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Pakistan: Return of The Notorious Professor To Punjab University - Appeal to CM Punjab to take action

24 June 2013

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Fauzia in America [Blog]

June 21, 2013

Iftikhar Baloch, who had set up a bedroom right next to his office in the Geology Dept of Punjab University, was terminated for gross misconduct in 2011. To everyone’s surprise, the University has received instructions to reinstated him in his job on June 12th, 2013. The Interim Governor, Syed Ahmad Mahmud, used a window of opportunity to push his friend back into the University. Earlier, Mahmud’s cousin, former PM, Yusuf Raza Gillani, made several attempts to get him reinstated, but the PM’s safarish attempt was blocked when the PM’s own National Implementation Watch Committee (for the anti sexual harassment laws) supported the strong stand taken by the Punjab University officials . However, the Interim Governor is related to Yusuf Raza Gillani and the power of Iftikhar Baloch’s support network remains strong .

In 2010, after years of female students filing complaints with the University officials, finally one brave PhD student reported him to the police after an attempted rape.

The powerful professor had been bragging for years that no one could touch him because he was a class fellow of the PM Yusuf Raza Gillani. He was quite right because no complaint about him ever succeeded. Even after the sexual harassment laws were passed, the police initially quashed Shabeena’s formal complaint. Nevertheless, Shabeena persistently pursued the issue. She and her husband sold their modest car and whatever they could to pursue the case.

In November 2010, CM Shahbaz Sharif, launched a special inquiry into the matter as soon as it had come to his attention. Senior Police officers and other officials conducted an extensive inquiry on the campus, interviewing many students and faculty in a responsible manner. This additional information was added to the FIR that had been finally registered on 1st November 2010 (FIR No 450/10) with charges of section 376, 506, 511 PPC against the professor.

In compliance with the newly passed anti-sexual harassment law, the Punjab University VC and other senior officials conducted their own inquiry. Both thorough inquiries found the Professor at fault. The University issued a termination notice on 8th December 2010 on the basis of recommendations of the inquiry committee. Charges proven after the inquiry included “allegation of molestation/ sexual harassment against prof. Dr Iftikhar Husain Baloch stands proven…Forgery is proven…Presence of sexual toys / sexual gadgets is proven. The civil society and the media hailed the brave and responsible decision of the Punjab Government.

Immediately, Iftikhar Baloch initiated a war against the University. In Lahore, the, then, Punjab Governor, Latif Khosa, put pressure on the University to take the professor back. In Islamabad, a Parliamentary Committee on Privileges of Government Employees, created an excuse to intervene in the case, called the VC of Punjab University to a hearing, humiliated him and issued written instructions that Baloch should be re-instated. Civil society was outraged by this naked attempt at using the Parliament to override a valid University decision. Fortunately, the University refused to back down in the face of this high handedness. On the personal side, family members of senior officials of the Punjab University and the complainants were threatened. Still, the University stood behind its decision.

Finally, two year later, Baloch has been able to secure some support. A woman judge on the Lahore High Court was found who would issue a ruling that the Governor had the authority to make a final decision in this matter. The Governor had his office quickly compile the necessary paperwork and signed the orders to reinstate him. Who is not familiar with ‘khatta’, the paperwork done to cover tracks and to hide sins.

Baloch was terminated based on findings of both the police and the University inquiries. These findings have not been overturned, only his termination has been quashed. No such pervert should have a place in a Pakistani educational institute. Whatever ‘special inquiry’ has been undertaken to return Iftikhar Baloch to his post must be immediately reviewed. Why the LHC had to give the final authority to overturn the legal University decision to the Governor also needs to be assessed. The Punjab CM said in a cabinet meeting today that “the culture of nepotism, corruption and favouritism needed to end, the rule of law must prevail.” We need to see the CM take charge of this case and show his support for a dignified environment in the educational institutions.