Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Pakistan has canceled a talk scheduled to take place April 9, 2015, allegedly under government pressure. The event, titled “Unsilencing Balochistan,” was to feature human rights activist Abdul “Mama” Qadeer, a critic of Pakistan’s treatment of the minority Baloch population, among other activists and academics. Qadeer is the founder of Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, a group that seeks to expose forced disappearances of Baloch activists. According to a LUMS faculty member, Pakistani intelligence officials visited the campus and presented a letter demanding that the talk be canceled; the officials reportedly indicated that “Balochistan is a sensitive issue and that the moot could be used to malign Pakistan.” The university reportedly released a statement the day the event was scheduled to take place, indicating: “An event scheduled at the LUMS for the April 9, 2015, had to be canceled on orders from the government, which was most unfortunate indeed. The university is committed to working with the government to find a way to allow the university to hold analytical talks on various topics that need to be debated in an objective and unbiased manner.”
Scholars at Risk is concerned about state attempts to cancel or intervene in peaceful on-campus events, or to otherwise limit academic or political expression or freedom of association on campus – conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with such activities, so long as they are undertaken peacefully and responsibly. State actions limiting the rights to free academic expression or association on campus have a chilling effect on academic freedom and university autonomy, and undermine democratic society generally.