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: May 09, 2018

Attack Types: Loss of Position

Institution(s):International Islamic University Islamabad

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Pakistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On May 9, 2018, the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) reportedly dismissed two professors of computer science, Drs. Shehzad Ashaf Chaudhry and Hasnain Naqvi, in apparent retaliation for expression critical of the university.

In 2017, Naqvi, a professor of computer science, reportedly publicly alleged that a Saudi academic had inappropriately received an honorarium from a guest scholar program in his department without fulfilling any of the mandatory research and supervision requirements during his 8-week stay in Islamabad. His colleague Chaudhry demanded that the university launch an independent inquiry into the same incident. Then, in 2018, Chaudhry also reportedly called for an independent investigation into “illegalities and misappropriation” allegedly committed by the IIUI’s president, Saudi national Dr. Ahmed Yousaf al-Darweish, in awarding his son a Bachelor of Arts degree in absentia.

Both Chaudhry and Naqvi reportedly took to social media to complain about the administration at IIUI and wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to look into the university’s operations. At this point, IIUI administration reportedly opened disciplinary investigations into the two professors. Both Naqvi and Chaudhry were ultimately dismissed from their positions after being charged with “misconduct” for distributing “false propaganda” that had “disgraced the image” of the university and its leadership.

Since the initial two firings in May 2018, unconfirmed reports indicate that three additional IIUI faculty members may have been terminated in connection to their public support for investigations into university leadership for alleged financial and administrative misconduct.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of two scholars in apparent retaliation for expression critical of the university — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Pakistan is a party. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Professional retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity undermines academic freedom, related higher education values, and democratic society generally.