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Law Against Sexual Harassment: Dr Fauzia Saeed’s Letter

Lets unite in our action and use the new laws against sexual harassment to bring about a mind shift badly needed. Lets make our society dignified for citizens

Congratulations to all the working women as I am sure their lives will begin to change after our Bill has been signed by the President on the 9th of March 2010. This will be a turning point in our lives and I am sure we will see substantial results within a year. Implementing a law has to be taken seriously by all partners. It is neither a government’s responsibility nor people’s. It is a team work, but I think it is the people who need to take the lead and make sure that all partners including the government play their role. So lets all gear up as this is the time to act. (A framework for implementing the laws is attached)

The Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010 makes it necessary for every organization to adopt a Code of Conduct and form a three-member Committee to address all complaints of sexual harassment. Anyone who finds the perpetrator too senior for the committee to hold accountable could take him to the Office of the Ombudsperson, which will be established soon specifically for this purpose. The PM already announced it on the 8th of March.

Now it is up to us to make sure that it gets implemented. I urge all working women and men who want the work environment to be more civilized and professional to take charge and push their organizations to comply with the Law. I am sure we all can find ways to convince our managements as this is now the law of the land.

Go to and down load the Code of Conduct. The law is difficult for people to understand and it is complicated to extract what exactly should an organization do. Therefore we have prepared the document of the Code in simple language (English and Urdu), which covers everything in the law. The document is ready for organizations to adopt and make a part of their Human Resource policy.
The management has to do four things according to the law:
Adopt the Code of Conduct as a part of the management policy and inform the employees.
Form a three member Committee with at least one woman and one representative of employees and announce the names within the organization
Make the employees aware of the issue and educate them
Ensure that the Code is followed in letter and spirit, in other words, make sure that the Committee is doing its job honestly.

A body is being set up to oversee the implementation process country-wide. This Implementation Watch Group will have representative from the relevant government institutions, civil society, private sector and media. This body will make sure that organizations, government as well as private, take on the above steps, at least the first three within the first month.

Managements can directly download the Code in PDF or WORD format and begin the process. It is better if they register with AASHA and send us information when they have adopted the Code, with the names and contacts of the Committee members. In this way we can keep a record of their information. The managements need to realize that this is now mandatory by law of the land and they have to do it.

There is a simpler Code of Conduct for smaller organizations so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by the more comprehensive Code. This version can also be downloaded from our website in English and Urdu. It fully makes the organization comply with the Law.

For the managements and the employees to be educated and sensitized we need help from civil society organizations and all concerned citizens to pitch in and create awareness so that organizations can fully internalize the process. It is a complete mind shift that we are talking about. A set of values where working women are recognized as citizens availing their right to earn a living and not immoral women who deviate by leaving their homes and now deserve to be teased as they ‘asked for it’. Laws can help set up systems but it is us who would change the mind set. All of us working women can vouch to become braver and begin to put pressure for a dignified environment. Speaking out in groups has more impact and if only one speaks out let us support her and activate the inquiry process and not put her down and let people gossip.

AASHA will set up six legal support centers
only to help complainants with their cases. I urge  other Crisis Centers and legal aid centers to take on this issue if they do not cover it and help women register complaints within organizations and also through the police if necessary. We have to popularize section 509 of the Penal Code. Women should know that this is their section and should feel brave because of it.

We need awareness raising among communities so that we can dispel the myths around this issue. We all have to change the mindset which says that it
is always a woman’s fault, ‘why did she wear fashionable clothes’, ‘why did she go there alone’, ‘what was she doing there in any case’, etc. We have to shift the focus to the in appropriate behaviour of the harassers and move the stigma from the victim to the perpetrator. Sexual harassment is not a natural phenomenon. It is a result of our patriarchal system which allows men to abuse their dominant role in the society to discipline women and humiliate them creating a legitimacy that the women caused it by deviating from the norms in the first place. The myths created by our society reinforce that it was the woman’s fault and provide full protection to the harassing men, thus perpetuating the crime.  This is why even in the parliament those who oppose kept saying that it is women who should dress properly and abide by Islamic dress code, as if it is an involuntary reaction of men and they have no control over their actions. The logic is quite skewed.

We have to commit to undo the following beliefs:

Only young women who are dressed fashionably get harassed
If women are on the right path no one can harass them NOT TRUE
When women say No they mean Yes NOT TRUE
Good women do not get harassed NOT TRUE

Also we need to be sure that women are not only considered sisters, mothers and daughters but should be considered a complete human being, a full citizen, and get acknowledged in all our working roles, doctors, farmers, labourers, writers, police women, actors, parliamentarians etc.

