Inquiry into sexual harassment claim against NMC doctor delayed
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: An inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment against a doctor at the Nishtar Medical College and Hospital (NMC), Multan, has been delayed, giving the impression that the government is trying to hush-up the incident.
The husband of a female patient has accused the doctor of sexually harassing his wife while their son was undergoing an operation at the hospital. He filed a complaint with the NMC principal, who forwarded it to the Health Department. The department has forwarded a report to the chief minister recommending that Dr Pervaiz be suspended.
The Punjab health minister, Dr Tahir Ali Javed, said on April 13 that the chief minister had ordered an inquiry into the allegations of sexual harassment against Dr Ashiq Pervaiz and it would be complete in seven days. This has not happened.
The minister had also said that the chief minister would soon form a committee to investigate the allegations. This committee has not been formed. The report from the Health Department is still with the chief secretary, a department official told Daily Times on Wednesday.
The minister had also indicated that influential professors were lobbying for Dr Pervaiz. He said that a few NMC board of management members were saying that the allegations were a political move to damage the credibility of the surgeon.
A former health minister, presently chairman of the board of governors of a ‘controversial’ university, is reportedly pressing the Punjab government not to take action against the doctor. An aide to the information technology minister, Awais Leghari, is also reportedly lobbying for the doctor. Leghari’s brother and Dr Pervaiz run a private hospital in Multan.
The minister told journalists that he had visited NMC to look into the matter himself. Health Department officials said that it was a routine visit to check the progress of government projects.
On April 18, the minister told journalists that he had directed Abaidur Rehman Roomi, NMC board of management chairman, to hold a preliminary inquiry and to present a report to him when he came to Lahore on Wednesday (April 20). He said that the media would be invited to discuss the report.
However, NMC board officials told Daily Times that the health minister had not issued directions to hold a preliminary inquiry. They said under the rules, the board could not hold an inquiry against a professor of grade-20 or above unless the chief minister ordered it. They said that chairman was going to Lahore on April 20 to attend a meeting on a women’s health project.
The minister did not invite journalists to a press briefing he had promised for Wednesday.
The minister told Daily Times that he had raised this issue with the chief minister and the chief secretary on Wednesday and they had recommended an independent inquiry into the matter. He said that the inquiry would be announced today (Thursday) and would be completed within 10 days. He said that the surgeon would be axed if he were found guilty.
However, a senior Punjab government official who was present at the meeting on Wednesday said that the chief minister had not given any directions to the health minister to initiate an inquiry. He said the topic had not come up at all during the meeting.
Another senior Punjab government official indicated that the minister could himself be trying to save the doctor because of pressure from influential allies of the doctor. However, the minister denied these allegations and said he wanted a neutral inquiry into the matter. He said that he had been hasty to have announced an inquiry on April 13, and promised a thorough inquiry into the matter soon.
According to the complainant, “On March 22, we visited the doctor to have some screws removed from our son’s knee. The night before the operation, the doctor asked my wife to show him some recent x-rays of the knee. I was busy the next day so my wife went to him alone. He started molesting her on the pretext of a check up (because she was also a patient of his) and threatened her to go along because he was to operate on our son the next day. She came to the ward perturbed and started crying. On the day of the operation, he called my wife again asking her to meet him at his clinic at 3.30pm.”
The complaint also accused the doctor calling up his wife at 12.30am and forcing her to have phone-sex. He claimed that the professor had also been trying to bribe him. Dr Pervaiz has refused to comment.