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Arooba Mansoor takes us through the incident as it unfolds.

On 25th August 2021, a final year student at the Institute of Business Administration – better known as IBA – uploaded a Facebook post recalling a workplace harassment incident witnessed by him against a female employee at the university. The report of this incident soon gained popular traction.

             Via Facebook

Following this incident, many other female employees and students at IBA cited their own experience with uncomfortable stares, lewd remarks and inappropriate behavior they had faced on campus which always made them feel unsafe. The victim of this harassment was therefore encouraged to come forward by the student community and the case was accordingly filed with the Harassment Committee at IBA.

In a rather shocking turn of events however, the Committee charged the student with Disciplinary Action for defaming the institute on a public forum instead of using what they believed were the right channels. The Committee demanded that Gibrail take his post down from social media as it was defaming the institution and reportedly met the victim with a hostile attitude. In response to this, a great number of students came out in protest of the Committee’s behavior and chanted slogans such as “Stop Sheltering Harassers” and “IBA Stands Against Harassment”.

             Via The Friday Times

Despite such efforts, on 29th September the Disciplinary Committee – perhaps regrettably – took the decision to expel the student for failing to take his post down. They had levied four charges against him which included: defaming and maligning the institute on social media platforms; inciting the masses and students to protest which pitted the students and the IBA administration against each other and caused security concerns; attempting to influence the committees’ decisions by narrating the incident through external mediums of communication, and finally for ‘posing lack of trust on the institution’. The student was found guilty on all counts.

                      Via Twitter

In light of IBA’s rather alarming response and Gibrail’s expulsion yesterday, the incident has gained national traction with ‘#ShameonIBA’ trending in the Pakistani Top 10 on Twitter.

Prominent public figures such as lawyer and politician, Jibran Nasir, have also spoken out in support of Gibrail’s initiative and have expressed their disappointment that a leading institute like IBA would follow such a reactionary approach. Major national news publications like Dawn continued to highlight the topic as well; both lauded the initiative of the student witness and his perseverance despite the severe consequences imposed by the institution.

Mr. Jibran Nasir further pointed out the true depth of IBA’s response by highlighting the institute’s comparative disregard for either their students’ merits and potential and, more significantly, their female staff and students’ sense of security within the institution.

Students and activists from around the nation poured their criticisms for IBA across Twitter. In response to the heavy backlash, IBA Karachi’s official Twitter account shared a rather vague tweet.

There is no point denying the fact that IBA’s decisions were severely disappointing in more ways than one. The attitude reflected by the institute’s administration seems to be insensitive to the nature of fear and discomfort experienced by female members. Furthermore, the expulsion notice itself suggests a desire on the part of the institution to run a dictatorial regime with limited room for freedom of thought, speech and expression. Perhaps the current damage to the institute’s repute could have been avoided had the committees pursued accountability for the harassers instead of targeting the messenger.

Currently, Mohammad Gibrail has filed an appeal before the Disciplinary Committee against the decision for his expulsion.

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