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Pakistan

Web Desk
October 23, 2019

M.A.O. College lecturer's case was 'mishandled': Kashmala Tariq

Pakistan

Web Desk
Wed, Oct 23, 2019

The case of Muhammad Afzal, a lecturer at the Government M.A.O College who committed suicide last week over harassment allegations, was ‘mishandled’ said the federal ombudsperson for protection against harassment of women at the workplaces, Kashmala Tariq, said on Wednesday.

Kashmala made the statement when she appeared on Geo News’ morning show, Geo Pakistan, saying that a delay had been made in the decision making.

Kashmala said that every case had a deadline of 30 days and though the late lecturer’s case had been heard, a delay had been made in taking a decision.

"If you read the [Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace] Act, there is a timeline on how much time is allocated to investigation, how much time is allocated to making a decision, and how much time is allocated to all these things.

"This incident [of Afzal's suicide] was due to negligence and could have been prevented," she added.

News of Afzal's suicide made rounds on social media amid an extensive debate on Pakistan's #MeToo movement after the lecturer's letter to the head of the college's sexual harassment inquiry committee, as well as his suicide note, had surfaced last week.

The lecturer had committed suicide after the institute's administration allegedly failed to issue him a letter stating, officially, that he had been absolved of the sexual harassment allegations by a student.

The principal of the Government M.A.O. College, Dr Farhan Ibadat, had told Geo News last week that he ordered an inquiry after receiving the female student's harassment complaint but mentioned that Dr Alia Rehman, who was overseeing the inquiry, had informed Afzal that he was innocent.

In his letter to Dr Rehman, Afzal had noted that he wanted the college to give him an official letter stating he had been absolved of the sexual harassment allegations since he was under mental stress due to the matter, his family life had been impacted, and his wife had left him.

She said that men, too, could report to the FOSPAH if they were subjected to sexual harassment at their workplaces. Sexual harassment does not just include "physical sexual harassment but also if someone's workplace environment is made unsafe, inappropriate behaviour, comments or passing remarks via phone", she added.

Tariq, in response to a question on the public being made aware of the sexual harassment laws, complaints, and response, also underscored that media needed to air awareness campaigns and public service announcements (PSAs). "These should not be at 3AM in the night but during prime-time hours," she said.