METOO Pakistan has exposed how sexual harassment exists very acutely, in all classes of our society, but the matter is shoved under the carpet due to social stigmatization. However, one far more important aspect associated with it is that the same curse is plaguing our educational institutions and workplaces but we are not ready for this discussion.
Balochistan University scandal unveiled a horrific story of exploitation, abuse and harassment happening within our school premises. But this most recent one, coming from Pakistan’s most well-reputed and apparently most ”well-disciplined” institution, raises a lot of questions on the quality of atmosphere we are offering to our youth.
National University of Science and Technology (NUST) made the headlines on 24th of December when a student spoke about an alleged rape case which happened inside the university. According to the reports floating on social media, the victim is a hostellite who allegedly fell prey to a construction worker.
While the case itself was enough to shake people, NUST’s explanation came as a bigger shock. Their outright denial of the case, attitude showing aggressive victim blaming and completely silencing the matter is an ideal example of how an education institution should NOT react. Their response can easily be termed as severe criminal negligence.
“What kind of person makes fabricated rape accusations?” the tweets from the university administration read.
NUST’s absurd and irresponsible explanation further offended the people. The reports also claim that the administration is threatening the students to stay silent now. Not only was their ‘version of the story’ blatantly rejected, ex-students also opened up about their experiences there. The university has also been accused of sexism, having extreme gender discriminatory policies (dress code etc.), silencing harassment victims, covering suicides and extreme insensitive behavior towards the students.
”Few years back a boy committed suicide and his parents were made to sign something declaring they don’t blame the uni before they were handed over the body. Admin also pretended as if it didn’t happen. No mention of him, nothing for awareness regarding suicide,” an ex-student shared.
‘How draconian is NUST?’
Another ex-student from NUST shared his ordeal on the social media as well. Here is what he had to say:
‘It was the summer of 2010. I had cleared 6 semesters. I was heading the photography society, next in line for the head of IEEE student chapter, heading the environment club, heading the student-alumni liaison committee, a part of sports and adventure club, designer and writer for the campus newsletter, and designer and editor of the alumni magazine. Even though I was a civilian student who was studying there on open merit ( a position holder in entrance test) & paying all my fees, we were still governed by the “cadets’ battalion’.
‘The head of the cadets’ batallion was the batallion commander or BC. (I kid you not). There was a new BC in town those days. Colonel F*** (censoring names. Sorry). He took away all the TV sets from student hostels because “a student should not watch TV”.
‘He passed the infamous “gender mixing” order whereby male and female students couldn’t sit together or he would not only fine them but also call their homes. Imagine being a daughter’s parents in Pakistan and getting a call from an admin person in the university that “apki beti larkon k sath bethi pakri gayee hai”. Any girl talking to a guy had a “character problem”.
‘Even two male students sitting on the same bed together for combined study or even watching a movie was made illegal because “it brings bad thoughts to their minds”. Girls without dupattas would get fines and for boys, even wearing barmuda shorts in their own rooms was illegal’.
‘He made sure these orders were followed, by conducting midnight surprise “raids” on the hostels. This guy even called a junior’s house and told his parents their son was being gay. Called another guy’s guardians and said “your son was found gender mixing with 6 girls’.
‘Then one day, I wrote a blog post, calling the religious extreme and the army out on how these institutions have played their part in weakening the society in Pakistan. I also praised the jawans for their sacrifices and their sense of duty towards the nation.’
‘Two days later I get called into BC’s office and am notified that there is an enquiry against me for “defaming the institution and inciting a revolt”. I’m baffled, but not only this, the BC threw several verbal abuses at me because I had made fun of his mustache too.’
The allegations against NUST are severe in nature and need urgent addressal. However, the institution has still failed to show any responsible behavior in this regard. If even the country’s best institutions are oppressing students, killing their intellectual abilities and silencing them – where do we stand?