AIMC protecting ex-HOD accused of sexual harassment, students allege


–Babar Hussain Chaudhry, who previously headed Physical Therapy Department at Allama Iqbal Medical College, has reportedly subjected both male and female students to abuse


LAHORE: As the #MeToo movement struggles to make much impact in Pakistan, the Allama Iqbal Medical College (AIMC) in Lahore has been accused of allegedly protecting a staff member who has “bullied, exploited and harassed students” for years.

Babar Hussain Chaudhry, who formerly headed the Physical Therapy Department at AIMC, has reportedly subjected both male and female students to abuse.

In his two-year tenure as the head of department and previously as a teacher and in-charge of academics, Chaudhry has been accused of threatening students with failure in exams, stalking girls after college timings and interfering in their personal lives.

“He would make us stay back after college on excuse of viva. Sometimes, he would even call us at our hostel, and initiate provocative conversations, asking questions such as ‘Mujhay kiss tarah khush karogi’ (how would you please me)”, revealed Hina*, a former physiotherapy student. “He would pry in our activities and try to blackmail us with the details. And when we tried to maintain a distance due to his manipulative nature, he would get agitated, insult and criticise us in class, and would even give less marks for no reason,” she shared with Pakistan Today.

These accusations were corroborated by other students of the college who allege that Chaudhry would demand favours like hanging out after college, meals and birthday treats. He not only bragged about his conversations with female students in front of their male colleagues but would also do ‘character assassination’ of many, threatening them by disclosing information pertaining to their social lives to their families.

At first, most girls would internalise the misogyny and blame themselves for such incidents. Many felt anxious. But when they started sharing the events with their peers, they realised they were not alone. Still, they feared a backlash due to the influence of the HOD.

“He (Babar Chaudhry) has been carrying these activities using the influence of his brother, Dr Shabbir Chaudhry, who is a medical officer at Jinnah Hospital,” Hina* revealed further. “We felt that even the principal would not take any action and that is why didn’t take the matter to him earlier, for we expected that the matter would only be subdued.”

Dr Shabbir Chaudhry, himself, has been charged with “public disruption and misconduct”.

In 2017, the Punjab Government’s Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department transferred him to Jinnah Hospital amid charges of “his acts disrupting the treatments of patients, hampering with the working environment of the hospital, threatening the hospital administration and causing grave threats to human lives through agitation”.

It was sometime during last year that girls started recording Babar Chaudhry’s phone calls which were proof of his “inappropriate conversations”. With documentary evidence and much camaraderie, the students picked up enough courage to meet the then chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar during his visit to United Christian Hospital (UCH) last November and requested him to take action.

On the chief justice’s instructions, a formal application of harassment was filed at the Human Rights Cell (HRC) of the Supreme Court. The CJP also made an inquiry committee under the vice chancellor of University of Health Sciences. The report of the inquiry conducted by a three member committee has still not been sent to the HRC, despite several reminders.

The situation escalated when Chaudhry began to threaten the students and harass them at public places once the inquiry began. The female doctors who refused to testify in his favour were mistreated, threatened and forced to leave their workplace.

Meanwhile, Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education (SHME) Secretary Saqib Zafar as well as Principal Dr Arif Tajammul were approached by protesting students. Zafar’s intervention led to Chaudhry’s transfer of Babar Chaudhry to another department of the hospital, although he was neither suspended nor was his contract terminated.

However, the accused brothers’ misconduct aggravated after the transfer orders.

“As a punishment, the record of our house job up to four months at the Jinnah Hospital disappeared,” alleged Noor*, who has completed her degree as well as house job and is now awaiting formal employment. “We still haven’t received an experience letter for our house job at Jinnah Hospital, nor the transcript. We only have our mark sheets. He (Chaudhry) removed the house officers and started threatening the students and his families. We went to the principal but to no avail.”

Students allege that the medical superintendent (MS) of Jinnah Hospital refused to cooperate when they approached him.

“After removal of house officers, we met the MS and asked him to allow us back in the department. But he said we didn’t have any office orders and in response to a written application, issued a notice against us,” exclaimed Noor.

Further, they allege that Shabbir Chaudhry physically assaulted male students and abused female students as well when they went to the Physiotherapy Department to welcome their new Head of Department (HOD). The new HOD, Shazia Rafiq has still not been given the academic charge of her position and her inability to perform duties has prompted Rafiq to approach the health secretary.

Though Punjab chief minister has taken notice of the situation and ordered a probe, students are afraid that the administration may eliminate the course altogether.

Pakistan Today approached Babar Chaudhry for comment but he did not respond to the allegations.

SHME Secretary Saqib Zafar also avoided commenting on the matter, while AIMC Principal Dr Tajammul did not respond to phone calls.

“This is a very serious issue which has scarred the students mentally and emotionally for years,” says Hina*. “How long will this go on for? It’s a big question mark on our educational institutes.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy of the students