Islamabad Club’s management committee member Sikandar Ismail was found guilty of harassing a female club employee by Federal Ombudsman Kashmala Tariq, who in her decision sentenced him to a fine of Rs1 million along with permanent disbarment from holding any position within the club.
Ismail’s club membership has also been suspended for six months and he was ordered to pay half of the fine (Rs0.5 million) to the victim, Seemi Abbas, who had accused the “powerful member” of the club’s management committee of sexually harassing her.
Abbas, who had joined as an assistant manager at a servicing section of the members only club in 2015 had claimed that she had been immediately fired after she refused to obey the “immoral” orders of the club’s committee member.
The controversy came to light in October 2017 when Abbas wrote a letter to the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) alleging that the accused used to summon her to his office only to discuss unofficial matters, including her “personal life”.
Her letter said that Ismail, retired civil servant, “would make me sit in his office for hours, showing photos and narrating stories of his youth. I felt insecure in his office.”
A a statement issued by the federal ombudsman’s office while detailing the case stated that on September 21, 2017, Ismail detained the employee in his office for an hour and a half where he reportedly tried to entice sexual favours from her in exchange for extending her contract, due to expire soon, by using his position.
However, when the employee failed to comply with his demands Ismail, who was also the convener of the human resource and disciplinary committees of the club, initiated disciplinary proceedings against her, which prompted her to take action against him.
Meanwhile, a source close to the development revealed that Abbas had to face immense hurdles in getting justice as power and influence were used to suppress her case at every stage.
The National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR), with whom a complaint was first filed against the harasser, could not pursue her case. Later, when the complaint was filed with CADD, her plea was heard and an inquiry was conducted but the results were never shared with her.
“Afterwards, the Islamabad Club formed its own inquiry committee which was biased and in violation of the law. The committee had concluded its inquiry in favour of Ismail, which was set-aside by this office,” the statement from the ombudsman’s secretariat added.
Later, she approached the federal ombudsmen secretariat and filed a plea under the harassment at the workplace law. After thorough investigations, the decision was announced.
The ombudsman also ordered Islamabad Club to pay a fine of Rs0.1 million “for not having a duly constituted inquiry committee under the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010”.