On Friday we heard an all too familiar story- a group of Islami Jamiat Tulaba (IJT) activists beat a student for accompanying a girl to a cafeteria at the Punjab University. The IJT members dragged the student, Nauman, to a nearby hostel and gave him a sound beating until officials of the university administration rescued him.

In any esteemed educational institution in any other part of the world, vigilante student activists taking it upon themselves to inflict violence upon male and female students should have caused outrage and prompted instant investigation- but in the lush green landscape and British era buildings on the campus of Punjab University, this occurrence is common. Violence, intolerance and extremism are still rife at public university campuses in Pakistan, with student activist groups like the IJT, egged on by religious political parties, enforce vigilante moral policing through violence. The Jamat-e-Islami may not have found luck in winning elections but it has found its niche in penetrating student campuses and making them easy ground for recruitment and enforcing their will through violent and mob behaviour. While hockey sticks and cricket bats had once been used by the youth to play sports, on the campus of Punjab University, they are used by IJT activists to intimidate and clamp down on progressive thought.

Only a week before, another boy, Usman Manzoor, suffered major injuries after he was thrashed by IJT students. This cycle of IJT activists turning the campuses of Punjab University into grounds to perpetuate their hooliganism finds their history back to the Zia-era. Zia-ul-Haq banned student unions and facilitated the rise of IJT to counter progressive and liberal forces- not knowing that this student group would continue to haunt and erode public education for decades.

It is a new time now, with religious parties having lesser seats than ever before- and it is time that the PU administration take control of the campus out of the hands of these groups. Despite a ban on holding any programme by a political, ethnic and sectarian group in PU, the Vice-Chancellor Dr Niaz Ahmed in 2018 allegedly allowed the IJT to consolidate its position in the university by organising events on campus and starting moral policing. This policy of soft treatment of the PU administration, and of security officials, towards the IJT needs to disband immediately and any mob and vigilante behaviour by violent groups ought to be thoroughly investigated and its instigators penalised.