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The System Works

Musarat Hilali

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It is a welcome precedence set by the Federal Ombudspersonfor Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace, to dispose a case in two hearings and assign a verdict.

The case in question was of a male bus driver harassing the female staff of girls college in Islamabad. On the complaint of a teacher the case was presented in front of the Ombudsperson, who after hearing the case dismissed the driver from service.

This speedy conclusion to the case is not just a step towards women empowerment, but also serves as a shining example for all government functionaries, to perform swiftly and efficiently in the interest of the citizens.

The citizens, even with all the drawbacks, still have faith in the system and their faith will consolidate after such instances. Currently citizens in Quetta have also submitted their complaints regarding Right to Information, under Article 19-A, with the Provincial Ombudsman. The same level of willingness is expected from that office also, to provide the necessary rights to the citizens.

Myra Imran
Friday, August 05, 2011

Islamabad: Setting up an example of providing quick justice, the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Musarrat Hilali has disposed of a case of harassment in only two hearings.In its decision announced on Wednesday, the Federal Ombudsperson for Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Musarrat Hilali has dismissed Ghulam Mustafa, driver of Islamabad Model College for Girls (IMCG), G-9/2, on charges of harassing a female teacher of the college. 

A teacher of the college lodged complaint against Ghulam Mustafa that he was harassing one of her colleagues in the college premises. When the teacher asked him to behave properly, the driver turned violent and abused her in presence of college students.

The Federal Ombudsperson referred the complaint to the Directorate of Education Islamabad for report and asked them to provide necessary personal record of the driver.

The record revealed that he had been involved in many other cases of insulting female teachers on different occasions. He had also been frequently transferred by the directorate on the complaints of similar nature.“Two former principals and many students also came forward as witnesses.

The principals were also harassed by the driver in past, but they preferred to keep quite as there was no mechanism available to deal with such cases at that time,” said a source in the Ombudsperson Secretariat.

The Federal Ombudsperson Musarrat Hilai conducted two hearings in the case. During the proceedings, both parties were given proper time to plead their case. “The driver even hired a lawyer to plead his case,” said the source.Keeping in view the documentary evidences, statements of the complainants and cross-questioning of the counsel of the driver, Musarat Hilali dismissed the driver Ghulam Mustafa from the service. “The notification of the decision has been submitted to the Directorate of Education Islamabad to implement the decision,” he said. The Protection of Women against Harassment at Workplace Act makes it mandatory for the management of the organisations to adopt the Code of Conduct and form a three-member inquiry committee to deal with the complaints of sexual harassment.

In case the perpetrator is too senior or is the owner of the business himself and the victim is not satisfied with the decision of the committee or feels that the committee cannot do justice, he or she can go to the Federal Ombudsperson. Victims can also directly file their complaint at the ombudsperson.

Recently, in an interview with ‘The News’, Federal Ombudsperson Musarrat Hilali urged the victims to utilize the option of Ombudsperson that provides an alternate mechanism to file harassment cases. “Lack of knowledge about the law and ignorance about the presence of Federal Ombudsperson Secretariat is confusing victims as well as media persons discussing such cases on different private TV channels.”

She said that the law also applies in schools and colleges and advised all workingwomen to read the complete law to have better understanding of its implementation. “If utilised properly, it is a big strength in the hands of working women,” she said.