The Islami Jamiat Talba (IJT) attack on male and female students who were playing cricket together on the campus of University of Karachi (KU) is a despicable show of misogyny and the mindset of totalitarian violence that rules the educational institution. The IJT has been responsible for one too many incidents of violence in the KU in the past. A university should be treated as a sacred place for learning and innovation; instead it has been reduced to one where education and freedom of basic rights come to die at the hands of these extremists who call themselves the upholders of Islam.

Originally conceived as a student-based Islamic evangelical outfit, it was in 1958, or right after the imposition of Pakistan’s first martial law (by Field Martial Ayub Khan), that IJT jumped into the fray of student politics. Jamaat e Islami (JI) generously poured funds into IJT’s student union election campaigns and the student organisation gradually began to rise as a powerful electoral force. In the bloody war of 1971, the Pakistan army created a group of IJT millitants against the East Pakistani nationalists. The militant faction was called the Thunder Squad and it reappeared on campuses with the mission to ‘cleanse educational institutions of immoral activities.’ Though those days are long gone, this mission has stuck by the IJT and its supporters.

Where we hear of positive initiatives like the Girls at Dhabas movement, which is about women reclaiming public spaces, we hear of incidences like these that remind us just how important it is to support the right to freedom for women; to be able to enjoy playing a sport outside with their friends, or to sit in a public place without being harassed. Universities must not under any circumstances allow such extremist behaviour, not only to maintain the standard of education in their institutions but also to comply with the National Action Plan being enforced all over the country.