Professor Dr Iftikhar Baloch, a former principal of the Punjab University (PU) College of Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES), has been dismissed from the university service over his involvement in a case of sexual harassment on 21 April, 2011.
The Punjab University syndicate had earlier issued a show-cause notice to Dr Baloch under the Punjab Employees Efficiency Discipline and Accountability (PEEDA) Act 2006. He was suspended from service in October 2010, for being involved in harassing female staff of the university.
There were a number of complaints against Dr. Baloch but no action has been taken because of his connections and his membership of a social circle of senior politicians.
One PhD student, Ms. Shabeena Gul, wife of Mr. Ibrar Khan and also a lecturer at the CEES, filed an FIR against him after he dragged her into a room adjacent to his office at the university. The incident occurred on 15 May, 2010. The room mentioned was furnished as a bedroom and footage of the interior of the room was shown on different television channels. Ms. Gul made the report to the Muslim Town Police Station following the incident but police did not officially lodged the First Information Report (FIR) number 450/10 until 1 November, 2010.
This is the first reported case of sexual harassment made after the passage of the bill in the parliament in March 2010. But the police purposely avoided booking Dr. Baloch under newly passed law. The cases which the police eventually formed against Dr. Baloch have nothing to do with sexual harassment at the work place. The case of a similar nature was filed by another female staff of the University, Ms. Shafaq Aijaz, on 15 October, seven months after the case of Ms. Shabeena, vide FIR number 451/10 but even then the police have not moved to initiate action against him.
The National Implementation Watch Committee (NIWC), formed on the instruction of the PM to monitor the compliance of the anti-sexual harassment laws, has reported that there are 18 cases of sexual harassment against Dr. Baloch. The NIWC took strong notice of the cases of harassment against Dr. Baloch and through the office of the Honorable Prime Minister, requested the Punjab Government to set up an independent inquiry committee to look into these cases. The three member committee, headed by the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), gathered information, interviewed several of his victims and concluded that there was sufficient evidence for the crime he was accused of.
The Punjab University also formed a four member committee which consisted of heads of different departments. This committee also found him of guilty of sexual harassment. The committee proposed to the University authorities that he be dismissed for using university premises for his nefarious designs. The Syndicate of the university, being the Competent Authority, dismissed Dr. Baloch from the university employment on 21 April, 2011.The dismissal orders were signed by the vice chancellor.
During this process, Dr. Baloch initiated parallel cases upon the victim in retaliation. He threatened university officials of serious consequences if they pursued this case, because of his strong contacts with senior politicians like Raza Hayat Harraj, a federal minister and leader of the ruling party, PML Q. The federal minister quickly started contacting different official groups to save Dr. Baloch.
The governor of Punjab was approached by Mr. Tochi Khan, the chairman of the Standing Committee of the national assembly on government assurances, who held a meeting of his committee on 9 May. The committee recommended the Punjab governor to suspend the vice chancellor of the university and stop his salary. It also recommended that Dr. Baloch should be restored with all benefits. In response to Mr. Tochi Khan’s recommendation, the governor, Mr. Lateef Khosa, who was once a promoter of the bill against sexual harassment in the national assembly, called secretary of higher education to his office on 4 June and asked him to suspend the vice chancellor and restore the perpetrator of sexual harassment to his position. However, the secretary of higher education of the province refused to do so.
The PM also contacted the governor and asked him to do a favour for his friend, Dr. Baloch. However, because of the Eighteenth Amendment the governor cannot make decisions without a summary from the CM.
The perpetrator is still in the university and using his influence to create a hurdle to remove the specter of sexual harassment from the university.