- Federal ombudsperson directs prestigious university to remove Abid Imam from faculty
- LUMS enquiry committee had termed incident as ‘unbecoming’ of a teacher but did not term it sexual harassment nor penalised Imam
The federal ombudsperson has directed the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) to remove Abid Hussain Imam, a faculty member at the varsity’s law department, over charges of sexually harassing a female student.
According to the judgement, a copy of which is available with Pakistan Today, the Federal Ombudsman Secretariat for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace set aside the decision of LUMS enquiry committee and handed a “removal from service” order to Imam. The LUMS administration has been directed to implement the order in letter and spirit.
Per details, the complainant, a student at LUMS’ Sheikh Ahmed Hassan School of Law, had filed an appeal with the ombudsperson against the decision of the LUMS enquiry committee, alleging that Imam remarked of “mala fide intention to harass her” and then “touched her shoulder”.
Following a probe into the incident, the varsity’s enquiry committee had termed it “unbecoming” of a teacher and even directed Imam to write an apology to the student but had not considered it a matter warranting harassment charges. The committee and varsity’s vice chancellor had also not imposed any penalty on the teacher.
The ombudsperson, however, affirmed that the “conduct and behavior” of the teacher amounts to sexual harassment.
“The act of the respondent was a sexual demeaning attitude, which somehow has been admitted by the teacher himself and by the enquiry committee in its report. Whereas on ground of delay in filing appeal it is observed that such technicalities have to be avoided to meet the end of justice and give protection to human rights,” read the decision.
The federal ombudsperson added that over fear of losing a “brilliant teacher”, the LUMS enquiry committee did not deem the case as one involving sexual harassment despite the fact that the committee found the teacher to be guilty of sexually harassing the student.
Abid Hussain Imam is the son of senior politicians Syeda Abida Hussain and Syed Fakhar Imam and is also related to Syed Babar Ali, the pro-vice chancellor of LUMS. His mother Abida Hussain has served at various important positions, including Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.
LAWYER CONTESTS VERDICT:
Waqqas Mir, counsel for Abid Imam before the LUMS enquiry committee, said it did not constitute “harassment” as per the Harassment Act, besides the victim filed the petition against Imam after the lapse of the prescribed time under law.
“Sexual harassment is a serious issue but if we don’t set the right standard before pronouncing guilt, it would become very difficult for teachers to work in any university,” Mir said.