PESHAWAR: The government of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province has barred its male employees working in government offices under Ministry of Education from contacting female teachers and staff by phone or social media apps to crackdown on incidents of harassment.
On Saturday, the education ministry announced in an official directive that ministerial staff members, from junior clerk to the superintendent level, working in the offices of female District Education Officers (DEO), were not allowed to contact any female teachers or other staff via telephone or social media apps like Whatsapp.
A government spokesman Ajmal Wazir, however, declined to comment.
The education ministry notification, circulated among schools in Peshawar, stated that all future communications with female staff must be carried out by female officers or officials.
An education ministry adviser, Ziaullah Bangash, told Arab News that the directive was issued after the government learned of harassment cases, and the measure was put in place to give female teachers a sense of security.
“We have one or two harassment cases from remote areas where female teachers were facing problems and those cases led us to this decision,” he said.
Munaza Hassan, a female lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PIT), said the government measures were necessary.
“The government has taken a step to control this menace at a time when there is no law to curb harassment cases. You need to adopt some measures to curb the wrongdoing,” she said.
Rukhsana Wazir, a senior KP education officer, also said she supported the latest directives of the education ministry.
She conceded that segregating departmental proceedings would create a gap that would have to be filled by new female posts.
“Nonetheless, the benefits of the notification will be more than its negatives,” she added.
But despite some cases of harassment in a largely male-dominated education sector in the province, the education ministry directive has not been welcomed across the board.
Faisal Karim Kundi, a senior member of Pakistan Peoples’ Party, told Arab News that the “narrow-minded approach” would lead to a gap between male and female officials in the education sector.
“If the PTI defends the notification and tries to control harassment in work places, then it should implement the same in the center, Punjab and other provinces too,” he said.
Bushra Gohar, a former parliamentarian and human rights activist, called the new measure a “tragic development,” which would create problems in the working relationship between male and female colleagues without serving any purpose.
“The government should introduce laws to tackle female harassment instead,” she said. “This development clearly depicts an extremist mindset.”