Peshawar  - An anti-harassment committee has started probing the recent allegations of harassment at Islamia College University (ICU).

The ICU students held a walk and staged protest on November 11 demanding protection of female students against harassment.

Discussing the issue, the ICU Registrar Dr Mohammad Ibrar told The Nation that there was just one complaint that they had received. “The harassment complaint had been filed by one student against a teacher,” he added.

He said that he received a verbal complaint from the female student, accompanied by her parents, on November 6. “I told them to file a written complaint for it to be processed as per the rules, and they did it on November 9. I forwarded it to the vice-chancellor and now the complaint has reached the anti-harassment committee, which is handling it,” he said.

He said there was a law under which harassment cases were dealt, plus HEC policies, and the case may be decided within a few days or may take more time depending on the evidences to be produced by the parties or other proceedings.

“There have been cases in which a teacher has even committed suicide just because he was unfairly blamed for harassment, which he had not done. This is why, this is a serious issue and both sides, the complainant and the accused, need to be questioned in the case,” he added.

At a rally a day earlier, a student Sheeba Khan told media that three harassment cases had emerged in the ICU in just one week.

Another female student alleged that sometimes a teacher told a student to come to his office if she wishes a good GPA/marks, or face lower grades if they don’t agree with the demands such as going to a restaurant.

Dr Abdul Rauf, who heads the anti-harassment committee, said that the incumbent committee had been set up in 2016. 

“A complainant can approach us and we keep the complainant’s name secret while the name of the accused person is also kept secret while we investigate the matter,” he added.

But he also said that female students often avoid approaching the committee with complaints. “Mostly the female students are afraid of getting exposed and they don’t file complaints with us. I suggest that the students should approach us (the committee). We have taken actions in nine such harassment cases in the past too,” he added.

Meanwhile, a faculty member of the university told this correspondent while requesting anonymity that while the harassment case may by true or false, the internal politics was also a source of trouble in the university since a long time.

“The incumbent vice-chancellor came from Agriculture University while the deans and senior academicians in ICU wanted one from themselves to become VC. Since the appointment, issues are being created in the varsity,” he said.

He also claimed that initially the students’ march of November 11 was related to the Lahore incident in which a bank manager had harassed a co-worker whose video later went viral on the social media. “It was a walk related to that incident, but later it was turned into a demonstration against the ICU,” he said.

Federation of All Pakistan Academic Staff Association (FAPUASA) provincial president Dr Sartaj Alam told The Nation that harassment was a sensitive issue and needed much care to be handled. He said anti-harassment committees should be activated in universities.

“Harassment can’t be tolerated, and those harassing students should be punished, whether they are teachers or other staff of institutions. However, the anti-harassment committees should also take extreme care so that a student does not unjustly accuse someone of harassment just to blackmail them. If the harassment is proved, the culprits must be punished but in case the harassment charges are proven false, then the committee should also take action against the person who levels wrong blame on someone to tarnish their image,” he added.