KMC girl student’s thrashing takes its toll

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The compulsory retirement of Professor Dr Rahim Bangash, a senior faculty member of the Anatomy Department at the Khyber Medical College, by Chief Minister Pervez Khattak for allegedly thrashing a girl student has become a source of concern for many faculty members and exposed the poor administrative skills of the college administration.

Senior government officials were of the view that the chief minister could have posted him somewhere else as recommended by the two-member inquiry committee constituted by the provincial government. It had proposed slashing his increments and transferring him to the Bannu Medical College (BMC).

However, they argued that the government had learnt about serious threats to Dr Bangash’s life as some people had fabricated stories and unnecessarily propagated the issue for their vested interest.

A senior official at the Chief Minister’s Secretariat noted that the college administration had mishandled the issue. “Its performance was poor as it intentionally or unintentionally allowed people with vested interest to play their game in the college,” he added. “Some people in the college administration did not like Dr Bangash and wanted to get rid of him,” he contended.

After the submission of report by the initial inquiry committee of members of the college faculty that was formed when the students staged protests, the government constituted a two-member committee, including senior bureaucrat Humayun Khan and head of ophthalmology department of the Lady Reading Hospital Prof Dr Zafar Iqbal.

Sources said the committee was tasked to probe whether Dr Bangash had physically assaulted the girl student and if he was involved in blasphemy or not.

“Nobody was willing to record statement before the inquiry committee due to the fear of religious extremists,” the government official recalled. He said the committee could not find evidence to prove that Dr Bangash had committed blasphemy.

“The committee was supposed to exonerate him or recommend action against him on the basis of inquiry. Since there was no video proof of his physical assault on the girl, the committee recommended minor action against him. It proposed to the government to cut his increments and transfer him to the medical college in Bannu,” the government official said on condition of anonymity.

He said the girl student had violated the rules by holding a press conference against Dr Bangash. He felt it further damaged his image, though he remained silent during this period.

“The committee heard an audio clip of Dr Bangash, telling the student that there was no toilet during the time of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) but it exists now. This didn’t mean he was involved in blasphemy,” he added.

The student had alleged that after her refusal to remove the veil, there was an exchange of arguments between her and Dr Bangash. She said the teacher lost temper when he failed to argue his case and thrashed her in the class.

“He got infuriated. First he thrashed and then kicked me in the classroom,” a college official stated while quoting her written complaint submitted to the college administration.

Dr Bangash’s version of events was different. In a statement sent to the media a few months ago, he stated, “I remained silent as I didn’t consider it an issue. To me, all students are like my children. But some negative-minded people launched a spiteful propaganda against me.”

He said he had been in teaching profession for the last 28 years and had taught a large number of students, including those coming in proper veil and hijab.

“As it is the personal affair of the students, I never interfered or tried to influence anyone. I preferred to teach rather than practice as a surgeon with an aim to benefit the medical students,” he stated.

“On the day of the incident, I only wanted to say that medical profession demands lot of physical involvement of doctors with the patients. I told them that those observing purdah find it hard to deal with male patients in our society. Unfortunately, the reaction of one Pakistan-origin foreign student, who is a Canadian national and is unaware of the Pakhtun culture in context of the student-teacher relationship, got involved in a very unruly discussion.

She snatched the microphone from my hand and started addressing the class and exaggerating the issue. I asked her to return the microphone but she was reluctant to do so,” he explained.

Faculty members of the college said the incident had damaged the image of the college. “This institution produced hundreds of doctors. Many are serving in different parts of the world and are identity of the college. This incident has hurt all of them as the issue was blown out of proportion by none other but own people of the college,” a senior faculty member said.

Principal KMC Prof Dr Ijaz Hasan Khan said he tried his best to save the life and service of Dr Bangash but it was beyond his powers. “I consoled the girl as she was crying and blaming Dr Bangash for beating her.

I persuaded the students not to stage protests outside the college. Trainee medical officers and house officers also protested and demanded termination of Dr Bangash’s services. I immediately constituted an inquiry committee of senior faculty members,” he recalled.

The principal said the students in the evening blocked the busy Jamrud Road and blamed Dr Bangash for committing blasphemy. “I formed a six-member committee of known religious scholars to probe the allegation. The committee didn’t find any evidence that he had committed blasphemy,” he added.

Source: The News.