President upholds dismissal from service, penalty of two Commissionerate Afghan Refugees officials

ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (APP): President Dr Arif Alvi has upheld the penalty of “dismissal from service” and a fine of Rs 500,000 each to the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) and Project Director (PD) of the Commissionerate Afghan Refugees, Peshawar after the charges of committing sexual harassment against two female colleagues were proved against them.

While rejecting the representation of the two accused officials against the decision of the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (FOSPAH), the president said that such individuals not only tarnished the image of their agency but their country as well.

In his decision, the president wrote that such incidents were among the major reasons for women feeling reluctant to work as their public space was limited and they were not safe as such individuals harassed them in the workplace, besides using their authority for coercion, President Secretariat Press Wing said in a press release on Saturday.

He further said that it was the duty of the state to stamp down such incidents while also keeping in mind that only a few of the cases of sexual harassment were reported.

He also rejected the stance of the accused officials that the female employees had levelled the charges of sexual harassment against them due to previous enmity, grudge and animosity, saying that it was not convincing to believe that the female complainants could have filed such complaints against their male colleagues after putting their dignity and reputation at risk.

“No lady takes the risk of filing false complaints of sexual harassment against a male colleague in the organization as such a complaint in essence is detrimental to her own modesty, integrity and reputation”, he added.

As per details, two female officials of the Commissionerate Afghan Refugees, Peshawar had jointly filed a harassment complaint under section 8 of the Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 before FOSPAH alleging acts of sexual harassment by the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) and Project Director (PD) of the said department.

They had alleged that CFO had wanted one of them to come to her office alone so that he could take care of her in response to her cooperation.

She also narrated some instances of the past with brief mention of witnesses.

The other female employee had alleged that she was harassed sexually, mentally and also on sectarian basis by the PD.

She alleged that these powerful persons became revengeful if their illegal and immoral orders were not obeyed and had also terminated one of them from service on the pretext of non-availability of funds.

FOSPAH had granted the two officials the penalty of dismissal from service along with Rs 500,000 fine to each official.

The two accused had filed a representation against this decision of FOSPAH, which was rejected by the president after perusing the entire matter and the evidence available on record against the two officials.

The president, in his decision, observed that the two accused had not assailed the veracity of the stance of complainants by not cross-examining them and it strongly supported the charges of the complainants against the accused.

He further noted that the two ladies had not accused any other official of the organization except the CFO and PD with specific allegations and instances which were supported by evidence brought on record.

The president held that the FOSPAH, by taking into consideration the full account of the material on record, had come to the conclusion that the accused had been in dominant position to misuse their authority to exploit comparatively weaker and junior lady complainants and according imposed the major penalty, that was well supported by the evidence on record and legally justified.

He concluded that no interference was warranted in the original order of FOSPAH, which was well reasoned and passed after careful appraisal of evidence available on record.