Wednesday, May 25, 2011

University of Peshawar :Sexual harassment

The issue of sexual harassment at the University of Peshawar (UoP) that echoed in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in its last session is still pending as the committee formed by the assembly under Provincial Minister Sitara Ayaz has yet to submit its report to the chief minister.

Sources told The News that apart from the names provided by provincial legislator Nighat Yasmin Orakzai, some complaints were submitted to the university administration. Taking prompt action, the university administration suspended one Zahid Ali of the History Department and started probe against another teacher of the Electronics Department, the sources told The News.

After the action was taken against Zahid Ali, a committee was formed under Prof Dr Sara Safdar to look into the issue and submit recommendations to the university administration. The committee has held only two preliminary meetings so far to work out a strategy for probe into the issue and fix responsibility, the sources said.

The university administration is of the opinion that there was clear evidence against Zahid Ali on the basis of which the action was taken against him. According to reliable sources the action against him was taken on the basis of only one anonymous letter. The sources said Prof Dr Bashir, too, has been removed as provost of the university on the same charges. Dr Bashir had actually tendered resignation from his office about a week ago. However, the sources claimed that it was a forced resignation and the university wanted to provide a cover to him.

The committee formed by the provincial government has been collecting evidence against five teachers, who happen to be the senior most faculty members of the university and are holding key positions.

Talking to this correspondent, head of the committee and Provincial Minister for Social Welfare Sitara Ayaz said the committee had almost completed the job and would soon submit its report to the chief minister. She was of the opinion that some basic guidelines of the university were not followed in this case. Had those guidelines been followed, there would have been no such issue, she added.

She said the committee looked into each and every case, recorded statements and collected all possible evidence. She said the committee could not get the evidence as majority of the complaints had been made in anonymous letters and there were some sweeping statements having no solid proofs. “We would provide the names of the lecturers against whom complaints had been made. We would also give our recommendations and give whatever evidence we have collected,” she added.

When asked about the number of the people against whom the complaints had been made, she said that they were two or three. Majority of the faculty members of the university are seriously concerned over the issue. They are of the opinion that the issue got the undue and exaggerated coverage in the media. So far only seven people have been identified as allegedly involved in the issue and none has been found guilty.

The representative bodies of the teachers have also shown serious concern regarding the issue. The Peshawar University Teachers Association had declared that if anyone was found guilty, not only his membership would be cancelled but strict action would be taken against him.

The association had asked the university administration to launch a fair and prompt probe into the issue, fix responsibility and award exemplary punishment to those involved. It demanded that if the allegations held no ground, the mover of the issue should be sued in a court of law. The Tanzim-e-Asatiza had also made similar demands to the university administration.


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