On July 1, 2021, police in Islamabad used force against and briefly detained students during a protest over in-person exams amidst COVID-19.
Hundreds of students from various higher education institutions held a sit-in protest outside of the Higher Education Commission building, in Islamabad, to demand the cancellation of in-person examinations due to COVID-19 and the resignation of Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood. The protest reportedly disrupted traffic on a road outside the Commission. Police baton-charged protesters and briefly detained a dozen students in their effort to break up the protest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force and detentions against students by police, in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Instruments and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Pakistan is a party. While state authorities have a right to maintain public order and safety, they should refrain from the use of force and ensure that their response is proportionate to the situation and does not result in harm to students. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, the use of force and arrests, especially when intended to restrict student expression, undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.
*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).