By: Riazul Haq
ISLAMABAD: In an awkward move to compensate a senior faculty member accused of harassment, the National University of Modern Languages removed the head of International Relations and appointed him to a related programme.
In addition, according to sources at NUML, the related programme — Peace and Conflict Studies — was bifurcated right after the probe committee suggested that the professor was not fit to head the department.
On March 7, a lecturer from the department had brawl with HOD Dr Zulfiqar A Qureshi after he allegedly stopped her from entering a class in which she was due to give a lecture.
“He shouted in front of students and also tried to grab her hand to stop her from going in,” said a student who was an eyewitness to the incident.
Later, both went to Academics Director Brig Azam Jamal and complained about each other. Jamal formed an investigation committee to look in to the matter.
Under HEC guidelines against sexual harassment, a formal complaint cell should be formed in university for lodging verbal or formal complaints.
As no such body exists in the varsity, a probe body was formed. The body was headed by Planning Director Brigadier Riyasat, Dr Hukamdad from the education department, the head of the economics department, the administration deputy director, and Student Affairs Director Taj Muhammad.
According to the HEC policy guidelines against sexual harassment, among other members in the hearing panel, four should be non-teaching staff and four teachers, while gender-balance must also be maintained.
The initial probe team was all male, and Economics HoD Saima Shafique was only added after the applicant objected to the team’s composition.
According to sources at the university, the accusations of harassment against Qureshi do not come as news, as an application was also submitted with administration by some female teachers in 2008 and he was removed being HOD of IR department at that time as well. But he was reappointed in 2011, replacing Dr Sohail Mahmood, who had annoyed university high-ups for defending a subordinate who was thrashed by the then-registrar, a former military official.
A teacher privy to the investigation told The Express Tribune that Qureshi told the probe committee that he was not allowing the teacher in class because he received complaints from students about her teacher style. When the committee asked Assistant Professor Sarwat from the students’ complaint body to verify this, however, Sarwat denied having received any complaints.
The probe body, after interviewing faculty, students and other stakeholders, reached the decision that the alleged HOD was incapable of heading the department, the teacher revealed.
Similarly, the final report has not been shared with members or even the applicant. The applicant was approached on her cell phone but it was turned off.
NUML Public Relations Officer Aamir Saleem commented that the decision has been made in line with the rules and with the discretion of the competent authority. When asked why the committee’s were not completely followed, he repeated the same answer.