KARACHI - A seminar on Balochistan missing persons at the University of Karachi on Wednesday turned into a protest against the varsity administration which had declined to allow holding of the event on the subject.

The Voice for Missing Persons had announced to hold the seminar on the premises of the University of Karachi, but the administration not only refused to grant permission for any such activity in the campus, but also prevented the participants from entering the premises to attend the event.

Though the KU administration stopped the participants from entering the venue of the seminar, the organisers as well as the key representatives succeeded in getting inside the premises.

This seminar was organised to pay homage to Sabeen Mahmud, a renowned social worker, who was shot dead on April 24 when she was on her way home after hosting a seminar on Balochistan missing persons . The title of the seminar was ‘Baloch Missing Persons and the Role of the State and Society’. As the organisers were not allowed by the administration to hold the seminar, Arts Auditorium of the University of Karachi where the programme was scheduled to be hold was closed.

The Voice of Balochistan Missing Persons Chairman Mama Qadeer Baloch, while talking to newsmen, said indiscrimination and the state brutality in Balochistan was being dubbed as external involvement. He quoted the statement of Federal Minister Khawaja Asif that leaders of separatist movements were using Indian passports. He questioned why Khawaja Asif had not produced any evidence before the media.

He said despite all the restrictions by the KU administration, they had successfully conveyed their massage to the students of the university. “We had a goal to hold the seminar and achieved it by holding it at the gate of the university or on the road,” said Mama Qadeer. “We are here on an invitation and we want the authorities to produce missing persons in the court of law.” If external elements had been involved in the Balochistan situation, why did the authorities assure us of paying compensation ahead of the injustice they had done?” he questioned.

The Voice of Balochistan Missing Persons Secretary General Farzana Majeed said: “We have achieved our target as the seminar has taken place. We have been facing miserable circumstances because we are part of the Balochistan history.” She alleged that during the last five big operations in Balochistan thousands of people, including women and children, were killed while many families migrated from the province. She said they had held the long march from Quetta to Islamabad despite all threats and warnings. “But nothing has changed and, despite all the assurances given by the authorities, people are still being abducted, tortured and going missing from Balochistan,” she alleged.

The programme organizer, Dr Riaz Ahmed, while talking to media persons, said the seminar was not against the university rules, adding the KU bylaws allow the teachers to conduct workshops and seminars on any topic. Dr Riaz added the KU Act does not specify topics on which workshops and seminars could be held.

He said the basic objective of the seminar was to pay homage to Sabeen Mehmood and mention her scarifies that she had offered for freedom of speech and justice. He said the KU administration never objected to any antisocial programme. He made it clear that they were not supporters of an independent Balochistan, but their sympathies were with the Balochistan people who were deprived of their rights and being abducted and tortured.

“The KU administration prevented us from holding the seminar, but we would continue our activities in the other universities of the city,” he added that no one from the government or any other state institution could prevent them from holding seminars. He revealed that unknown persons had advised them to hold a balanced programme through phone calls and text massages.

Meanwhile, Karachi University Registrar Dr Moazzam Ali Khan, when contacted, said that permission for the seminar had not been granted because of a controversial topic as the varsity has a clear policy on such matters. He said the university allows teachers to hold seminars or workshops, but it does not permit holding of any event on some controversial issue.