On March 20, 2021, the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) cancelled an online conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Bangladesh War of Liberation. The conference was in collaboration with the National Institute of Pakistan Studies (NIPS) at Quaid-i-Azam University.
On March 19, Professor Ali Usman Qasmi announced on Twitter that LUMS’s Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences and NIPS would co-host a five-day conference beginning on March 23, entitled “War, Violence and Memory: Commemorating 50 Years of the 1971 War,” a war that led to the secession of East Pakistan to form Bangladesh and resulted in millions dead, injured, and displaced.
On March 20, however, the Dean’s Office sent an email notifying community members that the conference series would be cancelled due to “unavoidable circumstances,” according to reporting by The LUMS Post, the university’s student-run newspaper.
LUMS has, in the past, canceled university events under government pressure. In 2015, LUMS cancelled a talk featuring a human rights activist who criticized Pakistan’s treatment of the minority Baloch population (see report).
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the cancellation of a university-hosted event, apparently intended to restrict the nonviolent exchange of ideas. University authorities should promote and protect academic freedom, including by refraining from prohibiting or otherwise interfering with peaceful and responsible academic activity, including conferences and events. Cancellations of such events based on political considerations undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.