“Flirt with every woman you like. If you trap her, enjoy the beautiful moments that come. If she gets angry with you, listen to her patiently, then say you’re sorry. She’ll be hooked,” proclaims Dr Rehman, the Dean of Humanities in Farhat Taj’s novella “Intellectual Terrorists”.
The story follows the tribulations of three female teachers on the campus of Al-Khyber University Peshawar, who lock horns with university authorities after being harassed. However, towards the end of the story, the narrator, Zehra, is sold out by two of her ‘friends’ for certain benefits.
University of Peshawar (UoP), the most prestigious seat of learning in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), sits in the eye of a storm for similar reasons.
Last Tuesday, university authorities suspended a teacher on charges of sexual harassment. They added that investigations into the conduct of some of the big guns of the university are underway.
These allegations first echoed through the K-P assembly last month, after a former member of university syndicate and PML-Q MPA Nighat Orakzai raised this issue, saying that many parents have approached the Vice-Chancellor to report that senior teachers and the heads of various departments are involved in sexual harassment.
The provincial government formed a committee to investigate these allegations through a committee headed by the Provincial Minister for Social Welfare, Sitara Ayaz.
She said on Monday, “Our report is complete and we are going to present this report to the chief minister as soon as he has time to meet us.”
The report, she said, tackles issues of sexual harassment and lays down some ground rules on how to deal with them. The report also makes recommendations.
She said that while the committee had names, they did not have any concrete evidence against the people being scrutinised as nobody is ready to testify against them. She added that only research students who stay till late night were facing some problems.
The university also formed an internal committee, headed by Dr Sarah Safdar, Dean of Social Sciences, to investigate this issue last Monday, but it is yet to present its report. Peshawar University Teachers Association (PUTA) has gone silent after its earlier call for investigations. So have most students and teachers.
“Those being named are among the power-brokers on campus and no one wants to have problems with them,” a teacher requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune.
The teacher said that it was a very serious issue and had came up at a crucial time, as women’s education is already under attack and the incident has put the university’s reputation at stake.
This problem has reportedly been limited to departments where a semester system was in practice, while departments where an annual system is being followed have largely remained off the radar.
University officials said that the teacher was suspended after students testified against him before the committee.
The official said that action against the rest of those named could only be initiated at a higher level.
The official felt that the issue was being overhyped and no one can find a fault with the majority of UoP’s 700 faculty members. PUTA President Dr Johar Ali could not be contacted by phone or in person at PUTA’s office and department for his comments.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2011.