SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: July 01, 2012

Attack Types: Prosecution | Loss of Position | Other

Institution(s):National College of Art

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Pakistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

The acting Principal and the Director of Research and Publications at the National College of Art were dismissed from their positions and face blasphemy charges, following the unauthorized publication and distribution in July 2012 of art images showing Muslim clerics and semi-nude young boys in suggestive poses. The college departments of architecture, and research and publications, have been closed indefinitely, and the academic journal Sohbet: Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture, which published the images, was dissolved.
The images were published after being presented to the journal’s Editorial Board. An unidentified university employee reportedly released advance copies of the journal to a local Urdu newspaper. The Director of Research and Publications has denied approving the images.
Following the distribution of the images, a mob led by Jmaat ut Dawa (JUD), a group that is reportedly part of the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba, gathered by the college and demanded that the professors involved be brought outside and hanged for blasphemy. Several days later JUD members filed blasphemy charges under section 295(c) of the Pakistan Penal Code (defamation of Islam and or the Holy Prophet) against the journal’s Editorial Board, the Director of Research and Publications, and the college’s acting Principal, Sajjad Kausar. The accused face the death penalty if convicted.
The Lahore High Court is currently hearing the case. Jamaat ut Dawa reportedly continues to gather large mobs at the courthouse hearings in an effort to intimidate those in attendance and galvanize opinion against the fired professors.