Part-II: How the AKES-P teacher landed in jail?
Gilgit (TP) June 23, 2020: As The Punch earlier carried a story on the arrest of a teacher of the Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan (AKES,P) in Gilgit on charges of threatening two management staffers, some more documents have come to the fore and in this investigative report, a series of trails starting from the induction of the teacher, his class performance and behaviour, his alleged disagreement and differences with the school principal, the reason for his removal from the lectureship and re-induction as a school teacher, his refusal to accept the new posting and the court stay and, above all, the organization’s human resource (HR) policy and codal procedure will be taken into account to bring out a clear picture of the whole episode.
It is also clarified here that during the investigation of this story, it became fairly palpable, at a certain level, that the AKES-P management/HR has failed to provide the victim teacher with a level playing field and the opportunity for a fair trial, leaving him to endure mental agony and psychological dilemmas, compelling him to send some unbecoming messages which landed him in jail. However, this act of the teacher cannot be condoned. All subsequent events are being discussed here in the light of the available documents and the AKES,P HR policy.
As a prestigious set-up, the AKES,P has a clear-cut policy vis-à-vis the recruitment, firing, transfer, demotion, promotion etc of its employees, however, documents available with The Punch, show that the management, per se, has not followed due process in the case of Ahmed Khan, a teacher of physics at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Ghakuch in district Ghizer, as the version of AKES-P HR person has been accommodated in the following story.
How it all started?
Ahmed Khan, a teacher at a school in Darkut valley of Yasin, was hired as a physics lecturer at the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Ghakuch after he qualified the test and the subsequent interview conducted by a panel of experts of the AKES,P. Ahmed Khan was offered a (permanent) contract with a probation period of three-months and extendable for another three months. During the short span of time, as documents show, his content and pedagogical performance remained immaculate and spotless, however, he allegedly fell out of favour of the school principal, Mr Jahangir, and an unending rift started between the two, leading to the demotion and transfer of the lecturer from Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Ghakuch to a school in Zoodkhon Hunza with a slashed salary of Rs16,850 against the salary of Rs27,083, which he was getting as a lecturer.
The teacher refused to accept the posting order and challenged it in the court, which issued a stay, asking the AKES-P management to send him back to his original school of posting with the same pay and perks and the AKES-P management obeyed the court order. As court documents show, the court had also barred the AKES,P management from meting out unfair treatment to the teacher until the matter was adjudicated at the subsequent hearings. Court documents show that the AKES-P management failed to show up in various hearings to present their case in the instant matter and finally the court issued bailable warrants for the top brass with instructions to appear on June 22.
Charges against the teacher?
According to a senior AKES,P HR official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media, Aga Khan Higher Secondary School Ghakuch Principal Jahangir had lodged an informal complaint with the management stating that “Mr Ahmed Khan’s overall teaching performance was unsatisfactory and he also had behavioural issues.”
Soon after the complaint was lodged, the AKES’P management without issuing a warning, or a notice — a mandatory requirement under the HR policy — transferred the teacher to Hunza, as according to the HR official, “the complaint from the principal provided sufficient ground for them to take action against Ahmed Khan.”
Initial offer letter
[It should be noted here that Ahmed Khan had completed his probation period of six months successfully and during this period and after the completion of the probation period, he reserved alls rights to be served notices and warnings, under the HR policy, if a complaint is brought to their notice. Ahmed Khan’s two-year contract was deemed to be permanent as it is renewed after every two years under the HR policy and in his case, the policy has not been duly followed before initiating the proceedings against him.]
Transfer letter with slashed salary
When asked if the AKES,P management followed its own codal procedure in taking action against the teacher before demoting and transferring him to the school in Hunza, the HR official explained that since the principal had personally complained against the teacher, they did not form a committee to probe the matter or issued any prior warning or a show-cause notice to the teacher to come to good terms with the principal or “improve his performance.”
When specifically asked why the AKES,P management did not serve him a notice (as mandatory under HR policy) after they received the complaint against the teacher, the official replied: “as you know, people pay a heavy fee to send their children to the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, we cannot take the risk of keeping bad performers in the school and we deemed it appropriate to send Ahmed Khan to the school”.
New offer letter with slightly raised salary after Ahmed Khan refused transfer order
When asked again, if the HR followed the laid down procedure in changing the cadre of the teacher or offered an opportunity to him to offer his reply, the HR official replied: “Again, I would say, in such high-profile cases, we don’t take nitty-gritty details of the HR policy into consideration and in this case too, we considered the principal’s complaint supreme and transferred him, which he refused and took us to the court.”
AKES,P HR policy regarding recruitment and disciplinary action
The AKES’P HR official refused to share any documentary proof that they followed the due process and the laid down policy in the case of Ahmed Khan.
The official only said that they had later restored Ahmed Khan’s actual salary after he moved to the court but he refused the offer again and did not back off from the litigation.
