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: January 16, 2017

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Punjab University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Pakistan

New or Ongoing:Ongoing Incident

On January 16, 2017, unidentified individuals reportedly abducted and tortured Punjab University (PU) student Suhail Ahmed in apparent retaliation for social media posts expressing support for a missing scholar-activist.

Media sources indicate that Mr. Ahmed, a law student at PU, had expressed support in a Twitter post for scholar-activist Salman Haider, who reportedly disappeared on January 6. His disappearance is reportedly connected to his left-wing political activism and secularist views (see report).

On the night of January 16, unidentified individuals reportedly took Mr. Ahmed from his hostel room by force, and brought him to an undisclosed location on campus where they brutally beat him. He was reportedly blindfolded throughout the attack before being released off-campus hours later. Mr. Ahmed reports that security guards did not respond to his pleas for help. As of this report, an investigation is ongoing.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction and beating of a student in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom and democratic society generally. State and local officials as well as higher education leaders have a responsibility to ensure the security of higher education communities, to prevent future attacks, and to hold perpetrators responsible.