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For once I am ashamed of being a Luminite

The past four years of my life at LUMS have been full of excitement. It has been an incomparable learning experience, whereby I have learned to question, evaluate and reason. More than anything else, LUMS has enhanced my ability to logically analyze issues and to objectively look at both sides of the picture. As is fairly common, whenever students of LUMS were labeled “mummy daddy” or were accused of being detached from realities of the world, I would scoff at the claim. I took pride in being amidst some brilliant and rational minds. Alas, after a series of recent events, my pride in being a Luminite has been shaken.

It started with a talk scheduled to take place at LUMS under the title “Remapping Justice Series”; discussing the issue of missing persons. One of the guests invited to the talk was Mama Qadeer; a controversial character as I would put it. The event was cancelled a day before it was to take place and an email was circulated by a faculty member that the event was cancelled on the government’s directions. This opened a Pandora’s Box and a guessing game ensued. Everyone came up with their own theories which ultimately led to a lot of outrage within the campus. The Student Council stood in protest, stating, “We need to stand up for our rights”. Similarly, various student groups also organized vigils. The issue was discussed on national media by a few anchors. Social media was obviously in the thick of things as well. Many grasped this as an ideal opportunity to show their “cool” and “liberal” sides by criticizing our country’s military and intelligence agencies. Military bashing, ISI in particular, seems to have become the “in” thing.

I am certainly not a fan of military’s role in de-railing democracy thrice in this country. Nor am I oblivious of what vices grew out Zia’s regime and his pro-US policies. But then – unlike some ‘wannabes’ and pseudo intellectuals – I am not in favor of undue and unwarranted criticism. I do not feel the urge to boast about my pseudo intellectualism by bashing my own country. In my opinion, everyone based their judgment on a mere speculation; that the intelligence agencies were involved.

Now let’s discuss why cancellation of the talk should not have caused a major uproar, ignoring the uncorroborated claim that it was done on so-called directions from an institution which puts in all its effort to provide the nation with a secure habitat. The proponents of this talk think that its cancellation infringes our right to freedom of speech. I strongly feel that there is, or should be a limit to the right to freedom of speech. For example, a person certainly should not have the unchecked right to abuse my family or me. Before the so-called liberals try to bash me on this, I would like to quote Germany’s example where it is an offence to deny the existence of the Holocaust. Even in Pakistan, blasphemy laws are an example of a “curb” on freedom of speech. The opposition to blasphemy laws is mainly on the procedural issues and not the law itself.

The matter at hand is sub judice and since it is a sensitive matter, a wise man should wait for a court verdict to actually discuss it. Superior courts are quite competent, resourceful and in the best position to decide if there are any violations of human rights. It is pertinent to mention here that intelligence agencies worldwide have a wide array of powers to conduct their affairs and these certainly include powers to arrest without a warrant.

As for Mama Qadeer; he is a separatist who is accused of corruption and bank fraud. His son, Jaleel Reki was actively working for a terrorist group and died while battling against the state. It does not end here, government agencies have found him actively trying to get the UN to send NATO troops to Pakistan. I wonder whether in any civilized country, a university would be allowed to invite such a person to address a student body. Now some of them will argue that these are just allegations and he isn’t declared guilty by any competent court. My question to them is: aren’t Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid, Hafiz Saeed of Jamat ud Dawa and Masood ur Rehman Lakhnvi in the same boat? Should they too be allowed to address the LUMS community?

It would have made far more sense if similar outrage was shown for curtailing our freedom of speech when LUMS administration cancelled a talk by Asad Umar citing a somewhat ridiculous excuse.

My advice for the LUMS community would be: before we follow the west or developed countries in their pursuit of freedoms, we must follow them in their patriotism. I don’t doubt your patriotism nor do I label you anti state or traitors, I only urge you to not let your emotions sway at the hands of others. We have to focus our energies on things that aren’t taken out of context, on ideas and notions that have been deduced by us and not for us. And we must ensure that ours are educated deductions.

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