In a subsequent letter, after Ahmed Khan got a stay order against his demotion and transfer, the AKES,P management, had issued him another offer letter increasing his salary to Rs2,1350 and promoting his position as a senior teacher in the Zoodkhon school in Hunza.
When asked if there was a possibility of out-of-court settlement of the case with Ahmed Khan, the AKES,P HR official said that since the matter sub-judice, they were waiting for the court verdict and if it is adjudicated against them, they will go the appeal. However, the official said that there was the least possibility that the teacher would be re-inducted as the lecturer.
When asked about salary deduction of Ahmed Khan in violation of the court directive, the HR official said that since he had gone on leave without intimation and they reserved the right to deduct salaries of absent employees.
Ahmed Khan’s lawyer Karimullah said that the AKES,P management initiated the case against his client without following the HR policy and the episode had occurred after 12 months of the teacher’s induction and under the HR policy, getting prior notice or a warning letter was his due right.
The lawyer said that they were fighting their case on the ground that “his client’s employment rights have not been taken into consideration by the management and he had illegally been demoted and transferred without providing him the opportunity to present his case.”
“This was the reason that the AKES,P management skipped various court hearings, as they have done everything illegally and have nothing to deny that they violated their own HR policy in the matter of my client, who is not only competent but also possess faultless character,” Karimullah said.
Answering a question, the lawyer said that they have filed a petition in the court, seeking the teacher’s bail and it will hopefully be granted tomorrow as the judge was absent today.
Ahmed Khan’s performance record?
As documents available with The Punch show, in the first year annual examination of the year 2019, of the 42 students of physics (which Ahmed Khan taught), 32 students have clinched A-plus, three students A grades and only one student C grade. According to Ahmed Khan’s lawyer, the result was enough proof to exonerate his client that “he is a brilliant and diligent teacher and he has fallen victim to the personal vendetta of the principal.”
Result of physics paper of the first-year students
Interestingly, some of the students of Ahmed Khan have made some positive comments when they were asked, during an internal assessment, to comment about his teaching methodology, some of them are being published with this report.
Student’s reflection about the teacher
Interestingly, in one of his applications, Ahmed Khan has also questioned the hiring process of teachers by the AKES-P, especially for higher secondary schools, contending that if his performance was unsatisfactory, how his students clinched the highest marks in their board examination, and secondly, since he has completed all his schooling under the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee schools set-up, if he had some academic flaws, the AKES-P management should take the onerous of providing faulty education, as I am their product and if they claim to provide excellent education, I must have been groomed well.
Student’s reflection about the teacher
“The internal assessment report of the teacher has also remained fairly good and his students have shown excellent performance in their examination and despite all this, the AKES-P management demoted and transferred him to a school,” Karimullah said adding that the probation period of employees in AKES,P is of 3 months after that the person is given as regular appointment letter as per the organization policy.
He said that during the probation if the employee is found to be breaching the code of conduct or the head of the institution is not satisfied with his performance, the management may or may not extend the probation period. “But after the regularization, it is not easy to terminate any employee because he is entitled to the very benefits and employee rights protection etc and the HR due diligence needs to be fulfilled if any inquiry is being carried out against any employee,” he said.
The lawyer also said that the AKDN also has harassment policy under which an employee is given right to share their grievances and in Ahmad Khan’s case no such due diligence had been done to terminate his services and it is a big question mark.
The FIR and police version
The FIR against Ahmed Khan was registered on March 20 on a complaint of AKES,P Gilgit-Baltistan General Manager Khushi Muhammad — who is not the direct aggrieved party— but the police arrested the teacher on June 20, after a lapse of almost two months.
Talking to The Punch, the investigation officer of the case, Sub-Inspector Muhammad Wali claimed that the police conducted various raids to arrest Ahmed Khan soon after the FIR was lodged but he escaped the arrest and finally they got him from his hometown Hundur.
Answering a question, the police official said under section 506/25 Telegram Act 1885, the case fell under the purview of the police and they have recovered the teacher’s mobile phone which contained the offensive messages. He denied that the police were under any influence to arrest the teacher, as according to him, they have nothing to do with the teacher’s court case and “they have arrested him in a totally different offensive matter. He said that the police would readily quash the case if the two parties enter into a compromise and approach the police in this regard.
When asked what kind of messages the teacher had sent to the AKES,P officials and whether they were life-threatening, the police officer only said: “the messages are of dire nature and fall under the purview of a criminal offence.”
The lawyer alleged that the school principal’s own behaviour was rude and discourteous and he often bullies teachers only to protect his hegemony, a charge which could not be verified independently as the school principal conveniently refused to attend repeated phone calls made to take his point of view on the whole episode
The AKES-P top brass also did not attend phone calls to give their version on the issue despite repeated requests and text messages.
The “victim” teacher’s lawyer says that his client may have hurled life-threats to the AKES-P staff members as he passing through mental agony. He says that the AKES-P management also committed contempt of court by deducting his client’s salary of various months and finally stopping it while the court hearing in the instant matter was underway and the court had issued orders against doing so.