KARACHI: Hit by three more sexual harassment cases in recent weeks, the Karachi University (KU) announced on Tuesday that a harassment watch committee would be set up in each department/institute and a complaint box would be placed in the Vice Chancellor’s Secretariat.

The three-member committee headed by chairperson of a department or director of an institute would consist of two most senior male and female professors. This decision, sources said, was taken on Monday in a meeting chaired by the vice chancellor and participated by heads of all departments/institutes.

According to sources, the university’s central committee on sexual harassment is currently investigating a sexual harassment case pertaining to a lecturer at the department of petroleum technology.

This committee, which recently found Prof Sahar Ansari guilty of sexual harassment on the campus, comprised Prof Nasreen Aslam Shah, Prof Jamil Hasan Kazmi, president of Karachi University Teachers Society, and Mohammad Ashraf, the deputy registrar academics.

The two other cases, sources said, reported in the social sciences faculty were yet be forwarded to the central committee. A KU professor on condition of anonymity told Dawn that most teachers at the meeting shared concerns over the increasing number of sexual harassment cases on the campus which, they believed, was damaging institutional repute.

“The committees set up at the departmental level will forward such cases to the central committee after determining veracity of the complaint/s,” he said, adding that students could directly report such matters to the vice chancellor as well.

Teachers, he said, were also perturbed over what they described as “malicious campaign of some TV channels” against the university, accusing it of ignoring cases of sexual harassment on the campus.

“Teachers expressed dismay over the way some channels are reporting this case and were of the opinion that they should wait for the committee’s findings,” he said.

According to a university press release, the inquiry committee for protection against women’s harassment at KU is functioning in accordance with the relevant act with complete autonomy. “This committee has given independent decisions in the past. Any person, group or organisation will not be allowed to exert pressure on the committee. The university vice chancellor will now personally look into such complaints,” it says.

The university administration, the press release states, has received a letter from the lecturer at the petroleum technology department against whom the complaint has been received, on March 19, 2018 according to which “he is receiving death threats”.

“Therefore, he has been sent on leave until the report of the disciplinary committee is finalised,” the press release further says.

Reportedly, this case is also being investigated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2018

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