Ombudsperson orders dismissal of Pemra DG from service for sexual harassment

Published November 4, 2021
A file view of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) headquarters in Islamabad. — Dawn/File
A file view of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) headquarters in Islamabad. — Dawn/File

Federal Ombudsperson for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplaces Kashmala Tariq ruled on Thursday that a senior official of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) be dismissed from service on allegations of sexually harassing a female employee and pay Rs2 million in compensation to her.

In her order, Tariq stated that a woman, who was working at Pemra's headquarter in Islamabad on a contingent basis, had filed an online complaint with the ombudsperson on January 20, 2020, accusing one of Pemra's directors general, Haji Adam, of harassing her.

Quoting the complainant, the order said when she refused "sexual favours" to Adam, his behaviour turned "rude, disgusting and demeaning" towards her.

"Bringing all the pieces of evidence together [...] the complainant has proved her allegation that [Adam] sexually harassed her [at] her workplace on November 11, 2019," the order said.

On the other hand, Adam failed to substantiate his stance that he had been falsely implicated in the case by the complainant "at the instigation and conspiracy of someone else", it added.

The ombudsperson said action was to be taken against Adam under the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010, and directed that he be dismissed from service and pay Rs2m in compensation to the complainant.

She also declared another Pemra official, Fakhruddin Mughal, as having been proven to be "a facilitator" of Adam, and ruled that he, too, was to face action under the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010. Tariq ordered Mughal's demotion along with a payment of Rs500,000 in compensation to the complainant.

Moreover, the ombudsperson said in her order: "I deem it essential to ask the Pemra top management to constitute [a] permanent harassment committee to look into, probe and decide [...] harassment cases, and also install CCTV cameras [at] conspicuous places to monitor the activities of staff at the workplace."

"Similarly, I would also like the management to display [the] code of conduct and guideline[s] of FOSPAH (Federal Ombudsperson Secretariat for Protection against Harassment) [in] common areas," it added.

The ombudsperson directed the Pemra management to submit a compliance report within seven days after receiving the order.

Tariq had earlier ordered Adam's suspension in the case on February 4, 2020.

According to Samaa, Adam had then approached the President’s Secretariat against the decision, but his request was not entertained. Adam then went to the Islamabad High Court, the report said.

The court "passed a verdict asking the ombudsperson to give a proper hearing to both sides before passing a speaking order within 15 days," it added. "By August 28, [2020], Kashmala Tariq upheld her decision to suspend him (Adam) to prevent him from influencing the investigation."

In her order on Thursday, Tariq said Adam approached different forums against her initial decision which was one of the reasons for the delayed decision in the case.

"If analysed, fairly, the responsibility of such [a] delay heavily lies upon the accused because he kept on moving the case file from one forum to the other," the ombudsperson stated.

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