KARACHI: The Federal Services Tribunal (FST) has dismissed an appeal challenging the combined seniority list of male and female sub-inspectors of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

Appellant Zeeshan Shaikh, a sub-inspector posted at FIA-Investigation, had assailed the final consolidated list dated April 10, 2017, asking the FST to set aside the list and direct the respondents to issue segregated seniority list of sub-inspector (investigation) and female SIs/ASIs (immigration wing) being two separate wings.

He cited the interior secretary, FIA director general and 74 female officials of the agency as respondents.

Advocates Hasan Mandviwalla and Hassan Ali appeared on behalf of the respondent female sub-inspectors. The matter touches upon the fundamental rights of women and equality of citizens enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution and is also a case of gender discrimination.

Female officials’ lawyer terms FST judgement landmark

The lawyers contended that a separate cadre could not be constituted arbitrarily to alienate female sub-inspectors already belonging to the investigation group under the FIA (Appointment, Promotion and Transfer) Rules, which enjoyed statutory protection. They argued that depriving female sub-inspectors of their promotions would tantamount to gender discrimination and gross violation of Article 25 of the Constitution.

Since 2003, combined seniority lists have been issued by the federal government in terms of promotions of male and female sub-inspectors belonging to the same group of the FIA under the FIA (APT) Rules. Almost five years later, in 2008, a segregated list was issued, alienating female sub-inspectors from their upcoming promotions and instead allowing newly inducted male sub-inspector appointee promotions earlier than their female counterparts.

The segregated list was arbitrary and based on the premise that female sub-inspectors were only fit to perform immigration service i.e. maintaining a desk job, and that they lacked the requisite skill set and qualifications to serve in the crime and investigation wing.

The female sub-inspectors challenged the segregated list and the matter was also contested previously before the FST and the Supreme Court. However, on June 23 in the third round before the FST at Karachi, the bench comprising of Chairman Qazi Khalid Ali and Member Rizwan Ali Dodani dismissed the appeal challenging the combined seniority list.

“We are of the considered opinion that the appeal is devoid of any force [and] is hereby dismissed along with listed application,” read the FST verdict.

Advocate Mandviwalla said the matter had now been settled and the combined seniority list for male and female sub-inspectors of the FIA had been upheld. “This is a landmark judgement by the Hon’ble Bench of the Federal Services Tribunal, Karachi, and is a testament that the rule of law and fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 are paramount and shall be afforded protection at all costs,” he added.

Published in Dawn, July 1st, 2020