By MALIK ASAD
ISLAMABAD: The committee probing a sexual harassment case against the incumbent director of current affairs at Pakistan Television (PTV) has failed to finalise its inquiry report within the prescribed time period.
An inquiry committee, consisting of officials from PTV and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, initiated proceedings against Director Current Affairs Agha Masood Shorish on a complaint filed by two anchorpersons, Tanzeela Mazhar and Yashfeen Jamal, in November last year.
Under Section 4(4) of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010: “The inquiry committee shall submit its findings and recommendations to the competent authority within 30 days of the initiation of inquiry.”
According to this timeline, the inquiry committee should have submitted the report by the end of December or early January.
PTV Controller (Current Affairs) Habibur Rehman issued the notification barring both anchorpersons from PTV premises. But the state broadcaster’s general manager said that the controller was not authorised to issue such notifications, since this was the domain of the administration department. Therefore, this notification does not have any legal standing and there is no ban on the anchorpersons, he maintained.
However, Ms Mazhar told Dawn that she was scheduled to host a show on Friday, but someone from PTV conveyed to her that the programme had been cancelled. “It shows that the ban is still in effect,” she claimed.
PTV authorities seem undecided in the matter; PTV Director (Administration and Personnel) Abdul Rashid banned the entry of Mr Shorish on Dec 9 after the inquiry was initiated, but later withdrew the notification a few hours later.
A senior PTV producer told Dawn that three key figures, including a federal minister, wanted Mr Shorish to get a “clean chit”, adding that the accused director had offered to resign if he was “bailed out”.
He said that the inquiry report had been amended at least six times to make it favourable to Mr Shorish, which was why it had not been finalised in time.
Members of South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) – a regional forum for women working in the media industry – have also demanded a fresh inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations.
It criticised the PTV management for “favouring” Mr Shorish and demanded that the current inquiry committee be dissolved and replaced with an external inquiry committee, which must include representatives from the National Commission on the Status of Women and the National Commission for Human Rights.
When asked for comment, Mr Shorish said that he was on leave and did not know who had banned the anchorpersons, or how the inquiry committee was proceeding with the case.
Regarding the delay in the submission of the inquiry report, he claimed that he too wanted the report to be submitted as soon as possible, since it would bring the facts on the record.
Mr Shorish attained the age of superannuation in 2014 and is currently facing litigation in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for holding the post of director current affairs after crossing the 60-year threshold. The petition has been pending adjudication for about two years now.