Assault of a Professor at the National University of Modern Languages

Across the world, Universities are a place where anything can be debated at length and professors are respected due to their scholarship and grasp of the subject matter. But is it the case with the Pakistani universities? On February 4, 2010 in Islamabad, the registrar of the National University of Modern Languages beat-up a university Professor Tahir Malik at a students’ reception ceremony organized by the International Relations Department of the university.

The registrar of the university is an ex-military serviceman who got maddened after hearing the criticism on General Musharaf’s role in power brokering deal with the PPP through the National Reconciliation Ordinance. The registrar also got enraged when Professor Tahir Malik questioned the registrar’s appointment which was made without any advertisement or following the prescribed selection criteria. The registrar is neither guilty of his act nor the university administration has taken any disciplinary action against him as yet other than calling for an inquiry of the incident.

According to “The News” this is not the first incident at NUML where a University professor has been assaulted because of criticizing army. At another such incident, Azaz Syed, a journalist teaching in the NUML’s Journalism Department, was sacked from his job because of criticized ISI’ chief. The News also reports that after these two incidents the tension between NUML’s civilian and military staff (retired army officers) has grown to a great extent.

Surely, NUML is one of the many military businesses or “MILBUS” in Pakistan and as Dr Ayesha Siddiqa Agha discusses in her book “Military Inc.”, the purpose of these MILIBUS like NUML is to ensure a very dominant social presence as well as gain political and economic control. Besides, the recent incident of assault of a professor by the NUML administrator also suggests that criticizing army can not be tolerated by any means if you are being employed by any of the MILIBUS. But then where goes the fundamental constitutional guarantee of “freedom of speech and expression”? Or probably freedom of speech and expression is only limited to books and it has not yet been accepted by the masses and institutions. Or probably we are not that democratic yet and therefore freedom of speech and expression has not become a norm here.

Update: The President of Pakistan who is also the Chancellor of the NUML has ordered an inquiry into the incident. More Details can be found here

16 Comments so far

  1. Kaami (unregistered) on February 6th, 2010 @ 6:46 am

    The assault on the Professor is no doubt condemnable and the culprit should face the music, if somebody dares. Sadly such incidents highlight the level of decay in tolerance in our society. Whehether it be lawyers beating up other lawyers, judges or journalists, political workers having a go at their critics or mullahs having a go at the shaved folks.

    That said, society is paying the price of its impatience and its a fact that thiefs and goons like Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are back as a direct result of pressure by the civil society for their return on the weakened Mush government. If it was upto Musharraf they would not been able to set foot on this land.

    What you desire is what you get…. and if say Mush brought them back, who voted them in….who were the TV and news pharoahs paising the “siyaasee baseerat” of Janaab Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. And who aided in the sidelining of Mukhdoom Amin, the only decent guy in whole of the PPP?

    There is no doubt that much that is ailing in our society is due to Millitary intervention, be it Bangladesh fiasco or Afghanistan and then Talibaan. But no one was able to stand up against dictators like Zia-ul-Haque. However, its tragic that, when the same institution did strive to clean up its mess, gave us all the independence to think and express and tried gave us back our institutions in a much better shape…universities are one example. We choose to hammer our own foot. Ok, Mush was bad but then what did we choose tried and trusted thiefs….then why complain?

  2. Rehmat Yazdani (d1a3n0i4) on February 6th, 2010 @ 11:36 am

    @ Kaami, you are absolutely right in saying that such incidents show tolerance level of our society. But let me point out one thing and that is in particular reference to the appointment of retired military men in public sector universities across Pakistan by General Musharraf when he uprooted Nawaz Sharif’s government. I was studying at Engineering University Lahore and I can tell you from my personal experience that those retired military people who took charge of Engineering University made the life of students and teachers a living hell.

    I was not criticizing General Musharraf there but was highlighting the plight of a learned professor of our society and the intolerance of retired army officials that they can not hear any criticism against military.

    True, our politicians are corrupt but the research says that democracy takes sometime to establish its roots in a society. Just estimate how much time the politicians had the opportunity to rule this country and how much time army had this country??

  3. Humayun (unregistered) on February 6th, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    sir im a student at numl and want to express that media shud nt tolerate the matter and appropriate action shud b taken against the brutal ranjha. im astonished who the fools are those who continously promoted such a person to the rank of a brigadior….!!!!

  4. fazeel randhawa (unregistered) on February 6th, 2010 @ 11:15 pm

    i totally agree with mr Humayun

  5. adnanmalik (unregistered) on February 7th, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

    Peaceful protest against the violent behaviour of Brig. Ranjha?

