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Saturday, May 18, 2024

MAO College Principal Removed: Is Justice Served in Lecturer’s Suicide Case?

MAO College Principal has been removed from his post. But there are some important questions about the future of #MeToo in Pakistan. How should women be protected without heading towards cultural polarization? 

The Punjab Higher Education Department has finally removed Dr. Farhan Ebadat Khan, Principal MAO College, from his post with immediate effect. He was reportedly found ‘negligent’ in the case involving harassment allegations against deceased lecturer Afzal Mehmood, which provoked the latter to commit suicide. Afzal’s suicide was highlighted by both social as well as mainstream media as misuse of MeToo which allegedly does not allow accused persons to present their version of the story. It was claimed that media does not allow sufficient space to the men’s version in any story which is leading the society towards cultural chaos.

According to a notification issued on Monday, he has been directed to report to the Punjab Higher Education Department (HED). Last week, Punjab HED had issued a summary after conducting an inquiry into the case, which expressed serious concerns over the attitude of Khan regarding the death of lecturer Afzal Mehmood.

According to details, the summary issued by the education department had called for action against the principal, saying his attitude was “very rude and lethargic”.

The report further stated that Dr Farhan had failed to take necessary measures to address the concerns of the late lecturer despite him having been proven not guilty by the college harassment committee.

Read more: Misuse of Me Too: A College Lecturer Commits Suicide Upon False Allegations

The report had also noted that Dr Farhan was known to display unprofessional and rude behaviour with staff and faculty members and was in the habit of evading his responsibilities.

The education department had recommended the removal of Dr Farhan primarily on these grounds. Meanwhile, Riaz Hashmi has been given the charge of the college.

Lecturer Committed Suicide

A lecturer named Muhammad Afzal of Government M.A.O College in Lahore committed suicide after he was accused of false harassment charges. Afzal was accused by none other than his own student. She could not prove allegations against the lecturer. Afzal’s formal letter written to the professor of college and inquiry officer, Alia Rehman, exposed the reality of the case and raised some serious questions. His suicide note and a formal letter have ignited fury among the netizens.

The victim had explained the ordeal of facing false harassment charges in the letter. Afzal moaned that the false harassment accusation has tarnished his image, ruined his career, and disturbed his family life. His wife had left him following the allegations, leaving him devastated.

He requested the inquiry officer Alia Rehman to rusticate the student of Mass Communication department, who had levelled false allegations on him. Since he was cleared in the inquiry and awaits justice. He demanded the management to take actions, which will restore his image in the college.

If something happens to him, he requested the college management to give his salary to his mother and a Good Will certificate honouring him, clearing the disgrace brought to his name following the false allegations. He had written the letter to exonerate him from the charges on 8th October while he committed suicide on 9th October.

The lecturer in his suicide note asserted that he is leaving the matter to Allah and asked police not to investigate the matter further.

#MeToo in Pakistan

#MeToo is a social movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. It got popularity in 2017 when many actresses and celebrities spoke up and exposed some big names who were allegedly involved in the worst sort of sexual harassment. Many women in Pakistan also came forward against their harassers and shared their bitter experiences.

#MeToo was questioned in Pakistan when some high-profile cases emerged, and Pakistan’s media and opinion-makers did not explore the matter. There are two cases which got popularity in the country but in both cases, the ‘victims’ have failed to establish their allegations before any court of law.

Read more: Hassan Niazi claims Meesha Shafi threatened him with the ‘Me Too’ campaign

In August 2017, Ayesha Gulalai, former Member of the National Assembly of Pakistan and former leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), accused Prime Minister Imran Khan of sexual harassment. “Imran Khan sent some indecent texts to me back in 2013”, she said. She remained in the party for almost 4 years, became MPA and held several meetings with Imran Khan but ultimately decided to speak up and quit the party.

Some intellectuals and anti-PTI anchors did not ask for any evidence and started bashing PTI Chairman, patriarchal social settings, and gender insensitivity in public spaces in the country. Several articles were written and Imran Khan was pressured to address the allegations against him to prove himself innocent. The PTI maintained that the matter was primarily about ticket distribution in the upcoming elections where Ms. Gulalai was supposed not to get one.

Read more: Meesha Shafi #MeToo?

On 19th April 2018, Meesha Shafi, Pakistani singer, accused her colleague and renowned singer and actor Ali Zafar of sexual harassment. She posted a tweet and accused Ali of harassment. Once again Pakistani liberals and ‘defenders of women rights’ stood up against Ali for allegedly harassing his colleague. Ali kept on refuting the allegations but nobody trusted him. The matter has been brought before the court by Ali. Ms. Shafi has so far failed to prove her allegations before the court.

Had the #MeToo taken a social movement twist to empower women it would have tremendously benefited the victims of patriarchy and male domination. However, its misuse has raised some serious questions if it can be a source of empowerment or a road towards social polarization ultimately leading to political disintegration in a heterogeneous society.