KARACHI: The organisers and panellists of the seminar titled ‘Baloch missing persons and the role of state and society’ have told Dawn they are going ahead with the talk at the arts auditorium of Karachi University on Wednesday.
The organisers struck a defiant note following the KU administration’s refusal to allow the seminar on its premises.
In the days leading up to the seminar, many had speculated, especially on social media forums, it would not take place following the murder of activist Sabeen Mahmud on April 24, who was gunned down a few minutes after T2F, managed by Sabeen, hosted a discussion on Balochistan.
“The seminar is taking place. We are following the university act which says teachers can organise workshops and seminars on any topic. There are no curbs on the choice of a subject,” said Riaz Ahmed of the Teachers Against War and Oppression, organisers of the event. The seminar will also pay homage to Sabeen and her struggle for freedom of speech and justice.
“It is only the KU administration that is stopping us from holding the seminar on the pretext of sensitivity and pressures, which are a figment of the administration’s imagination,” he said.
When asked if anyone from official quarters had contacted him or his colleagues to not hold the seminar, he said: “No one from the ministry [of interior] or [intelligence] agency has sent us a formal notification regarding the seminar. I have received calls and text messages from unknown numbers advising me to ensure the discussion is balanced. To which I responded that some of the discussants were pro-state and hence the discussion would not be one-sided.”
However, KU registrar Dr Moazzam Ali Khan said: “We have not given the organisers permission to hold an event on a controversial topic. The policy of the university on such matters is clear. Whenever departments or teachers want to hold a workshop, conference or seminar at the KU, they must seek approval of the competent authority. And if the subject is sensitive, the university administration can turn down the request.”
The panellists, Mama Qadeer and Farzana Majeed, said they were aware of the KU administration’s refusal, but they had no intention to back out. “We are definitely attending it. We are willing to do the programme even at the gate of the university or on the road. It doesn’t matter to us,” said Mama Qadeer, chairman of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP). “They have invited us so we will go. This is a protest by us. We want our loved ones who are being picked up to be produced in court. We cannot back out,” said VBMP secretary general Farzana Majeed.
Meanwhile, the DIG-South issued a statement on Tuesday saying anyone who has “solid information regarding Sabeen Mahmud’s assassination may communicate it to them”.
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2015