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: December 02, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Abdul Wali Khan University

Region & Country:Southern Asia | Pakistan

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On December 2, 2019, Pakistani authorities arrested Akhtar Khan, a political science lecturer at Abdul Wali Khan University, for alleged social media activity.

While sources do not cite the specific, alleged content, Khan recently expressed over social media his support for an ongoing student protest movement — which has seen a number of organizers and participants arrested in recent weeks — and his concerns over human rights violations against ethnic Pashtuns.

According to at least two sources, Khan has been charged with violating sections 10 and 11 of Pakistan’s controversial “Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act,” which, respectively, relate to “cyber terrorism” and “hate speech.”

As of this report, there is no information detailing Khan’s exact whereabouts or indicating when he may appear in court.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and prosecution of a scholar in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity — conduct that is expressly protected by 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. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from actions intended to restrict or retaliate against such conduct. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, wrongful arrests and prosecutions in connection with nonviolent expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.