The one who has clean hands scares the most from inappropriate allegations. The same was the case with a college lecturer Muhammad Afzal Mahmood, who has committed suicide after he was accused of harassing a female student of Govt MAO College Lahore, where he used to teach. The allegation later turned out to be false.
This incident reveals the ugly face of the #MeToo campaign as it has the potential to take a life, as happened with the said teacher, or defame someone, as happened in the case of Ali Zafar with Meesha Shafi.
The English lecturer committed suicide after he was not issued a clearance letter despite that fact the he was cleared in the harassment case by the enquiry committee.
In a letter to the enquiry officer Prof Dr Aalia Rehman, Afzal wrote, “You told me that I have been cleared of the harassment allegations but I am still under extreme stress as the news of the case is known by the whole college and until the administration gives me in writing that the allegations were baseless, I will always be considered a person with bad moral character.
“I beg you to please re-open the enquiry and ask the administration to rusticate Roll# 18444, BS Mass Communication on the basis of putting false allegations against a professor. This is the only way to clear me from the harassment allegation. It will also help other professors from getting similar allegations when they are strict with students and give marks according to performance and not due to pressure. My fault was also this only (to give marks according to performance).
“My family life is disturbed by the allegation and my wife has left me accusing me of being immoral. I have now nothing in my life to look forward to. I am an immoral person at college and at home. I feel pain in my heart and brain all the time. If and when I die, I request you as a friend to ensure that my salary goes to my mother and she is given a good character certificate in my name from the college principal.
“I beg you again to get my name and reputation at college cleared as you are a senior professor and can influence our college administration for this.”
In the suicide note on Oct 9, he had requested the police not to investigate his death and bother anybody. “I leave this matter in the court of Allah (SWT).”
Talking to BBC Urdu, Aalia said she had thoroughly investigated the matter and the deceased was completely innocent in this.
“I had written in my report that Afzal is innocent and the girl should be given a warning and should be dealt strictly. I had written in my report that special focus should be paid to this matter so that next time no student dares to level a false allegation on any teacher,” she said.
The senior professor said her job was only to forward the report to the college dean and it was the dean’s prerogative to issue a clearance letter.
When college principal Dr Farhan Ebad was inquired about this, he said Afzal did not approach him. “If he had talked to me, I would have issued him the clearance letter.”
Dr Farhan said Dr Alia did not ask him to take action against the student.
Alia said, “One day before Afzal committed suicide, he met me at the college gate when I was leaving. I read initial part of the letter in which a clearance certificate was sought. I kept it in my file and went home, but when I reached college the next day I came to know that Afzal had committed suicide.”
She said she did not read the complete letter as it was mentioned in its last lines that he intended to commit suicide.
Dr Farhan said the government entitled them to hold enquiry in harassment cases, but it did not give any training on how to hold it.
Singer Ali Zafar, who himself has been victim of false harassment allegations, has tweeted in support of the lecturer.