Member organizations of AASHA will be preparing awareness materials, films, brochures to help the managements educate their employees and raise awareness about the legislation in general. We hope that many more groups will join in this caravan and use their tools for awareness and sensitization. Do make sure that your core team members have the two laws and their implementation parameters very clear. Some TV programs have created confusion and they keep mixing up the two laws. The text of both is available at AASHA’s website and we will make sure it is accessible on many other websites also.

While AASHA will work closely with the Government to develop the rules for the Ombudsperson and facilitate setting up the Implementation Watch Group which will strategically ensure the setting up of the mechanism in the organizations through regulatory bodies, we urge all civil society members and concerned citizens to take on their roles and act, because this is the time to do it.

In solidarity,

Fouzia Saeed
Director, Mehergarh
Founding member, AASHA

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Nawaz Sharif: A Statesman or a Compulsive Liar?

It was the afternoon of March 25, 2010. We were waiting for the session convening notification from presidency since the summary requisitioning the Joint session of the parliament had gone to the President at around 11:30 am earlier in the day. Normally it takes only couple of hours that the summary is approved by the President, faxed to the Speaker’s chamber / Secretary to the National Assembly who acts as the presiding officer for the Joint Parliamentary Session.

Why we were waiting for this important fascimile from president’s office was, this joint session had to be a historical one. After more than three decades, the spirit of provincial autonomy and sovereignty of the Parliament had to come back through a parliamentary committee’s recommended Constitutional Reforms Package. This package was to be passed by two third majority of the Houses separately. The reason everyone wa so sure of this much awaited development, to happen on March 25 was that every political player openly expressed its satisfaction over the constitutional package, which so surely appeared as the first ever consensus constitutional amendment document after the 1973 constitution itself.
Continuously in touch my source in the National Assembly, who appeared to be quite bored of my repeated phone calls, I stuck myself to TV Screen and laptop.When finally I contacted Speaker’s chamber directly at around 4:45 pm, for my entrance pass for the historic joint session, I got a rather unexpected answer. The official at the other end of phone line informed me that there’s was no summary for “tomorrow’s joint session” and asked me where did I get the news from, for any such session?

WHAT? Now I was sure there’s something going on in Islamabad, which none of us would be expecting. The summary was moved this morning, and was not only confirmed by our source in PM secretariat, but also couple of senior journalists who cover Parliament since long. We were, unofficially though, confirmed by all these sources that the summary has been faxed to the Presidency at around 11 – 11:30 am. And now Speaker’s Chamber tells us there was no plan for holding the session! What it could be? Despite my repeated attempts to call PML-N mid-level leadership, I could not get them. Confused and disappointed I tried to focus on what I was writing. And heck. There was the ticker going under the newscaster telling that the Session was postponed!

Whatever had happened must be disastrous, I thought. Pakhtunkhwah? But no, only this late morning, an internal meeting of PML-N had unanimously decided to vote for Pakhtunkhwah, according to a private news channel. Then what? The riddle soon was solved by Mian Nawaz Sharif, the Quaid of Muslim League Nawaz who held a press conference at 6 pm only to tell people that his party did not agree with the constitutional amendments the Committee for Constitutional Reforms (CCR) had come up with.

Little did he care for the questions he was evading, that arose from this sudden U-turn. The bizarreness of his pretexts to go back on his own words was so obvious and ugly that one was left wondering about how opportunist Pakistan’s politics had become! Thanks to the frequently coming boots, with the pet food they bring for shortsighted politicians, who are now completely unable to think beyond their petty personal interest.

What I did not understand from Mian sahib’s long face and sore argument, is not one point. Its a whole host of factors that come in.

ONE: He said he and his party did not agree with the constitutional reforms package in toto. The question arises, why couldn’t he and his party members tell this simple fact to the media and the Committee itself? They had consented in letter and spirit less than twenty hours ago and even till 11 am on the day of the press conference. Its a matter of common sense that the Prime Minister had not moved the session requisition summary to the President for the joint session, without taking into confidence biggest opposition party!

TWO: Mian sahib totally evaded the question on the name of Pakhtunkhwah and tilted the controversy towards the mechanism of Judges’ appointment issue. His own party members had on record told the media hours earlier, that the CCR had reached the consensus on Judges’ appointment issue.

THREE: Throughout the day on March 25, prior to the press conference, Islamabad’s offices were echoing with different kinds of news about the internal meeting of PML-N discussing the name of Pakhtunkhwah. There was absolutely no question about the judicial appointments that came to any discussion anywhere. Does that mean Mina Nawaz Sharif was lying with the people when he said in the Press Conference that the only major disagreement was on judicial appointments?

