All too often in official matters, harassers and culprits are asked to sit in judgment against themselves. But nowhere is a more blatant bias obvious than in a recent harassment case that came to light at the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF), where the individual accused of harassment was made to oversee the inquiry into the allegations leveled by his accuser.

A woman working at the PSF in grade 18 accused a superior officer of making unwarranted advances and alleged that upon refusal, he abused and humiliated her and threatened to make her life at the department miserable.

Since she turned down all the offers this individual made, she was singled out for exceptional treatment. Her office was shifted at least three times in four months, and in the process, important documents and data was allegedly deliberately misplaced.

The accused individual did not stop at harassment at the workplace and even made an unwelcome visit to the residence of the complainant’s brother, where he allegedly agitated their ailing mother, who suffers from diabetes and hypertension.

The woman was further victimised when a frivolous inquiry was opened against her, accusing her of leaking information to a newspaper. The inquiry recommended action against her, but when she challenged the same before the Islamabad High Court, the officer who she had accused of harassment was made the head of the inquiry team and, obviously, delivered a damning report against her, which led to her summary dismissal from service.

In addition, those co-workers who testified before an earlier inquiry on her behalf were also singled out. One was demoted while another was coerced into changing his statement.

It was only on the intervention of retired Justice Yasmin Abbasey, the federal ombudsman for protection against harassment of women at the workplace, that the woman’s case was properly heard and an injustice undone.

Dawn’s ‘Eye-Witness Account’ segment features accounts of individuals who have experienced adversity or have been affected by a miscarriage of justice. All accounts are verified as far as possible by Dawn’s editorial team. Readers are encouraged to send in accounts of similar incidents that may have befallen them, so that attention can be called to such problems and they can be addressed with due debate in the public eye. Readers can send their accounts to re.isb@dawn.com.

Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2015

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