KARACHI: Most women would dismiss a text message specifically asking ‘young, pretty, beautiful girls’ to apply for a job, as did 18-year-old Sahar.
“A job advertisement as derogatory as this is fishy, especially when it is a text message from a random number,” revealed Sahar’s 40-year-old aunt Ayesha Khan. She discovered a group of men looking for young women after her niece forwarded her texts advertising jobs.
“The text I responded to seemed more professional and after all, they were looking for invigilators,” Khan told The Express Tribune. The job was to invigilate exams at Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET) and she was asked to send in her CV along with a recent picture.
My daughter asked me why I needed to send in a picture for a job interview but I dismissed her concern, said Khan. She was called in for an interview on October 28 for invigilating exams at the SSUET ‘Clifton campus’ on November 1.
At the interview
“I was suspicious when the appointment was changed from Gulistan-e-Jauhar to Khadda market,” said Khan. She re-read her text messages to realise that there was no SSUET campus in Clifton.
The interview was not conducted by a SSUET member but rather a man named Zain, who strangely claimed that he worked for the British Council. “The office was actually a dirty, unkempt apartment and did not look like an office at all,” said Khan.
“Many other young females were present to give interviews and Zain was conducting them, but there were two or three other young males present at the office eyeing the girls,” Khan said. She sat and waited for her turn but when she started asking questions about the job and who organised the recruitment, the young men began whispering and started to look uncomfortable. She was called in before her turn.
“It almost seemed as if I was conducting the interview rather than being interviewed myself,” she said, adding, “He was a young man in his mid or late 20s and was clearly apprehensive after I questioned him about the job which I was now sure didn’t exist.”
The interview lasted less than five minutes. She was told she could leave and would be called if she was needed so she sat in the waiting room to wait for her car.
“I informed him that I had never heard of a Clifton campus and this made him uneasy,” Khan recalled.
“We will call you if we need you,” the man responded, rushing off into the other room.
Khan continuously requested the other younger girls to leave with her because she thought the situation was a setup and the men were frauds. She said that she felt it was her responsibility as the only mature adult to get these girls out while they could go. “A very beautiful young girl had entered the room for an interview after me and came out in less than two minutes,” she said.
The girl was asked to stay back for another interview with the ‘boss’. “My suspicions were confirmed and I felt so helpless when this naive girl, almost my daughter’s age, refused to leave with me,” Khan said, adding, “I left the apartment but only one girl who was there from Gulshan with her mother listened to my pleas”.
“We have come all the way from Gulshan and spent so much money on a rickshaw,” said the mother of the 20-year-old girl. The young woman belonged to a working class background and had come in the hope of finding a well-paying job but her mother said they made the right choice by leaving. “Nothing is more important than my daughter’s izaat,” she said.
A curious Khan then called up the university to inquire whether they had advertised for invigilators. She was immediately called in for a meeting with the alarmed SSUET administration.
Deputy Registrar Aamir Hussain clarified that the university did not need invigilators as the teachers do the job when exam time comes. “We were shocked to find out that our university’s name was being used for such horrendous things,” said Hussain. SSUET had not advertised for invigilators and there is no campus in Clifton. Registrar Shah Mahmood H. Syed said the university had no connection with the advertisement and that they were unaware this was happening. They thanked Khan for informing them. “We will do everything in our power to trace those criminals and make sure they are put in jail,” said Shah.
(Names have been changed to protect privacy)
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2010.