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: November 19, 2013

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Gujrat

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Pakistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On Tuesday November 19, 2013, Professor Syed Shabbir Hussain Shah was murdered in the Pakistani capital city of Islamabad, on his way to the University of Gujrat where he served as the director of student services.  Gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the car carrying the professor, killing him and his driver, Khadim Hussain, instantly.
According to media reports, a note found at the scene of the attack said that the attack was “retaliation for Rawalpindi.”  The city of Rawalpindi recently experienced sectarian clashes in which eight people were reportedly killed.  The note was signed “Lashkar-e-Jhangvi” — an extremist group that has been active in Pakistan and often targeted professors.
According to a spokesperson for Gujrat University, Professor Shabbir Shah had a reputation as a progressive minded professor, and belonged to Pakistan’s Shia minority.  He had received death threats in the past.  This attack is the latest in a series of recent attacks against Shia professors and other professionals in Pakistan.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the targeted killing of a professor. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and freedom of expression in the region. State authorities have a responsibility to ensure the security of academic communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable.