On November 5, 2019, retired Kabul University professor Dr. Aziz Ahmad Panjshiri was abducted while traveling on a highway to the Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan. Following the abduction, Panjshiri’s remains were found in a neighboring province.
Panjshiri was a former lecturer and scholar of geography. He previously served as a diplomat to Iran and worked as a counselor to Ahmad Shah Masood, a commander who led the resistance against Taliban rule. After retiring in 2015, Panjshiri served as a cultural advisor to the mayor of Kabul, Ahmad Zaki Sarfaraz.
The kidnappers reportedly extracted an $18,000 ransom from Panjshiri’s family in exchange for his safe return, but he was murdered nonetheless. As of this report, his family is still waiting to hear from the government regarding the identity of the perpetrators, and is against speculating whether the Taliban, thieves or other criminals are responsible for the crime.
Police and government officials hold the Taliban responsible in what they assume to be a politically motivated attack aimed at weakening the education sector. Although the Taliban denied responsibility for the killing, officials have connected Panjshiri’s death to their string of violent attacks and kidnappings targeting public figures on this provincial highway.
Scholars at Risk is gravely concerned by the apparently targeted killing of a university professor and offers condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and the university community. State and university authorities have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent and respond to such attacks, including by investigating and holding perpetrators responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, such attacks undermine the safety of higher education communities, the right to education, academic freedom, and democratic society generally.