LAHORE: Professor Dr Iftikhar Baloch, the principal of the College of Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES) of the Punjab University (PU), has been suspended following allegations of sexual harassment.
The PU vice chancellor (VC), Dr Mujahid Kamran, suspended him under Section 15/3 of the PU Calendar under the PU Act 1973. However, the complainants Shabina Gul and Shafaq, told The Express Tribune that they wanted Baloch to be punished.
According to a PU spokesperson, the VC first transferred Baloch to his parent department, Geology, and later suspended him till the charges against him are proven either way.
The two women lodged separate FIRs on Monday against Baloch under Sections 342, 506, 376 and 511 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) at the Muslim Town police station. The above mentioned sections deal with illegal detention, threat to life, rape and attempt to rape, respectively.
According to both the complainants, the VC tried to dissuade them from lodging FIRs but they finally did so on November 1. “The VC asked us to stop pursuing the case now that Baloch has been suspended but I will pursue it,” Gul said.
Shabina Gul, told Tribune that since May (when Baloch harassed her) three inquiry committees had been formed by the VC but nothing had come out of the inquiries.
Gul, a visiting lecturer and a PhD student at the school, said that on May 15, she had gone to Baloch’s room to discuss her PhD topic with him. She said that Baloch complimented her and expressed his desire to hug her. She said that Baloch then forced her into a room adjacent to his office and threatened her with expulsion and death if she screamed. According to Gul, she freed herself after a scuffle. She said that Professor Dr Nawaz Chauhdhry would back up her story since it was he who told her to lodge a complaint with the VC’s office. Gul said that after she took her fiancé into confidence, they both tried to talk to Baloch on May 18 “but he told the VC that somebody had come to kill him.”
The VC sent an inquiry team comprising RO II Professor Dr Zaheer Malik, RO I Shahid Gul, PU controller examination, Professor Dr Zahid Karim Buksh, and the chief security officer Col (retd) Khalid. She said that she and her fiancé had told the inquiry team what had happened. “Dr Chaudhry endorsed my account of events and the inquiry team held Baloch responsible,” Gul said. “Baloch rejected that report saying he had reservations since a member of the committee, Zahid Karim, was his rival,” she said.
On June 2, the VC appointed the Institute of Business Administration director, Ehsan Malik, to probe into the accusations. She said that Dr Malik, instead of investigating the matter, threatened her. Gul said that Malik told her that if she agreed to a compromise, she would be given a permanent job. She said that she complained to the VC and the inquiry was withdrawn.
The third committee formed in August comprised the Institute of Biotechnology head, Dr Amin Athar; the head of Botany Department, Dr Khan Ross Masood; and the head of the Geography Department, Prof Dr Abdul Ghaffar. “The committee wasted our time. At the end of September it sent its report saying that the allegations against Baloch could not be proven,” the former CEES lecturer said.
Shafaq, the other aggrieved, told the Tribune that she had been Baloch’s PA for the last two years. She said that Baloch had been harassing her but she could not raise her voice because she needed the job. However, on October 15, she filed an FIR after Baloch tried to force himself upon her. “I asked the VC to take action but I knew that he (the VC) would not do so,” Shafaq said.
Two of Baloch’s ex-students, while requesting anonymity, confirmed to the Tribune that they had changed jobs because of Baloch’s continuous harassment. “During our interview for grade 16 posts at the Punjab Public Service Commission last year, one member asked us why we wanted the jobs since we were working in grade 17, as lecturers at the CEES. We told him about Baloch,” one of the women said. The girls said that the member, a former IGP, had promised them that he would ask the Punjab governor to take action against Baloch. Sources told the Tribune that the IGP did send a report to the governor but no action was taken.
A police official at the Muslim Town police station said that Baloch had gotten an interim bail and so the police could not arrest him.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2010.
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