Anti-harassment ombudsperson’s restraining orders challenged

Published September 22, 2021
This file photo shows the Islamabad High Court. — IHC website/File
This file photo shows the Islamabad High Court. — IHC website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Establishment Division Secretary Afzal Latif has challenged the restraining orders of the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace from proceeding against a witness in the sexual harassment case.

Mr Latif filed the petition before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking permission to proceed against deputy secretary ministry of culture and national heritage who has appeared to testify against a senior joint secretary of the ministry of industries and production, where Mr Latif has served as federal secretary before his transfer to the Establishment Division.

Khattak was a witness in the case based on the complaint of assistant private secretary Asiya Noor against senior joint secretary of the ministry of industries and production Qazi Zaheer Ahmed.

The ombudsperson on Aug 31, 2021 passed a restraining order while hearing the application of deputy secretary ministry of national heritage and culture division Usman Ghani Khattak, directed establishment secretary, joint secretary administration “to maintain status quo in the matter”.

She put the establishment secretary on show cause notice and also directed to issue Khattak no objection certificate for his onward posting as Evacuee Trust Property Board secretary.

Khattak cited establishment secretary Latif, joint secretary establishment Dr Shoaib and deputy secretary of ministry of industries and production Amjad Hafeez as respondents.

The applicant said Mr Latif had not only prematurely transferred him from his post but also issued him a charge sheet for appearing before the ombudsperson for deposing evidence.

The charge sheet alleged that Khattak “incited and abetted the complainant against senior officers” asking her to implicate them in the harassment case.

Khattak said the establishment secretary regretted to issue him NOC for onward posting and his name was deleted from the list of those BS-19 officers who are supposed to take honorarium.

The secretary establishment in the petition contended that the restraining order as well as the show cause notice was “without lawful authority”.

The petition claimed that “the federal ombudsperson has no jurisdiction to intervene into disciplinary matters” adding “the disciplinary proceedings against Khattak were initiated on multiple charges of misconduct”.

It also challenged the powers of ombudsperson to issue direction for issuing NOC to the officer for his posting/transfer.

The petition requested the court to set aside the order of federal ombudsperson.

The establishment division asked the ministry of law and justice to appoint the law officer to pursue the matter in the IHC.

The law ministry asked the additional attorney general Qasim Wadud to represent the federal government before the court.

The law ministry, however, advised Wadud not to make a conceding statement or allow a consent order “unless so authorised.”

Published in Dawn, September 22nd, 2021

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