the orders of the government".

The email further said: "LUMS is committed to working with the government to find a way to allow the university to hold conversations on topics that are sensitive but that need to be debated in an objective and unbiased manner".

Assistant Professor Humanities and Social Sciences at LUMS Dr Taimur Rahman told Pakistan Today that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) personnel had visited LUMS to present a letter calling for the cancellation of the talks.

Dr Rahman said he considered the decision a "violation of academic freedom and a curb on freedom of speech".

The talk was to feature Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) chairman Mama Qadeer, activist M. M. Ali Talpur, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Director I.A. Rehman, General Secretary Farzana Majeed, Quaid-e-Azam University professor and activist Aasim Sajjad and human rights activist Sajjad Changezi as guest speakers.

The talk was organised by Visiting Assistant Professor at LUMS Dr Anne Christine Habbard and was scheduled to be moderated by Daily Times Chief Editor Rashid Rahman.