LAHORE - The office of Punjab Ombudsperson has been lying vacant since the retirement of last office bearer Dr Mira Phailbus in February this year.

The office is vacant owning to retirement of former Ombudsperson and former Kinnaird College principal, Dr Mira Phailbus. Dr Phailbus was the first Ombudsperson appointed by the Punjab government in February 2013. Dr Phailbus took notice in cases regarding women harassment and summoned many serving officers including a DMG officer of grade 20.

In a landmark verdict delivered by the Ombudsperson for the Protection of women against Harassment at Workplace, 14 employees of a agriculture department had been punished by their supervisor for their role in harassing a female co-worker. She also censured those women who allege officials but lack evidence. A PU teacher, who registered sexual harassment case against the VC, had alleged that a law literate person be appointed as Ombudsperson instead of Mira Phailbus, who was a Geography expert.

According to informed sources, Punjab government is now considering names of some women for the newly-made constitutional body. The names of daughter-in-law of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Justice (r) Nasira Javed Iqbal and daughter of Faiz Ahamd Faiz, Salima Hashmi who is also former principal of National College of Arts Lahore are under consideration.

Nasira is a lawyer and retired judge of Lahore High Court and has the honour of being the Member of Pakistan's Delegation Human Rights Commission, Geneva, Member Supreme Court Bar Association, Member Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan.

Nasira Javed is also ex president of Lahore High Court Bar Association. As a woman lawyer, Nasira also worked on laws related to the empowerment of women, such as the drafting of a bill against domestic violence in 2008, or a legal framework for women’s right to land. She realises the challenges faced by women in general. “A woman has to work twice as hard as a man to achieve half as much,” she says.

Salima is an artist, actor, writer, curator and a human rights activist. She taught at the National College of Arts, Lahore, for about three decades and was principal of the college for 4 years. She is a painter of international repute whose works have been exhibited in Pakistan and also out of country. She has exhibited her own work, travelled and lectured extensively all over the world, and has curated about a dozen international art shows in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia, Japan and India. In 1999, Salima Hashmi received Pakistan’s Pride of Performance award. At present, she is the Dean of School of Visual and Communication Department at the Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.

The third name under consideration is Prof Dr Bushra Mateen. Prof Mateen had developed Lahore College for Women into a reputed university during her 20-year stint as principal and then the first vice-chancellor of the LCWU. It is to be recalled that any woman of good repute whether an educationist, human rights activist, a retired officer or a judge may be appointed as Ombudsperson by the Provincial government.

The cases of sexual harassment at workplace were Ombudsperson’s mandate and laws were enforced to curb such exploitation. The women workers, employed at homes or offices, facing sexual harassment or any kind of blackmailing may lodge complaints by post or e-mail with the Ombudsperson office.

A senior officer, conditioning anonymity said, it was thought that that the vacant constitutional slot of the Ombudsperson would be duly advertised but it was not done till filing of this report rather government started considering names of reputed women suitable for the post. Lauding various initiatives of the Shahbaz Sharif’s government for empowering women in the province, he said, it would have been better to complete the appointment of Ombudsperson just prior to the retirement of the outgoing Dr Mira Phailbus.

He added that the Women Development Department was established in 2012 under Punjab Women Empowerment Package, Enhancement of Quota for women in public service employment from 5pc to 15pc, 03 years age relaxation for females, mandatory inclusion of one female member in selection committees at all levels for recruitment, one additional chance of transfer for female contractual employees, and women rights in inheritance.