    On Monday, 8-2-10 at 10 a.m. There’s going to be a peaceful protest at NUML against the brutal beating of lecturer(Prof. Tahir Malik) at the hands of Brig. Ranjha and his security officals.Let’s Join our hands together and show solidarity by ensuring our presence there.
    It was not a slap on the face of a teacher but infact a slap on the face of entire teacher’s community.A university should be run like a university not a batallion.They should use this strategy against terrorists not against the teachers who make a person human.

    Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition ~ Jacques Barzun

  6. Farah (unregistered) on February 7th, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

    I was an old student of numl. I spent two years in that university. I also have very bad experience with these retired military men. I think their time is finished. They should go home and play with their grand children and leave space for others.

  7. Kaami (unregistered) on February 7th, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    Mr. Yazdani,

    I am not here to support Mush. Everybody knows he made mistakes but at the same time he did wonderful things for this country. Like, for the first time he diverted much needed funds to our institutes of higher learning, made them financially viable and re-instituted merit to a certain degree. Not to mention for the first time funding recieved for poslt graduate and post doctorol persuits and overseas scholarship for the Ph. D aspirants and research scholars.

    As for democracy, again as I said no need to point out ails that came to us via the millitary regimes, but remember it was Mush who for the first time made an attempt to create institutions required for a viable democracy. Things that we take for granted now, like independent media, where was independent media before 2001? How about our financial institutions, was anything left in their vaults in 1999. Thankfully, all have been privatized just in time and saved from the resurrected thieves.
    An what about elections, did Mush compromised on that, totaa phoota but still every ype of election was conducted even the last one which could have been esily avoided.

    If we were patient we would have had our utopia, minus the looters. If we were patient we would have moved forward with our projects. If we were patient our overseas talent would still be returning and not flying away. If we were patient, all that investment and all that was in pipeline would not have suddenly vaporized and our currency would not have become worthless. Sadly, we were not, in a country whose politics is littered with thieves we will not compromise for less than angels and then elect thieves again.

    We have had too much of this idealistic nonsense since the founding of this country and consequently we are paying the price for it. Countries like Singapore, China, Turkey, Malaysia, UAE and Korea etc are not perfect democracies, but are run by governments putting their people to work instead of getting them entangled in any kind of fivourless ideological pursuits.

    Wasnt it a civilian that nationalized all industry / commerce and dealt a death blow to the economy of this country from which we are yet to recover and then diverted all the scientific and engineering talent in persuit of a bomb, saying that, “We will eat grass but make it”. So now its time to eat grass and hide our bombs.

  8. Kaami (unregistered) on February 7th, 2010 @ 11:26 pm

    One more point with respect to current political alignment of this country. Its perhaps for the first time in the histroy that the millitary is not in sync with its traditional right wing political allies like Jamaat-e-Islami or Muslim League. Sadly after the demise of the PPP there is no viable left and Army finds itself in a limbo.

    And, for the first time I see right wing propaganndist taking shots at Millitary. For them its the only obstacle in over taking this country. These are the same people when Yahaya Khan came to power spread headlines in Jasarat, “Nijaat Dahinda Aa gyaa!” and later cried out loud “Mard-e-Momin Mard-e-Haque Zia-ul-Haque! Zia-ul-Haque!”. The Musharrifised progressive millitary for them is incomprehensible / intolerable..

  9. MB (unregistered) on February 8th, 2010 @ 11:11 am
  10. Anjum Khattak (unregistered) on February 8th, 2010 @ 8:24 pm

    The assault on the Professor is certainly condemnable and the culprit should face the music. The Presidency has expressed its serious displeasure and ordered an investigation on Friday into the public beating of a university professor by a retired Army brigadier who has also prevented the registration of a criminal FIR by the injured professor.

    Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar condemned the thrashing of Professor Tahir Malik of the National University of Modern Languages (NUML) and ordered an investigation into the incident. President Asif Zardari’s spokesman Farhatullah Babar termed the professor’s humiliation a sad incident, and condemned it. He said President Zardari had sought the report in his capacity as Chancellor of NUML. Sadly such incidents highlight the level of decay in tolerance in our society. There is no doubt that much that is ailing in our society is due to Military intervention, be it Bangladesh fiasco or Afghanistan and then Taliban.

    NUML has been severely mismanaged by the present rector, who by the way was a brig and Musharraf’s scotch drinking buddy and retired from the army. He has a huge fleet of cars in NUML for his own family; both his daughters were the ‘annual’ scholarship recipients and all his relatives are employed there now. This idiot who beat up the professor was also one of his Musharraf loving comrades and was hired for ‘security’ and so far he has done nothing but make life miserable for everyone there.

