HED launches probe into lecturer’s suicide over harassment charge

Updated October 22, 2019

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Muhammad Afzal, the lecturer in English at the MAO College, had allegedly committed suicide after consuming poisonous pills for not getting the certificate after the enquiry that had found him innocent of harassment charges. — AFP/File
Muhammad Afzal, the lecturer in English at the MAO College, had allegedly committed suicide after consuming poisonous pills for not getting the certificate after the enquiry that had found him innocent of harassment charges. — AFP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab Higher Education Department on Monday constituted a four-member committee to probe into the suicide matter of MAO College lecturer Muhammad Afzal and sexual harassment allegations against him.

HED Secretary Sajid Zafar Dall appointed University of Okara Vice Chancellor Prof Zakria Zakar as the convener of the committee whose other members include the registrar Lahore College for Women University, principal of the Govt PG College Township, Lahore, and deputy secretary (Establishment Male) of the HED.

The committee has been directed to submit its report within seven days. It would hold its first meeting at 11am today (Tuesday).

Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar also took notice of the incident and sought a report.

Meanwhile, Dr Aaliya Rehman Khan, the dean of sciences of MAO College, who held enquiry into charges of sexual harassment against Afzal has accused college principal Dr Farhan Ibadat Yar of misleading the media about the matter and also pressurising her to endorse his stance.

Muhammad Afzal, the lecturer in English at the MAO College, had allegedly committed suicide after consuming poisonous pills for not getting the certificate after the enquiry that had found him innocent and proved wrong sexual harassment allegations leveled against him by a girl student on July 8, 2019. The college administration had conducted an enquiry into the incident under Dr Aaliya, which had concluded that Afzal had not harassed anyone.

Mr Afzal kept demanding the clearance certificate reportedly from the principal of the college and the chairman of the anti-harassment committee but he was not entertained. He was informed that the report had been submitted to the principal’s office on July 13, 2019.

Mr Afzal tried to get the report and clearance certificate for more than three months but in vain. His wife left him on Oct 8 and he committed suicide on Oct 9, 2019 after writing a note for Dr Aaliya that he was leaving the matter to God. The death of the lecturer had raised several questions. The matter was reported in the media and in a media report, Dr Aaliya said it was not her responsibility to issue the clearance certificate to Afzal while the principal was responsible for it. On the other hand, Mr Yar had the similar stance, saying that the matter was responsibility of Dr Aaliya.

Now, Dr Aaliya had lodged a complaint against Farhan Ibadat Yar before the secretary HED.

The complaint, available with Dawn, states she was serving as chairman of the anti-harassment committee of the college, and also had conducted few probes within the college including into the allegations against Muhammad Afzal.

The complaint said she had initiated enquiry/probe against Afzal on July 8, 2019 and after completion she had handed over its report to the principal with findings and recommendations on July 13.

It further stated after Mr Afzal’s suicide and the media frenzy had erupted against the college administration. The principal was denying that he did not receive any enquiry report and the enquiry officer should be blamed for not completing the enquiry.

It further states that the principal was giving false statements to the media and also harassing her to endorse his stance.

The complainant requested the secretary to initiate a proper enquiry into the matter involving Principal Yar on the grounds of negligence and misconduct for not acting on the recommendations of the enquiry report, giving false statements to the media and harassing her by calling and asking not to say anything at any forum.

The complainant further demanded that the principal should be removed from his post immediately, prior to the initiation of enquiry launched by the HED as he might influence the proceedings by removing her enquiry report from office and pressurise the college staff not to give any statement in the favour of Afzal or against himself.

Talking about the matter of suicide of Afzal, Mr Farhan Ibadat Yar said he was not conveyed that the lecturer was seeking the copy of the clearance certificate. He said the lecture did not write to him but wrote to Dr Aaliya who told him about his demand when he had committed suicide on Oct 9.

“I never stopped from holding classes and giving lecturers and he continued teaching in the class,” Mr Yar said.

About the allegations leveled by Dr Aaliya against him in her letter to the HED, he said, he said he could not comment on it but would give his reply to the HED committee.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019