Date: December 1998
Contact: Stephen Collins
Zafaryab Ahmed, the Pakistani human rights advocate detained by his government for six months, arrived at Colby College Tuesday, exhausted, nursing a cold and without his luggage. Ahmed won the first-ever Oak Human Rights Fellowship at Colby and was supposed to have begun teaching in September.
He said Wednesday that his initial excitement at the prospect of working at Colby and bringing more attention to human rights abuses wore away during the six months he spent fighting for permission to leave Pakistan. After the provisional travel permission was granted he told a friend he was too drained to accept the fellowship.
Then he recalled a line that had been written about him --"Zafaryab has powerful enemies, but he has strong friends"-- and knew he had to come to Maine to carry on his work with friends he had never met. "The bonds of human rights can evolve a family," he said. "I am thankful to the people at Colby who found a way to help me out of my predicament. I hope Colby has a lot to contribute to my understanding of human rights; I have my experience to share."
Ahmed was prevented from leaving Pakistan because he faces sedition charges there for his writing and human rights advocacy. On December 2 the Pakistani prime minister relaxed the government's travel prohibition and gave Ahmed a permit to leave the country for 90 days. The 90 days began immediately, though, so he began his journey as soon as he got his passport back from government authorities.
Ahmed's trip from Lahore, Pakistan, took more than 50 hours and he arrived in Waterville Tuesday evening. Colby students began first-semester exams Wednesday morning and will disperse for the year-end holidays over the coming week. The college is still making arrangements for Ahmed to lecture and teach during the remainder of his allotted time in Maine, which will run through February.