Lok Virsa ED sits on employees’ pension

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Dr Fauzia denies allegations, says Information Ministry responsible for ‘unfortunate’ state of affairs

Human rights activist and National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) Executive Director Dr Fauzia Saeed has been accused of withholding the pensions of over 50 former employees on the pretext of “scarcity of funds”. The yearly bonuses for the employees, who worked for the ten-day Lok Festival, have also been withheld under the same pretext.

According to documents available with Pakistan Today, Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage has cancelled the 20 percent special allowance for Lok Virsa employees. Shortly thereafter, these directives were cancelled on the order of Islamabad High Court.

Lok Virsa officials, on anonymity, told Pakistan Today that Dr Fouzia had advised the ministry to cancel the bonuses. They said that she had also been vying for a cut in the number of employees at the institute.

Furthermore, she has “tacitly discouraged” the old employees from withdrawing their pensions.

A case in point is Sadiq Bibi’s, the widow of a former carpenter at Lok Virsa who died of protracted illness after failing to get her husband’s pension for medical aid.

Sadiq Bibi’s nephew told Pakistan Today that the widow was laid to rest only after the neighbours lent her family some money. He further added that Sadiq spent a lot of time trying to collect her husband’s pension.

Another Lok Virsa employee told Pakistan Today that from the onset of her directorship at the institution, Dr Fauzia considered the pensioners a “burden” and the contract employees “worthless”, adding that “she intends to sack all of them”.

However, Dr Fauzia has granted contracts to more than half a dozen people on higher posts in media, account and designing branches, he said, adding that these recruits at the institute enjoy all kinds of perks and privileges.

According to Lok Virsa officials, there are also rumours that privatisation of Lok Virsa is in the pipeline. They said that Dr Fauzia wanted to fire all the old employees and bring new ones. They added that she has hired private guards for her security despite the institute having its own security guards.

Replying to the allegations, Dr Fouzia denied that she had been withholding anyone’s pension, allowance or bonus. She said that it was the ministry which was responsible for the “entire unfortunate episode”.

According to her, when she took charge, the institution was under a deficit of Rs 0.7 million, in addition to pension liabilities. She added that most of contract recruitment was made illegally as employees were Naib Qasid. She further added that the contract employees will be fired in the near future and the vacant seats will be filled through “proper channels”.