By: IFTIKHAR A. KHAN
ISLAMABAD: A Senate body on Thursday agreed in principle to enlarge the scope of the law against harassment of women at workplace to educational institutions.
The amendment in the law has been proposed at a time when the incidents of harassment of girl students appear to be on the rise. A number of such cases have surfaced in the recent days in Quaid-i-Azam University, Allama Iqbal Open University and International Islamic University.
No one facing such accusations could be taken to task due to an apparent flaw in the law as in its present form is not relevant for the educational institutions.
The issue was raised during a meeting of the Senate’s standing committee on law and justice by Senator Farhatullah Babar of PPP.
He pointed out that the allegation of harassment by a girl student of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad against a senior official of the university was proven to be true and the relevant officer was suspended, but was restored after the law ministry declared the law was not applicable on educational institutions.
He said the girl had proved her accusation. He was of the view that the law must be amended to enlarge its scope to the educational institutions. “This will send a positive message to the nation,” he remarked.
The chairman of the committee, Kazim Khan, also pointed out some deficiencies in the law. He said there were a number of ways the women could be harassed, but observed that some did not find a mention in the law. He was amongst those who called for amending the law.
Senator Raja Mohammad Zafarul Haq also underscored the need of enlarging the scope of the law besides recommending change in its title. Senator Ahmad Hasan said the incidents of girl students’ harassment were on the rise and practical steps must be taken to check the trend. Senator Saifullah Magsi noted that the girl students must be provided with a legal forum to address their complaints against harassment.
Senators Mian Raza Rabbani, Jaffar Iqbal and Muzaffar Shah also endorsed the idea of amending the law. Further discussion on the amendment aimed at making the law more efficient was deferred.
The committee also deferred discussion on the bill regarding representation of laborers in the national and provincial assemblies.
The Senate body also deferred discussion on a bill suggesting amendment in the law barring dual nationals from becoming judges and government servants.
Speaking on the proposed bill Senator Sughra Imam said official secrets and national security could not be considered to be safe at the hands of the officers holding nationality of another country. She said those who take oath of American allegiance also pledge to take up arms for the country. She said the bar should not be limited only for the lawmakers and must uniformly apply to all important office holders.
Discussion on the bill was deferred on the request of Mian Raza Rabbani, who pleaded to make the bill more efficient.
The committee declared as ineffective the accountability amendment bill and deferred discussion on electoral reforms. The committee decided to seek views of the sitting and former presidents of bar councils and Supreme Court Bar Association.