University of Karchi officials dispel rumours of rape at campus
Karachi: A second-year student of the sociology department was sexually assaulted by a teacher at the mathematics department of the Karachi University at 7pm on April 30. To escape, she jumped off the rooftop and landed safely on the ground, attracting much attention from passers-by. That is the latest rumour around campus.
No one really remembers how it started, but text messages spread like wildfire. A few protests were held on campus, an anonymous letter to the editor appeared in an English newspaper, and now every girl at the campus feels that the university is no longer a safe place.
Take for example Aliya Farooqi and her group of friends from the department of psychology, who refuse to wander about the campus alone. “It is just not safe. Haven’t you heard about the girl who got raped?” she says.
Almost anyone who has ever been affiliated with the university seems to have heard about the unfortunate incident. These people include officials at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who made frantic calls to reporters in a bid to ascertain the authenticity of the case.
The university finally had to take notice of the mounting pressure. A three-member search committee of teachers – Zareena Shamsad, Ghazal Khawaja and Shamim Sahib – was formulated. Their report, submitted to the vice chancellor on Wednesday, dispels the rumours and the incident completely.
The report, which includes a handwritten statement by the girl, states that no sexual advances were made by any teacher. “The girl writes that she went to the mathematics department with her friends. She wandered off to the rooftop and by the time she came down, the rumours had already started to spread,” said Ghazal Khawaja.
Khalid Iraqi, the admissions director who was first to be informed of the incident by students, said, “I personally looked into the case. First, we spoke to the girl’s brother who clearly denied any rape attempt. Then we spoke to the girl and she also denied the charges.”
Mutahir Ahmed, a member of the Karachi University Teachers’ Association said, “It seems to be nothing but a rumour as no victim has come forward yet.”
The girl’s family does not want to speak to the media as such an incident, particularly when it involves an unmarried girl, leads to grave complications and consequences in a society that is becoming more conservative by the day.
Taj ul Mulook, a student who took up the case with the university management, said, “We are satisfied by the investigation conducted by the management. The rape case was just a rumour. The reason it spread so quickly was that, after the alleged incident, the university remained shut for four days due to Labour Day, a strike and then the weekend.”
Fazeela Mehdi, who was part of at least 70 students who protested outside the administration block last week, said, “There was a lot of commotion. Some students claimed that their teachers had asked them not to join the protests. An official pleaded with the protestors to disperse and said that the incident was just a rumour. One girl yelled that the university always protects the rapists and this was not the first such case.”
In the past, there have been cases when sexual assaults by teachers have been brushed under the carpet. For instance, in 2012, at least 13 girls signed a complaint accusing a blind teacher of the Urdu department of sexual harassment.
The university, after setting up a three-member investigative committee, sent the teacher on forced leave. Students claim that the accused is back at the university now, although in a non-teaching capacity.
However, this case seems different from the others. Firstly, no other girls have come forward with similar stories about the accused, which has been a common trend in such cases. Secondly, the girl’s family completely denies that the incident ever took place and, lastly, everyone seems to have heard about it but no one claims to have heard a first person account.
“It seems to be a case of political point scoring, where one student group tries to defame the other,” said a teacher working in the university administration, requesting for anonymity, “It could also be a personal vendetta, where a dejected lover seeks revenge by ruining a girl’s reputation.”
In any case, girls at the university can breathe a collective sigh of relief – at least for now.
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