The clean shaven, liberal Taliban

Published: April 30, 2011
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Female student abuse by teachers is not a new phenomenon.

A few days ago, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government formed a committee, headed by a female legislator, to probe the matter of university teachers “harassing and physically abusing” their female students.

Abuse of female students by teachers is not a new phenomenon. At least those who study or teach on campuses know this fact. It is somewhat an open secret. However, the scale to which this crime has grown , no longer allows it to remain hushed up.

The issue has, in fact, become the talk of the town in Peshawar.

While there is no official confirmation as to who was involved the campus is buzzing with rumours that at least eight teachers and some officials in the administration of the University of Peshawar (UoP) are under scrutiny.

Female members of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly claim that university officials exploited their positions and used various tactics to trap female students into fulfilling their desires. Examples of such tactics include offering foreign scholarships to students, assuring them high GPAs, and even offering them lecturer positions in colleges.

Interestingly, all of this is taking place in the so called conservative semi-tribal society of Peshawar. Only residents can understand the damage this issue has caused to the lives of female students here.

The safest place in the world

The University of Peshawar offers a friendly environment where female students have the liberty to express themselves. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that a student has more freedom at Peshawar University than at other public universities like say, University of Karachi, where some female students are not even allowed to celebrate their birthdays and couples cannot sit together around the campus without the fear of being attacked by member of a religious party.

Most students, especially females, who study at Peshawar University, come from the conservative towns like Mardan, Karak, Nowshera and Chitral, where they are generally bound to observe purdah.

However, once these girls enter the university campus, they experience an environment free from all such restrictions. They are free to wear whatever they want and interestingly even their parents, who would not let them go anywhere without a veil otherwise, choose to not enforce such requirements. This is because they feel their daughters are safe within the boundaries of the educational institute. Parents of the majority of the students at UoP are uneducated and look at the university as a sacred place where they think the teachers would take better care of their children.

This is the why most parents are having a tough time believing that university teachers could be involved in such heinous crimes. My parents still don’t believe it.

But, after these revelations, parents will think twice before sending their kids to the campus. And, even if they do send their daughters and sisters, they probably will not allow them to express themselves in the manner they could before. They will look at every teacher with suspicion.

The irony of the liberals

The majority of the teachers under scrutiny are either feminists or those who are vocal about women’s rights in seminars. None of them, at least as far as I know, belong to the Jamaat-i-Islami or for that matter any other religious group.

While at Karachi University, students of Islami Jamiat-i-Tulaba are involved in curtailing the freedom of women, at University of Peshawar, a group of “liberal teachers” are doing the same.

We regularly condemn the Taliban and other religious parties but we do not realise the threat from the Taliban within our ranks who are causing much more damage.

We must realise that while we continue to fight against militant groups, we also have to make sure we kick out certain black sheep from within our society.

Fawad Shah

Fawad Shah

Peshawar based reporter for Mashaal Service of Radio Free Europe.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.