Baloch students thrashed at private university

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Mar 10, 2014.

Islamabad – Three Baloch students of the Preston University were allegedly targeted on the basis of ethnicity by fellow students and severely beaten up inside the university campus in the capital’s sector H-8 on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Industrial Area police have not registered a case on the complaint filed by the Baloch students due to a pending medical report and have also claimed the students are exaggerating the incident.

But civil society representatives and youth activists staged a protest demanding justice for the injured students on Sunday evening, as the university administration appeared to be trying to settle the issue without police involvement.

Students Fakharuz Zaman, Khalid and Mehran were having lunch at the private university’s cafeteria around 2:30pm on Saturday when they claimed four students, whom they did not know personally, attacked them.

“They walked up to us and said ‘what are you saying to each other in Balochi?’” said Khalid, who was spending his first day on campus on Saturday after being enrolled to the university the same day. “One of them smashed my head with a knuckle-duster.”

The students alleged they were beaten with a knuckle-duster, bottles and knives but no one in the busy cafeteria came to help them. The Baloch students also claimed the attacking students abused them in Punjabi and Pashtu, alleging that the attack might have been ethnically-motivated.

However, police officials dismissed these claims and said the incident was a college brawl.

Police confirmed a fight occurred inside the Preston University’s cafeteria. But a duty officer at the Industrial Area police station, who had gone to the scene after the students reported the incident to Rescue 15 immediately, said it was a small fight in which one student received “minor injuries.”

The officer claimed the Baloch students were making a mountain out of a mole-hill.

But according to sources, a medico-legal officer at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences who examined the injured students suggested the injuries could amount to an attempt-to-murder charge.

Industrial Area police station, which has jurisdiction over sector H-8, confirmed the students filed a complaint but no First Information Report (FIR) was registered.

Industrial Area police station’s Station House Officer Hakim Khan said police did not go through with the FIR because they had not received the medical report yet.

“Every citizen has a right to get a case registered and we will facilitate the students if they have a valid claim,” Khan said. “We do not move ahead instantly with a case when students are involved, because it might ruin their careers.”

He said the medical report is expected on Monday and further action can only be taken after police gets the report.

The university’s campus has CCTV cameras installed in the cafeteria and body scanners at its entrance. But police could not confirm how the attacking students were able to get dangerous metal objects inside. University’s staff apparently intervened only when the students had been thrashed.

The Baloch students also said they were treated rudely by the university’s security in-charge, after the incident. But later on Saturday, after the duty officer had also allegedly requested the students to settle the matter with the other party, the students said the administration reached out to them.

“The administration requested us to visit the university on Monday and said they will listen to our concerns about the incident,” said Zaman, who has been studying at Preston University’s graduate programme for a month now.

Khalid and Fakharuz Zaman both got stitches on their foreheads and were visibly shaken as they stood outside the National Press Club on Sunday, where around two dozens activists from the Pakistan Youth Alliance staged a protest against the university administration.

The demonstrators shouted slogans to demand Baloch students be treated with respect and the university administration be held accountable for the incident. University officials were not available for comment.

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