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Balochistan protests use of CCTV cameras to blackmail, harass students

October 18, 2019
Balochistan protests use of CCTV cameras to blackmail, harass students
The University of Balochistan students are scared to go to the varsity because they say their movements are secretly recorded by the management and those videos are then used to blackmail and harass them.

The administration members blackmail the students with the recordings and ask them for sexual favours in return, a student told SAMAA Digital. “They send us friendship messages and ask us to meet them in private,” said one student.

At least 20 students have filed complaints over the matter.

Some women students living in the hostels are returning back to their houses as they no longer feel safe there. “Our parents will not let us continue studying at the university if such blackmailing and harassment issues come up,” a student told SAMAA Digital.

Women who faced harassment are not comfortable with opening up about their experiences. “There are thousands of cases here but everything is kept under the mat. No woman can speak about her experience publicly.”

All the administration members are involved in the violations, especially the vice-chancellor, another student said, adding that the management has been silent for far too long.

The university students have been protesting for almost a week against the harassment and secret recordings of the students.

Gorgain Baloch, the president of the Baloch Student Organization, said that the incidents of assaults have been reported as far back as 2014.

“We had staged demonstrations last year too after we got to know that a woman student was being blackmailed to accept a proposal from a member of the administration,” he said.

Baloch claimed that some students have even been arrested for standing up for their rights and questioning the authorities.

One of the administration members, Dr Kaleem Ullah Mandokhail, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology was suspended on October 11 over what the university termed as “misconduct”. He was accused by the students of making inappropriate advances on female students.

But the students want more.

They have demanded the suspension of vice-chancellor Dr Jawed Iqbal, whom they accuse for staying silent on harassment issues.

Spying on students

Along with the CCTV cameras on campus, the students have said that they were being monitored through additional cameras and microphones placed in washrooms and smoking areas.

The university professors and staff members confirmed to the media that they have seen these ‘secret cameras’.

Kaleem Ullah Barech, the president of the university’s staff association, and Fareed Achakzai, a varsity professor, along with other professors condemned the incidents of harassment and extended their support to the students in a press conference at Quetta Press Club on Thursday.

The university has been under the radar for such negligence for the past four years, said Barech.

“How is it possible that a Grade 4 officer installs secret cameras in the varsity?” Achakzai asked. “Surely, there are other people of a higher rank than the university’s staff involved in this.”

The cameras were placed inside switch boards and bathrooms at the university, the teachers revealed.

The university administration, however, has denied installing secret cameras to spy on students.

The Balochistan governor and the provincial government have been informed of the case through official letters, they said. They demanded that a justified inquiry should be conducted and the vice-chancellor should be removed from his position.

“Until the vice-chancellor is not fired, no fair investigation will take place,” Achakzai said. “The public is enraged after hearing about the scandal,” he added.

FIA investigation

Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail directed the FIA to investigate complaints of students being harassed at the varsity last month and submit a report by October 28.

The FIA has been examining the case for several weeks now.

The officials, however, refused to reveal their findings. “We have not arrested any official of the university and will inform the media through a press conference,” an FIA officer said.

“The FIA Cyber Crime has recorded statements of many students and administration members and the university is cooperating as much as they can in the investigation,” said Dr Iqbal.

He added, almost as an afterthought, “But the institution’s reputation should not be damaged at any cost.”

A spokesperson of the UoB said that no security officers or surveillance in-charge have been arrested.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal has also taken notice of the harassment case and said the incident in the province’s biggest university has ruined its sanctity.

“The government will not spare the culprits behind this unpardonable crime,” the chief minister said.

The MPAs have asked for a fair inquiry into the case and said that due to the pressure from some top government authorities, the FIR hasn’t been registered yet. Speaker Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo has even formed a 10-member committee for the inquiry.

It comprises Sanaullah Baloch, Nasarullah Zerey, Syed Fazal Agha, Syed Ehsan Shah, Shakeela Dehwar, Mah Jabeen Sheran, Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa, Mir Asadullah Baloch, Danish Kumar, and Malik Naeem Bazai.

Bushra Rind, the member of Balochistan Assembly, demanded that the government include more women in the investigating committee. She said the issue should be investigated transparently.

MPA Sanaullah Baloch has demanded strict action against people involved in such heinous acts. “An FIR should be registered immediately,” he said, adding that the authorities are being pressured from the top to halt the investigation but the lawmakers will not allow that to happen.

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Balochistan, students, harassment, blackmail, university, Balochistan students, Balochistan university, women, male students, female students, privacy rights, protests, university, professors
 
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