Islamabad: Disturbing revelations have come to light as a total of 58 cases of harassment have been reported across seven different universities in Islamabad. The details, acquired through the Right to Information (RTI) Act, paint a concerning picture of the safety and well-being of students and faculty members within these educational institutions.
Comsats University: The Epicenter of Concern
Comsats University emerged with the highest number of complaints, totaling a troubling 41 cases. Among these, 31 cases were filed by female students, shedding light on the challenges faced by them. Additionally, 10 cases were reported by female faculty members, highlighting the distressing range of the issue. Despite conducting 28 inquiries into complaints from female students and nine inquiries into complaints from female faculty members, details about the action taken against the accused were not shared by the university, despite the order from the Pakistan Information Commission.
Silence on Action Measures
In a similar vein, Quaid e Azam University faced seven complaints, primarily from female students across various departments. The university claimed to have resolved these complaints satisfactorily. However, the institution did not provide further insights into the measures taken against those responsible for the misconduct.
Addressing Inappropriate Messages
Allama Iqbal Open University received six complaints, primarily from tutors against students for sending improper messages. The university took appropriate action against the students.
Varied Records Across Universities
Hamdard University Islamabad handled two complaints from female students against their peers, along with one complaint from a female teacher against a student. The accused in one student’s complaint faced suspension for a few weeks. Meanwhile, the accused in the teacher’s complaint was expelled from the university.
National University of Technology reported one harassment complaint, while Case University and National Skills University did not have any complaints on record.
Despite media reports suggesting that female students are often victims of harassment from male teachers or faculty members, not a single university shared details of complaints filed by female students against male faculty members.
The information about the harassment complaints was obtained through Right to Information commonly known as RTI requests filed by this scribe under the Right of Access to Information Act, 2017.
This scribe had requested information from 17 different universities in Islamabad about the number of harassment complaints received, the actions taken against the accused, and the details of the complaints.
As per Section 14(i) of the Right of Access to Information Act, the universities were required to respond within ten working days of receiving the information requests.
However, not a single university acknowledged the receipt of the information requests, nor did they respond to the questions posed in the requests.
Consequently, appeals were filed against the universities to the Pakistan Information Commission on April 08, 2023, seeking intervention and resolution.
The Pakistan Information Commission is mandated to decide appeals within sixty days under Section 17(3) of the Right of Access to Information Act. However, the Commission failed to adhere to this timeline and held the first hearing of the appeals in the last week of June (after almost two months), surpassing the stipulated timeframe.
The failure of the universities to comply with the Right of Access to Information Act and the delay by the Pakistan Information Commission in deciding the appeals has raised serious concerns about the implementation of the Harassment Act in universities of Islamabad.
Despite the passage of five months since information requests were filed under the Right to Information Act, 2017, nine universities in Islamabad have withheld information about the complaints they have received, including:
- Iqra University
- National University of Medical Sciences
- Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhatto Medical University
- Air University
- Rephah University
- National University of Science and Technology – NUST
- Foundation University
- Federal Urdu University
- International Islamic University Islamabad- IIUI
- National University of Modern Language