ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: A parliamentary committee on Monday expressed annoyance over the absence of the Islamia University Bahawalpur (IUB) vice chancellor from its meeting and decided to summon him for the next meeting to be held on Wednesday to get a briefing on the recent arrest of its three officials for alleged drug peddling and sexual harassment.

meanwhile, caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi formed a three-member committee to probe the allegations against the university officials.

The National Assembly Standing Committee on Education, which met at Parliament House under the chairmanship of Makhdoom Syed Samiul Hassan Gillani, was supposed to get a briefing from IUB Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Athar Mahboob, but he did not turn up.

Showing annoyance, the committee decided to issue him summon for the next meeting to be held on Wednesday. The committee also decided to summon the district police officer (DPO) Bahawalpur for a briefing on the case.

Recently, the police arrested three officers of IUB - treasurer Prof Dr Abubakar, chief security officer (CSO) Ijaz Husain Shah and transport officer Altaf - and claimed to have recovered drugs and objectionable material from their mobile phones.

According to the police, the mobile phones of the CSO contained a large number of objectionable videos.

After the NA standing committee meeting, Higher Education Commission (HEC) ChairmanDr Mukhtar Ahmed told media that if the allegations turned out to be true, the officials should be given punishment publicly.

Later, speaking to Dawn, Dr Ahmed also said IUB’s alleged scam warranted a proper investigation and if allegations are found true, strict punishment should be given to the accused publicly. He said according to the VC the allegations were baseless.

“In case the allegations are false, those responsible for making the allegations should be given vigorous punishment,” he said and added that HEC had decided to convene an online meeting of all VCs of universities for finalising a strict code of ethics. He said HEC and universities had standard operating procedure (SOP) to deal with harassment issues, but there is a need of a code of ethics as well.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Monday formed a high-level three-member committee to conduct a thorough inquiry into the IUB case. Mr Naqvi said all individuals involved in the incident will be dealt with strictly in accordance with the law.

“Deeply saddened by the tragic news of drug peddling and immoral activities at Islamia University Bahawalpur. A high level 3-member team, including a provincial Secretary and two DIGs, will submit an inquiry report within 72 hours. The law will take its course, and all involved in this disgraceful incident will be dealt with according to law. Let us strive for a safer and morally upright society,” he tweeted.

In a special report, police claimed that the officials held on drug charges were also involved in blackmailing and sexual exploitation of students and teachers in the university. The report claimed that the treasurer “confessed that he along with a group of other teachers would purchase and distribute drugs through students and arrange dance/sex parties”.

The police revealed that the “group of teachers” would exploit/blackmail girls and implicate them using drugs and he was carrying out these activities with the help of the IUB security in-charge. The officers were booked in three cases under Section 9(2)1 of the Control of Narcotic Substances Act 1997.

Meanwhile, Bahawalpur DPO Syed Mohammad Abbas told a press conference that the police were not targeting the university but taking action against suspects involved in selling drugs.

He claimed that 113 students were arrested at different times in cases under section 9c of the Pakistan Penal Code and all were challaned in these cases. He said videos recovered from the phones were sent for forensic analysis and they were waiting for a report.

The DPO said the police had not yet received any complaint of sexual harassment and they were trying the suspects only in drugs-related charges.

On the other hand, VC Prof Dr Athar Mahboob said the officials were booked in fake and frivolous cases as they had nothing to do with drugs and other things. He also appealed to Inspector General of Police Dr Usman Anwar to constitute a high-level team to probe the matter.

On the direction of the IGP, Regional Police Officer (RPO) Rai Babar also constituted a police team led by Bahawalpur SP investigation to probe the arrests and registration of drug cases against the officers of the university.

Meanwhile, a court in Bahawalpur on Monday remanded the chief security officer (CSO) of IUB in judicial custody after the expiry of his three-day physical remand.

Talking to the media on the court premises, CSO Syed Ijaz Shah defended himself, saying he was trapped and allegations against him were a pack of lies. He said all the charges levelled against him by police were not 100 per cent correct and he would contest the case and defend himself.

He said he had already handed over most of the material to the intelligence agencies as to how he was trapped. He alleged that several university officials, ‘black sheep’ of police and civil society members were involved in the case and he would expose all of them.

— Majeed Gill from Bahawalpur also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2023

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