Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry of the Lahore High Court has directed Governor Sardar Latif Khosa, who is chancellor of all public universities in the Punjab, not to pass any order concerning the reinstatement of a Punjab University professor whom two inquiries found guilty of sexual harassment.
The chief justice issued notice to the governor and the Punjab government to reply to a petition moved by Shabina Gul, one of the women the former principal of the College of Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) is said to have harassed, against the reinstatement of Iftikhar Hussain Baloch.
Gul, a former PhD student and visiting faculty at the CEES, submitted through Advocates Imtiaz Rasheed Siddiqi, Barrister Qadir Bux and Ali Akbar Qureshi that Baloch was putting political pressure on the governor to accept his appeal against his sacking.
Gul alleged that Baloch, who was principal at the time, had made “immoral overtures” to her and when he was denied, threatened her and attempted to sexually abuse her. This caused her “deep anxiety and anguish” and she filed a complaint on May 27, 2010, with Vice Chancellor Mujahid Kamran. The vice chancellor set up a committee headed by Dr Ahsan Malik and including Prof Amin Athar, director of the Institute of Bio-Chemistry and Bio-Technology.
She said Prof Baloch tried to derail the inquiry, but meanwhile another complaint of criminal sexual abuse by the principal was received from Shafaq Ejaz, an administrator at the college. Another inquiry committee was set up, this one headed by Prof Mehmood Akhtar, dean of the PU Faculty of Islamic Studies.
She said this committee on December 8, 2010, gave its report to the vice chancellor and it was later put before the PU Syndicate, which decided to dismiss Baloch from service for sexual harassment.
She said Baloch then used political pressure to try and reverse the decision. Mahmood Hayat Khan alias Tochi Khan, the head of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Government Assurances, “illegally” summoned the vice chancellor to the committee’s proceedings on March 10. “The VC was treated in a most dishonourable manner,” she said. “He was ridiculed and unlawfully directed to resolve the matter relating to the dismissal and reinstatement of Baloch.”
The petitioner said this was against the law as the matter was not the concern of the standing committee. Still, the Syndicate conducted its own proceedings and recommended Baloch’s dismissal. The vice chancellor agreed and issued the professor a letter of dismissal on April 21.
Baloch then appealed to the governor. She said Tochi Khan then wrote a formal letter dated May 9 to the governor asking him to accept the appeal and reinstate him. He also asked the governor to suspend the vice chancellor for “violating the instructions of the committee”, said the petitioner.
She said she feared that the appeal would be successful due to Baloch’s “political influence within the relevant circles”. She said she had heard that the governor had already conducted a “kangaroo hearing” of Baloch’s appeal and tried to influence PU officials to reach a compromise.
Gul said that the chancellor’s push for an “amicable settlement” was inconsequential as after the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, education was no longer a federal subject, but one in the exclusive legislative and administrative domain of the province of the Punjab. “The governor, chancellor, does not have any jurisdiction unless there exists an advice of the chief minister of the province in the matter,” said the petitioner.
She asked the court to declare that proceedings in Baloch’s appeal were without jurisdiction and lawful authority, and to stop the governor from hearing the appeal.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2011.
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