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Sunday October 24, 2021

Alleged sexual harassment: Sacked pro-VC of Gomal University exonerated from charges

October 13, 2021

PESHAWAR: Declaring the sacked pro-vice-chancellor of Gomal University, Dera Ismail Khan, Prof Dr Bakhtiar Khattak as “absolutely innocent”, the provincial ombudsperson on Tuesday imposed a fine amounting to Rs 200,000 each on former vice-chancellor of the university Dr Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, registrar Dil Nawaz and ousted professor Salahuddin.

“The respondents have misused their official authorities and not only caused undue mental torture but immensely damaged the honour and dignity of the complainant as well. Therefore all the three are fined Rs 200,000 each under Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act as major penalty. The same shall be compensated to the complainant. Moreover, appropriate legal remedies are available to the complainant Dr Bakhtiar to sue the respondents before the relevant forums for causing mental stress and defamation,” the detailed judgement stated.

Dr Bakhtiar Khattak along with three other employees of Gomal University including Imran Qureshi, assistant professor, Hikmatullah, game supervisor and Hafeezullah, laboratory attendant, had been sacked in March 2020 on the charges of “proven grave misconduct.”

The sacked officials had moved the high court, the governor secretariat and provincial ombudsperson to seek “justice”.

The Peshawar High Court - DI Khan bench - had termed the action taken against the sacked employees by the previous administration of the university under Dr Sarwar as illegal.

The ombudsperson found clear malafide in the allegations of sexual harassment and action against Dr Bakhtiar on the basis of fake complaints and exonerated him from the charges levelled against him.

In his appeal before the ombudsperson, Dr Bakhtiar argued that he had filed a written complaint with the governor/chancellor Gomal University against Dil Nawaz for his illegal posting as registrar on the basis of which the governor had initiated an inquiry.

Instead of probing the matter, the former vice-chancellor and the registrar had managed a sexual harassment case against him - Dr Bakhtiar. Professor Dr Saeed Ahmad of the same university had been appointed as inquiry officer to probe the case, he stated.

The inquiry had declared Dr Bakhtiar innocent and he had been exonerated from the allegations. The committee had also recommended that the inquiry should be filed and explanation might be sought from the complainant.

But, instead of implementing the recommendations of the inquiry committee, the university administration ordered further probe of the matter and Dr Salahuddin had been appointed as inquiry officer.

Dr Salahuddin just signed the report already written by the former vice-chancellor and registrar and thus a major penalty - removal from service - was awarded to him, he argued. He moved Peshawar High Court against the decision, which granted him stay. He prayed the ombudsperson to provide justice to him and take action against the three respondents.

Among the remaining three employees, the case of Imran Qureshi has already been decided by the court and the university has been directed to reinstate him at the earliest. The university administration has, however, been using delaying tactics to fully implement the court orders.

It is worth mentioning here that days before the award of major penalty to Dr Bakhtiar and three others in the controversial 98th meeting of the syndicate of Gomal University, Dr Salahuddin had been sacked in the notorious case of sexual harassment against him.

Dr Salahuddin was the dean of arts and head of Arabic studies and research and he was having very close ties with the former vice-chancellor and registrar.

He had been caught red-handed by a television crew while sexually harassing girl students of the university. The TV channel had sent two women to him in disguise seeking jobs. Dr Salahuddin demanded ‘sexual favour’ and his statement and actions were caught on camera.

The then administration of the university asked him to resign. He was then arrested by the police and sent to jail. The case was highlighted on social media as well as mainstream media.