Bahawalpur scandal

Published July 26, 2023

SHOCKING allegations have emerged after a number of administrative staffers working for Bahawalpur’s Islamia University were apprehended by law enforcers. Police say that drugs were recovered from the varsity’s chief security officer, while obscene media was found on his phone after the individual’s recent arrest. Narcotics and similar material were also reportedly recovered from the university’s treasurer and a transport officer. Moreover, a police report — details of which were published in this paper — claims that a “group of teachers” was involved in the sale of narcotics and the sexual exploitation and blackmail of female teachers and students. These are alarming allegations and cannot be taken lightly. While the university’s vice chancellor has rejected any wrongdoing, and one of the accused says he is being framed, simple denials are not enough considering the serious nature of the claims. A thorough probe is needed to determine the veracity of the matter, and if there is sufficient proof that crimes have been committed, all involved must be punished under the maximum penalties mandated by law.

The sale of narcotics has, unfortunately, been reported from numerous schools, colleges and universities across the country. The fact that varsity staffers may be involved in drug dealing makes the matter even more serious. Equally appalling are charges that female teachers and students may have been sexually harassed and blackmailed at this university. Institutes of higher learning — and indeed all workplaces and educational facilities — need to be safe spaces where girls and women can learn/work without the fear of sexual predators and harassers. These allegations indicate that the atmosphere at many institutions may be absolutely toxic. The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Education has started probing the matter; the university’s VC was summoned to its meeting on Monday, but the official did not show up. The interim Punjab chief minister has also constituted a committee to look into the affair. These probes must be credible and uncover the truth so that the guilty can be punished. Moreover, university officials need to cooperate with the investigations to dispel the impression that a cover-up is underway. Beyond the Bahawalpur varsity, a wider reckoning should assess if universities across the country are providing an environment where students, particularly females, can study without the fear of harassment, while drug dealing and other destructive activities need to be curbed.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2023

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