Students protest as investigation ordered
By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: A retired brigadier, the registrar of the Army-run National University of Modern Languages (NUML), on Thursday assaulted his respected professor colleague when the latter questioned the role of General Musharraf in brokering a deal with the PPP through the NRO.
The staff room discussion on President Asif Zardari’s alleged corruption and Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s role in granting a clean chit through the NRO, infuriated Brig (retd) Obaidullah Ranjha to an extent that he started hitting Prof Tahir Malik like a punching bag, leaving the latter virtually unconscious.
The incident triggered protests by the university students, who blocked the road and chanted slogans supporting the victim professor, Tahir Malik, and demanding the removal of the brigade of brigadiers, led by Rector Brig (retd) Aziz Ahmad, and assisted by the brutal Brigadier Ranjha and Brigadier Saulat Raza.
Tension gripped the university premises with all gates closed and cellphones switched off. Brig (retd) Ranjha, instead of regretting his act, said he wouldn’t care in case an FIR was lodged and defended the use of muscle power, saying: “If somebody disgraces the Army and its institution, what should I have done?” and asked the media to write whatever they wanted, adding: “I’m not answerable to you.”
The NUML administration reacts so loudly against the people questioning the Army’s role that it has taught a lesson to two civilian teachers in the short span of two weeks. The university’s journalism department, headed by Brig (retd) Saulat Raza, an ISPR veteran, recently sacked a journalist, Azaz Syed, who was in the department’s visiting faculty, after he did stories for his newspaper critical to the Army and the ISI.
The NUML is fast gaining notoriety as the recent audit report exposed rampant corruption with the auditor caught the rector and the university’s senior staffers committing different irregularities, obliging their near and dear ones, and fleecing money in the name of watchmen. The tension between the academic staff with civilian background and military background is growing by the day, making the situation worse.
As far the unfortunate thrashing incident is concerned, it occurred in the International Relations Department where Brig (retd) Ranjha was invited to attend a reception ceremony of the students where a discussion on the political situation started. As Ranjha criticised President Asif Zardari and lamented the country was being run by incompetent politicians, Professor Tahir Malik intervened, questioning why Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf brokered the deal with the PPP.
Tahir Malik, who is the son of the rector of the Islamic International University, said the politicians were always hounded and one should respect the mandate the public gave to them.
Brig (retd) Ranjha, whose appointment has also been criticised and declared illegal in the recent audit report, had also to face criticism on this count. “You have been appointed registrar without any advertisement. You don’t qualify for the position for not having the required academic experience of 15 years. You should set your house in order before pointing fingers towards the politicians. One should preach what one practices,” Tahir bluntly said, addressing Brig (retd) Ranjha.
Facing humiliation of his person and the criticism of the military’s top brass role in political bickering, in the presence of a TV journalist, sank Ranjha into chair, his shoulders drooped. But he took no time to stand up and leave the place, only to return within 45 minutes. As Ranjha arrived again, he took Tahir Malik along, saying some urgent business was to be discussed. As they walked away from the staff room, Ranjha started hurling abuses, hitting Malik on the face, kicking him on the upper part of the legs. But doing all this could not alleviate his anger. He then struck in his chest with head like a goat. Malik, who is a heart patient, fell on the ground.
In the meantime, the staff and students of the IR Department rushed to the spot, liberating Malik from the clutches of Brig (retd) Ranjha, eyewitnesses said. Dr Sohail Ahmad, head of the IR Department, who was an eyewitness, told The News he had witnessed this unfortunate incident. “Tahir is my faculty member and he was a clear victim,” he said. “We’ve demanded justice as the matter is now in the hands of the rector.”
The rector, when contacted, appeared to be very calm. Instead of going into the details of the incident and who the aggressor or victim was, he said an investigation into the incident is under way.
As far as the sacking of a journalist teaching in the NUML’s Journalism Department is concerned, it is yet another case in point of how the Army-run institution demonstrated intolerance towards freedom of expression. Azaz Syed, an investigative journalist, first had his house attacked on January 19, a week after a premier intelligence agency warned him against writing about its chief. Some days after this incident, Brig (retd) Saulat conveyed to the journalist not to come to the university for he had annoyed the institution of the Army, Azaz told The News.
Later, he was asked through the clerical staff of the department not to come till further orders. The students protested on the sacking of Azaz. Brig (retd) Saulat told the students that he could not bring him back because his own job would be in danger in that case, a student who gave audience to Saulat, later told The News. However, Saulat, when contacted for his version, denied anything like this had happened.