Two University of Karachi teachers at the Mass Communications department have been accused of harassing women students.
Two complaints are said to have been filed against the men but not directly by the women themselves. A male student, identified as Tehamas Ali Khan, has said that he filed two complaints on their behalf as they were too scared to come forward.
Khan said he filed the first one on behalf of and signed by five students on April 30 before the student advisor office. Two of these students, however, later backed out and he filed a second complaint signed by three students on May 2. The complaint said that teachers used to message the women on their cell phone numbers and “harass” them.
Assistant Professor Osama Shafiq has denied the charges. The second lecturer is named in the complaints but he has yet to respond publicly.
Screenshots of what are said to be WhatsApp messages show the teachers allegedly asking the students about where they live, if they are free after university, if they are “friendly”, how they commute to the university, and if they have friends or not. One teacher sent a student a “Good morning” message followed by the picture of a white rose.
KU Spokesperson Muhammad Farooq said that the university has not received any such complaint by the women students.
“If students are being harassed, then they should come forward and speak to the administration,” he told SAMAA TV. He said that no student has come before the vice-chancellor as yet. He did not know their student or seat numbers.
When asked about the signatures on the complaints, he said: “How can I trust that the [women] students have signed the complaint? They can be forged too.”
These students should have approached the harassment cell, which deals with such cases, Farooq said. He added that he did not understand why the male student was filing the complaint on the women’s behalf.
He said that the students who have accused the teachers have to come forward before the committee and identify themselves. “We have taken action against harassment complaints in the past too,” he added.
The women’s position
One of the women making the accusation spoke to SAMAA TV anchorperson Kiran Naz on the show ‘7 se 8’ on the condition that her identity be protected.
She gave details about the communication she says took place with the teacher. “I remember I messaged [Osama Shafiq] on Facebook and asked him about a job I was offered,” she said. “I asked him if the agency I wanted to work for was good for me. He then told me to message him on WhatsApp.”
According to her, he started asking her personal information such as her father’s job, where she lived and if had any “fast friends”. The student said that she was asked if she was “friendly” to which she replied that she considered herself “serious” by nature. According to her, he then messaged asking how her nature would become when they became friends. “Slowly and steadily, he started making me feel very uncomfortable,” she said.
The student said that they did not want to reveal their identities because they were afraid that the university would not issue their academic degrees. She added that one woman had been physically harassed by the teacher but was too scared to come forward.
The student said that she was changed her choice of because of Shafiq. “I want to pursue Electronic Media but I changed my mind when I found out that he was teaching at that department,” she said.
For his part, Shafiq, who is also the evening in-charge, said that he has is being made part of a campaign to malign public universities.
“We haven’t received any sexual harassment complaint,” he told SAMAA TV. “If someone had faced harassment, then they should come forward and report it.”
He questioned the veracity of the WhatsApp screenshots circulating on the media. “People will find out the truth once an investigation is initiated.”
Shafiq said that the male student who had filed the complaints has been facing disciplinary action.
The assistant professor said that he has filed a complaint with FIA’s cybercrime cell against the student. “His problem is that he has failed three examinations. He came to me to help him out but I told him that I can’t help him,” he said.
“What are the chances that a day before disciplinary committee was going to take action against him that he claims to file a sexual harassment complaint against me?”
A disciplinary committee chaired by Convener Nasir Salman met on Friday to discuss Shafiq’s complaint against Khan, KU spokesman Farooq confirmed on SAMAA TV show 7 se 8.
The matter will be taken up again on Monday. “We will announce our decision then,” he said. If the student is proven guilty then he will be rusticated and a fine will be imposed too.
For his part, Tehamas Ali Khan, the student who says he filed the complaints, said that he has been threatened and asked to take back the complaint.
He said that he has known about harassment since 2017. “We have seen many students being harassed but no action has been taken ever.”