  11. Kaami (unregistered) on February 8th, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

    Khattak Sahib,

    Such balatant palagarism from my very first comments on this post:

    The assault on the Professor is no doubt condemnable and the culprit should face the music

    There is no doubt that much that is ailing in our society is due to Millitary intervention, be it Bangladesh fiasco or Afghanistan and then Talibaan

    You can always quote, otherwise the cost is credibility.

  12. Shah jee (unregistered) on February 9th, 2010 @ 6:01 am

    Hurrah! Finally we got a week off from university. I am sorry but this is what majority of us (students) take this incident as. We all whole heartedly participated in the movement against Doctor Brigadier (retired) Obaid ullah Ranjha and deepest sympathies are with the poor lecturer of our university Tahir Malik. During the campaign I asked myself several times to go home and relax in front of television but then I was reminded of Quaid-e-azam saying:
    “I particularly appeal to our intelligentsia and Muslim students to come forward and rise to the occasion. You have performed wonders in the past. You are still capable of repeating the history. You are not lacking in the great qualities and virtues in comparison with the other nations. Only you have to be fully conscious of that fact and to act with courage, faith and unity.”
    March 23, 1943
    Though I stayed in university till the movement was called off but at the end of lackadaisical day i was taking an array of questions to home. Indeed, it was a wasted day in the sense that there were no classes and we all preferred to enjoy in the rain and be a good part of students of other universities who came to rescue our lecturer’s dignity. What bothers me now is, are we fully conscious of facts? We don’t know what made Doctor Sahib take such an immature action. Why our dear lecturer is taking support of media, is it because he has relation in media? Why this matter is not solved in university premises. Certainly, I don’t want a bad name to my university in newspapers or in any news bulletin. Why in the world we are shaping this as an Army issue? It’s our university matter and I think rather I fully trust faculty and administration of NUML to handle this issue appropriately and in dignified manner.
    I remember few months’ back MPA Shumaila Rana was caught red handed using a stolen credit card and an MNA who was also caught cheating in examination. After a plethora of such event will I be wrong to claim that all politicians are corrupt, if so then why do we again select their respective parties again and again ….? Today, no one can deny from the sacrifice of Pakistan Army at our western borders then why do we have to remember its failures only. In same fashion throughout the campaign we stressed on the resignation of Doctor Brigadier (retired) Ranjha not realizing what he must have done for this university. I don’t support Doctor Ranjha but I want to highlight that as a nation how foolhardily and blindly we follow each other. Knowing well that the inquiry is still under process and we yet have to know who is at fault we (students) are ready to fire Doctor Ranjha. And probably by tomorrow we will be asking our DG and president of this inquiry Doctor Kamran Jhangir to step down from his office and appointment.

  13. Sa`d (unregistered) on February 9th, 2010 @ 12:36 pm

    It’s against the law to speak against the Army in Pakistan. It’s against the law to insult the national flag in Denmark. To each, their own so-called democracy. A load of BS, really.

  14. Kaami (unregistered) on February 9th, 2010 @ 8:31 pm

    Shah jee

    Thanks for your refreshing post.

    That’s exactly my point. If someone is to ask me, “What is bad in Pakistan?” In response, despite my limited writing abilities I’ll be able to write a book in no time and send it to editorial review. In fact the project might get delayed due to abundance of material.

    On the other hand to recount the good done by subsequent regimes will indeed be a difficult task, except for the last one. To progress nations require a degree of collective wisdom, stability and leadership. If we continue to destabilize and roll back the clock in the name of whatever cause we will get no where. A fact that is quite evident now, after the feeding frenzy of 2007-2008.

  15. Basit (unregistered) on February 9th, 2010 @ 9:24 pm

    We are an unfortunate nation….Our Army ( and we know its real worth, may be it Bangladesh or Kargil) has been gulping down 60% of our national budget at the cost of reduced spending on Health and education…

    All our military can produce is idiots and monkey Brigadiers Like Mr Ranjha….
    If this incident had happened in a developed country like UK or USA, this idiot Brig would have been behind bars by now and the whole country would be asking for his blood…But not in Pakistan, where these Matric Pass Jahils can head Academic institutes

  16. Kaami (unregistered) on February 10th, 2010 @ 12:01 am


    Again generalization is dangerous. i am also gainst deputation of Millitary men on civilian positions, this does more harm than good. But, there are success stories too, like the Steel Mills and Pak telecom and its subsequent successful privatization.

    On the other hand politicians like Nawaz Sharif have engaged millitary to hunt ghost schools and check Electricity Meters and then they complain of interference.

    The fact is we need to normailze our relations with our neighbours, eliminate the threat of war and then drastically reduce the size of our millitary…..that was the plan but…here we are with the same old same old

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