Islamabad - Call it an ‘ethical dilemma’ or sheer intellectual bankruptcy, the University of Hazara (UoH) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has issued a circular banning gender mixing on the campus to ‘maintain education standard’, threatening violators with harsh penalties, it emerged on Friday.

The circular issued by the university administration says, “It has been observed that students are frequently involved in gatherings and gender mixing and do not attend classes regularly. As per directives of the competent authority, gender mixing is completely banned on the campus. All concerned are requested to please note and cooperate in this regard”.

Talking to The Nation, an official said that the university administration has not only issued the circular to all departments but also installed boards at different places to ‘implement the order’.

“The university is a co-education institution and the administration suddenly conceived the idea to ban gender mixing which has resulted in the abuse of authority and negative impression about the university,” the official said.

According to him, banning gender mixing in a co-education institution was nothing but a face-saving strategy. In fact, the current administration has gradually started suffocating liberties of the students of the higher education institution. The university has a set rule of 75 percent attendance in the class and a student with short attendance is not allowed to sit in exams,” he said wondering about the rationale behind the ban.

According to the official, in order to maintain discipline and implement the order, proctorial board and the departments impose fines on the violating students ranging from Rs200 to Rs5000.

The official told The Nation that the proctor office while abusing the authority not only humiliates the students for violating the ‘gender mixing’ order but also bars students from gathering to discuss sessions related to academic or extra-curricular activities.

Another official wishing anonymity said that the gender mixing ban has been imposed at the behest of a religious student organization, which is constantly exerting pressure on the administration to maintain gender segregation.

An ex-member of the proctorial board told The Nation that the university administration initially resorted to unbecoming means to implement the order.

“The officials had been directed to raid male and female students seen mixing together, threatening them to summon their parents to solemnize their ‘Nikah on the campus,” he said.

He also said that a senior proctorial board member was removed for resisting the policy.

“The amount of fine was decided on considering the nature of the 'scene'. If they are found in groups, usually Rs200 is imposed and if a male and a female student are found sitting together, senior administration officials impose a fine of Rs5,000 for the violation,” he claimed.

Shaukat Ahmed, a student of the Physics Department told The Nation the policy is a disgrace and insult to the students usually found in groups. The students are hunted by the administration officials, he said. “When they caught male and female students together, they ask about their relationship first. Later, all their family members’ names are checked to ascertain the family tree,” he said.

Tehmina Ali, another student, told The Nation that female students are severely victimized in such a scenario. “At university level and in a co-education institution, it is not possible to avoid interaction male students. Classes are not separate on the campus and when the family of a female student visits the university, they get a bad impression after reading the warnings on the boards fixed on poles stating ‘gender mixing not allowed’,” she said.

UoH Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Idrees, who initially expressed his unawareness about the said circular, said that the proctor office had issued the order to ensure the students’ presence in the class.

“The order is only meant to discipline class timings so that the students instead of wasting time on the campus must attend their classes,” he said. The VC said that the administration has also introduced a biometric system for both teachers and students to ensure their presence in classrooms.

While responding to a question about the abuse of authority to implement the order, he said, “It is all a lie and certain groups in the university are behind this propaganda”.

“Students have no discomfort and these things are the fake production of the social media,” he claimed.

He said that currently the university was closed and he could not comment on the amount collected under the head of fines after issuing the gender segregation order.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 05-Aug-2017 here.