By Laila Raza
The provincial Ombudsman has ruled in favour of Shifa Imtiaz on December 20 in the case of sexual harassment and intimidation against Hassan Abbas Zaidi, a lecturer at Karachi University’s (KU) Petroleum and Technology Department.
“Accused Hassan Abbas Zaidi is penalised under section 4(4) (c) of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010, by imposing major penalty, and is removed from his service with immediate effect and is further imposed penalty of Rs50,000 as compensation to be paid to the complainant within 30 days of passing of this order from the office,” reads the Ombudsman’s order.
The verdict also directs KU’s vice chancellor to immediately suspend the services and salary of the lecturer and in case of non-compliance, contempt proceedings under section 10 (vi) will be initiated.
Imtiaz had accused Zaidi of lecherous conduct with both male and female students, where the accused would treat his male students as his “personal servants and habitually harasses female students and compel them to visit his office on one pretext or another”.
The lecturer would announce results to students prior to its official announcement or purposefully won’t enter correct marks of the student for tabulation of result, inflicting psychological distress and forcing them to keep in touch with him for the sake of their future.
Imtiaz first took up her case with the University of Karachi Sexual Harassment Committee that passed a ruling finding both student and lecturer guilty of irresponsible conduct in the case.
The varsity committee report also said that the student asked Zaidi to pass her and her friend in his class and when he refused, she started a campaign against him through a private TV channel instead of approaching the head of the department or her student adviser.
Dissatisfied with the harassment committee’s verdict, Imtiaz filed a complaint with the Sindh Ombudsman. After thorough investigation over a course of three months, the Ombudsman found the lecturer guilty and ruled in favour of the complainant.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Imtiaz said that the varsity administration was not cooperative neither in formation of a committee on her complaint, not in providing a copy of the committee’s verdict.
Imtiaz added that despite the Ombudsman’s verdict, she would want to remain low-key as last time coming out against the lecturer cost her a year of fighting out false cases initiated by the lecturer. According to Imtiaz, the lecturer approached her first through a “personal assignment”, fetched her whatsapp number and repeatedly asked her to come to his office, and also asked her to meet outside the university premises.
A student, Muhammad Azlal, from the same department, told The Express Tribune that the lecturer used to engage with female students in isolation, by calling them to his office and acquiring their phone numbers. The lecturer also used threats and intimidation as a way to establish intimate contact with female students.
Efforts were made to approach other female students to comment on this harassment case, however, none of them came forward owing to the fear of consequences.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2018.