Prof Dr Javed Iqbal, the Vice Chancellor of University of Balochistan, on Sunday stepped down from the post until the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) completes its inquiry into a major harassment and blackmailing case against staff members. The resignation came after students across the country protested against the VC and university administration. Students and members of the civil society while displaying placards demanded immediate resignation of the VC.
The Balochistan governor’s secretariat issued a notification to confirm the development. “On request of the Vice Chancellor, University of Balochistan, that, to let the FIA conduct a fair inquiry into the recent cases of harassment in the university; the Hon’ble Governor Balochistan/Chancellor UoB has accepted stepping down from his responsibilities as VC, UoB till finalisation of the inquiry report of FIA,” read the notification.
The allegations of harassment and sexual exploitation of the students at the UoB has drawn public attention.
Moreover, the notification also states that Professor Dr Mohammad Anwer Panezai has been given “lookafter charge of the Vice Chancellor” till further orders.
Vice Chancellor University of Balochistan steps down. pic.twitter.com/wLHMbVN10l
— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) October 20, 2019
The allegations of harassment and sexual exploitation of the students at the UoB has drawn public attention. Academics and political analysts are demanding fair probe into the matter so that the public confidence can be restored in the institution. GVS learnt from reliable sources that students are shocked and do not want to come to the UoB after they learnt about the secret cameras. This has created serious challenge for the students and their parents in a conservative society like Balochistan.
The student protest organized under the banner of Students Educational Alliance, the leaders leading the protest accused the UoB Vice-Chancellor responsible for the entire scandal, claiming that the VC was “head of the blackmailers and savior of the culprits”. The protest entered the fourth day on Thursday. The students also marched throughout the university to mount the pressure on the administration to take action against the culprits.
Hundreds of Baloch & other students march in Islamabad to demand justice for the victims of sexual harassment & blackmailing at University of Balochistan & other campuses. #TerminateVCofUoB #StudentRightsNow #CampusDemocracyNow pic.twitter.com/tIh2NfkHOF
— Ammar Rashid ☭ (@AmmarRashidT) October 20, 2019
The protests were held not only in Balochistan University but in several other universities across Pakistan including Punjab University to express solidarity with the victims of sexual harassment.
LUMS stands in solidarity with the students from University of Balochistan. We condemn the heinous cases of harassment, militarisation and surveillance and demand justice from the administration. #SaveUoB #NoToHarassment pic.twitter.com/PtiMa0noHj
— FemSoc at LUMS (@femsocatlums) October 17, 2019
A day earlier, the UoB’s Academic Staff Association had distanced itself from the scandal and pointed the finger at the university administration, including the VC.
The scandal surfaced a month ago after Balochistan High Court ordered Federal Investigative Agency to probe the reports of sexual harassment of students at the university.
The FIA in the investigation revealed that several students including both male and female were being blackmailed by some staff members through ‘objectionable’ videos of them, recorded through CCTV cameras hidden at various places on the campus including its washrooms.
The videos were recorded using at least six hidden cameras that were secretly installed at various spots in the university’s Quetta campus, in addition to the already existing official CCTV cameras. FIA has reported having recovered 12 videos, with females making up most of the victims.
Official sources claimed that the videos were personal and involved the mingling of female and male students. These videos from the cameras installed in the washrooms and smoking areas were used to harass students. The FIA has so far interrogated nearly 200 officials of Balochistan University.
The investigation into the scandal is expected to delay further following the failure of the meeting to elect the chairman to head a 10-member body of Balochistan’s Assembly Parliamentary Committee, formulated to probe the scandal.
It is believed that the resignation of the VC shall likely to help the authorities conduct free and fair inquiry into the case. This case has become important for many reasons. Therefore, analysts believe that it must be taken to its logical end.