President upholds penalties, enhances fines upon sexual harassers

ISLAMABAD (APP) : After the charges of blackmailing and sexually harassing a female employee at MEPCO were proven, President Dr Arif Alvi has upheld the penalty of “dismissal from service” imposed upon the Khizer Hayat, Assistant Director and enhanced the amount of the fine from Rs 500,000 to Rs 1 million.

He also upheld the penalty of “reduction to lower post” imposed upon Mian Sohail Afzal, Director (Admin), for three years and increased the fine from Rs 1 million to Rs 1.1 million to be paid as compensation to the victim, a President House press release said.

He also upheld the exoneration of Sohail Abbas, Deputy Director, and Jamshed Ahmed Niazi, Director, as no cogent evidence or substance was available against them to prove them guilty of the charge beyond any shadow of a doubt.

The president gave these orders while rejecting two representations filed separately by Khizer Hayat and Mian Sohail Afzal against the orders of the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (FOSPAH) imposing fines and major penalties upon the two officers.

A female Commercial Assistant at Multan Electric Power Company (MEPCO) had filed a complaint before FOSPAH against four employees stating that they hacked her mobile data, made sexual demands, got published false news items against her, and demanded Rs 500,000 from her to stop the series of news from its further publication.

In his decision, President Alvi stated that a good message had to be sent to society that we would ensure the protection of women against harassment so that our women feel safe in the working environment of the country and our families were confident that if women get harassed, the law of the land would take strong action.

“When Islam came, it lifted women out from exploitation, live burials, and denial of property rights and granted unbelievable gender parity. Such acts of harassment reflect poorly upon our country, which is an Islamic Republic”, he said.

He emphasised that a strong message should go out to the people of Pakistan that their daughters, sisters, and mothers would be protected in society from harassment so that they could participate in public spaces and in their work without fear, adding that measures should be taken to uphold our religious values and international norms.

The president rejected the stance of one of the accused that the case against him was the result of any conspiracy, concoction or fabrication.

“It is a matter of common sense and even a man of prudent mind cannot think that a lady can ruin her modesty and dignity herself by making false complaints of sexual harassment just to defame a person or colleague”, he said.

He added that the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 had been promulgated for the safety of women who feel insecure at the workplace and to teach a lesson to the transgressors for their acts of harassment or abuse of their financial position.

The president remarked that such acts of sexual harassment were required to be condemned and discouraged, especially in organizations like MEPCO.

“If MEPCO management cannot assure a female employee a safe and secure workplace, she will fear stepping out of her home to make a dignified living”, he said.

He observed that being a victim of such a deplorable act of hacking of mobile data, not only dented the self-esteem of a female employee, but it also usually took a toll on her emotional, mental and physical health.

He further said that it not only created an insecure and hostile working environment for women but also impeded their ability to deliver in today’s competing world and lift their families out of poverty.

The president concluded that hacking/stealing of mobile data of a female employee was not an ordinary but rather a severe offence and it was a well-settled principle of law that punishment should be commensurate with the severity of the offence.

He noted that it stood established that Khizer Hayat, at the instigation of Mian Sohail Afzal, hacked the mobile data of the woman complainant.

He said that the Act provides that “a single incident having the effect of making a person uncomfortable or creating a sense of fear or panic at the workplace is also harassment”, therefore, keeping in view the severity of the offence, the fines of Rs 500,000 and Rs 1 million imposed by FOSPAH upon Khizer and Mian Sohail respectively were enhanced to Rs 1 million and Rs 1.1 million.