November 7th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Two departmental heads of the Sahiwal University have been penalised over the withholding of promotion and censure for harassing five of their female colleagues.
In her decision clubbing two separate complaints against Dr Amin Abid, head of Chemistry Department, and Dr Shafiq Hussain, head of Computer Sciences Department, University of Sahiwal, Provincial Ombudsperson on Prevention of Harassment at Workplace Nabeela Khan found both senior teachers guilty of harassing their female colleagues Dr Shafia Iftikhar, assistant professor of chemistry, Dr Shaheera Amin and Dr Saira Aziz, both assistant professors, Dr Ayesha Ashraf, and Samra Malik, both lecturers of Business Administration Department.
In her complaint, Ms Iftikhar alleged both teachers led a harassment campaign to discourage her from continuing as a faculty member, adding that they have used various tactics including attempts to malign her character, misrepresentation of her attendance record and denial of proper office space so as to force her to sit in uncomfortable surroundings for a woman as to pressurize her to quit.
In a separate complaint, female teachers of Business Administration Department alleged that they were facing continual aggressive and abusive behavior from the head of the Chemistry Department.
In his statement to the ombudsperson, Dr Hussain denied all allegations against him, contending that the complaints are a result of corruption and illegal appointments made by the then vice chancellor. He stated that allegations do not fall within the definition of harassment provided under Section 2 (h) of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010. In his statement, Dr Abid contended that complainants had neither quoted any occasion nor evidence for their allegations.
However, the ombudsman decided that the allegations against the two departmental heads stand substantiated after considering versions of the parties, evidence and facts available on record. “They created an intimidating, hostile, offensive, and threatening work environment which created a sense of insecurity amidst female faculty members and abusive work environment at workplace which is very objectionable on their part and not forgivable in any manner,” the ombudsperson wrote in her 20-page decision.
The ombudsperson penalised Dr Hussain with a minor penalty of withholding of promotion for a period of five years under Section 4(4) (i)(b) of Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 and censured Dr Abid under Section 4(4)(i)(a).
The provincial ombudsperson also directed that the competent authority should submit a compliance report within 30 days of the receipt of the decision. A copy of the decision was also sent to the vice chancellor and the Punjab Governor, chancellor of the University of Sahiwal.
Under Section 6 of the Act, both teachers can appeal against the penalties to the provincial ombudsperson within thirty days of written communication of the decision. The ombudsperson has to decide the appeal within 30 days of its filing under the law.