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: September 18, 2014

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances | Other

Institution(s):University of Karachi

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Pakistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 18, 2014, Muhammad Shakil Auj, the dean of Islamic studies at the University of Karachi, was shot and killed by unidentified gunmen.
Dr. Auj, a progressive scholar, regularly and publicly expressed his views about religious issues.  After giving a speech in the United States in 2012, Dr. Auj reportedly began receiving death threats and accusations of blasphemy. He reported to local police that four of his fellow professors at the University of Karachi had sent him threatening text messages, leading to their arrests. (The professors were later released on bail, but the charges against them remain pending.)  In addition, a fatwa was reportedly issued against Dr. Auj by a local seminary declaring him “worthy of murder.” 
On September 18, Dr. Auj was in a car en route to a reception to be given in his honor when he was approached by gunmen on a motorbike.  The gunmen fired into the car, killing Dr. Auj instantly and wounding a student who was traveling with him. The student was later treated at the hospital and released. 
Scholars at Risk is concerned about apparently targeted violence against an academic in retaliation for his academic expression, as well as about threats that preceded such violence, including alleged threats emanating from within the higher education community itself. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and autonomy.  State authorities have a responsibility to ensure the security of academic communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators of violent attacks accountable. Members of higher education communities have a responsibly to respect academic freedom of colleagues and to refrain from conduct which threatens or otherwise undermines university values.