On January 20, 2016, gunmen killed and injured dozens of students, faculty and others on the campus of Bacha Khan University in northwestern Pakistan, before being killed by security forces. A regional Pakistani Taliban group reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Concealed by heavy fog early on the morning of January 20, four men carrying guns and wearing suicide vests reportedly scaled a wall near the rear of campus, firing their guns into the air. They proceeded onto campus, killing some students at point-blank range. As of this report, the gunmen reportedly killed at least 22 people and injured another 19, including students, faculty and security guards. All four gunmen were killed by campus security forces before they were able to detonate their suicide vests.
Following the attack, a Pakistani Taliban official reportedly called local journalists and claimed responsibility for the attack on his group’s behalf. He indicated that the attack was in retaliation for the recent execution of four Taliban fighters who had been convicted in connection with a 2014 attack on a public school in Peshawar, in which 141 people, including 132 students, were killed.
Scholars at Risk condemns this extreme, targeted, violent attack on the higher education space, and sends condolences to the victims, their families and the entire Bacha Khan University community. In addition to the terrible loss of life and injuries, such attacks target the core values of the university, including academic freedom, the free exchange of ideas, institutional autonomy, and social responsibility. State authorities have a responsibility to safeguard these values by taking all reasonable steps to ensure the security of higher education communities and their members, including a responsibility to deter future attacks by investigating incidents and making every effort to hold perpetrators accountable, consistent with internationally recognized standards. Members of society similarly have a responsibility to help safeguard the higher education space, especially following incidents of such gross violence, by pressing demands to State authorities for greater protection and accountability, and by contributing to efforts to understand and reinforce principles of autonomy and academic freedom.