FOUR: In the Press Conference and after wards, Mian Nawaz Sharif kept saying that “the intent of making this committee was mala fide because we wanted to scrap the 17th amendment and the government linked it to other issues, only to delay”. May I remind Mian sahib that the Terms of Reference for the Committee were finalized with mutual consent, which was sought by the Speaker through Leaders of Opposition in national Assembly and the Senate. Secondly, why Mian sahib always choose to be dishonest with people so blatantly? Total scrap of 17th amendment was never in discussion. In fact, it was quite clear what all the parties unanimously agree to keep / remove from the 17th amendment. This amendment has many usefull clauses on which no sane person can disagree. These include reserved seats for women and minorities and voting age of 18 years among many others.

Mian sahib’s selective amnesia doesn’t even allow him to recall that most of Pakistan’s problems emanate from center’s refusal to grant provinces their rights. When he says that scrap of 17th amendment was simple just because it affects him and only him personally, but the provincial autonomy is too complex to discuss because it has no bearing on his person but has far reaching effects on people?

So, may we deduce that Mian sahib was lying to the people when he said that Committee’s linking with overall constitutional amendment was mala fide?

FIVE: Mian sahib in his landmark press conference (for which historian is never going to be able to forgive him if he doesn’t rectify it by immediate action), also said that he had major disagreement on judicial appointments. He was however, not able to tell, what those differences were, and why he did not voice those differences when he gave a go-ahead to the requisitioning of the Joint Session few hours ago? Was he lying to the nation?

SIX: Mian sahib told the media in the press conference that the government has taken out his party’s recommendations from the final document. He could not specify those recommendations niether could his party members in March 26 meeting of the Committee. Was he again, lying to the nation?

SEVEN: In March 26 meeting of the Committee, the members from other parties took PML-N to task and demanded what their reservations were, and why those reservations were not presented to the COmmittee before making them public through the Press Conference. The PML-N members had no answer. A feeble voice from Ahsan Iqbal told that the reservation was about the name of Pakhtunkhwah. Oh well. But Mian sahib in his press conference said it was due to judges appointment!

Are the people gone nuts or the PML-N and its leadership is insulting people by telling as many lies as they can?

EIGHT: Why PML-N thinks that it can override the decision of people’s representatives from the province under discussion? ANP being the overwhelmingly largest supported party in Pakhtunkhwah, had been able to complete the process of consultation at provincial level and brought the decision of the people of Pakhtunkhwah, to the CCR much earlier than March 25 press conference. What moral grounds Punjab’s PML-N has to defy so shamelessly the wishes of the people of Pakhtunkhwah? Is it because Mian sahib’s son in law comes from the non-Pakhtun area of Pakhtunkhwah? Or is it because Mian sahib’s right hand and prominent member of CCR Sardar Mehtab Abbasi is also against the name Pakhtunkhwah? Is the Royal Son In Law more important than the majority of Pakhtunkwah Province?

Is Mian sahib that entangled in personal politics in addition to being a compulsive liar?

NINE: This biggest achievement of current parliament having come up with a consensus document for constitutional reforms, was to give a huge moral boost to the President who had to address the joint session right after the announcement of the package. Was that the reason of Mian sahib’s sudden change of mind? This further is confirmed by March 26 statements of PML-N party leaders who have been asking for presidential address as soon as possible, in accordance with the constitution which asks for presidential address in the beginning of every parliamentary year. is it smart politics?

Is Mian Sahib still not able to learn from his frictional politics of 1990s?

TEN: Mian sahib had been extremely concerned about the Charter of Democracy and President Zardari’s “going back on his words” and “not keeping promises” – whereas one is at loss on making out the details of what promises Mian sahib has been talking about? If it was Judges’ issue, it was resolved as early as March 2009. What other promises he always rants about?

But keeping it aside for a moment, lets come to the charter of democracy. People would be interested to learn, which clauses of the Charter are not being observed by which party? PML-N has been insisting on the mechanism of judges’ appointment in total departure from not only the charter but from all democratic norms of Parliament’s sovereignty and the constitutional guarantee of the separation of powers. Whose agenda is he serving?

ELEVEN: And last but not the least. Mian Nawaz Sharif was much bothered about the constitutional amendment introduced by Pervez Musharraf, but is not moved an inch on the black laws introduced by General Zia ul Haq, the most ferocious of the dictators of Pakistan whose doings have assisted Musharraf in making of the Pakistan what it is today.

Mian sahib was quite passionate about the 17th amendment, and that too, its clause which deals with the presidential power of dissolving the assemblies and the clause that bars third time premiership. But the 8th amendment never occurred to him as the one introduced by a dictator. Why? Is it because that doesn’t hit him personally but hammers the people at large?

Why Mian Nawaz Sharif is doing such a blatantly personal politics? Painting himself as a pious statesmen? Putting himself at highest moral pedestal to point finger on other leaders of this country?

Is Mian Sahib a statesman or a compulsive liar? Why he should not be altogether shunned by the people?

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