ISLAMABAD   -  In the first case under the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Act 2020, the Islamabad administration retrieved a house from land grabbers and handed it to its legal female heir, who is an old widow.

The religion of Islam ensured woman’s right to property about 1400 years ago but it is generally denied in Pakistan. However, the new law is a landmark development towards women empowerment as it will enable them to get their rightful inheritance and claims to property and real estate.

Despite the fact our religion and constitution guarantee a woman’s right to property/inheritance, a number of women can be witnessed being deprived of fundamental rights because they are either not strong enough or they are unaware of their rights in the matter.

However, under the new law, the federal government has also given the authority of deciding the cases related to inheritance of women to the federal ombudswoman for protection against harassment of women at the workplace that has started giving relief to women.   

Under the directions issued by Federal Ombudswoman Kashmala Tariq, the district administration retrieved the possession of a house from illegal occupants and handed it over to its legitimate owner, who is the widow of a Pakistani from Egypt.

This announcement was made by Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Muhammad Hamza Shafqat on his twitter handle by posting a video of an old woman, who can be seen lauding the efforts of the federal ombudswoman and administration for giving her back the possession of the house.

The district administration acted upon a decision taken by the federal ombudswoman in this regard under the Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Act 2020.

A woman named Eiman Gharib Muhammad Elbehiry filed a petition under the newly enacted law and pleaded that her husband Muhammad Saleem Qadari died in August 2016, who was the owner of a house at EMAAR DHA, Islamabad.

The lady informed the office of the federal ombudswoman that she also took the legal heirship certificate in 2019 from a civil court of Islamabad while she also obtained a no objection certificate (NOC) from the EMAAR administration through court by clearing all dues.

However, she alleged that her property was illegally occupied by two individuals and requested for the vacation of the said house.

The federal ombudswoman sent the instant case to the DC Islamabad and asked to conduct an inquiry and report back. The respondents who were illegally occupying the said house were also called by the federal ombudswoman and heard their objections.

After reviewing the report submitted by the DC Islamabad and hearing both the parties, the federal ombudswoman declared that it is crystal clear that the respondents were trying to grab the property of the old lady, who is suffering from cancer diseases.

It is pertinent to mention here that one of the respondents agreed with the complainant and surrendered the possession while the federal ombudswoman ordered the district administration to get the possession from another illegal occupant by using all legal means.

The federal ombudswoman also directed to recover an amount of 6 lakh rupees from the illegal occupant as a loss of six-month rent in addition to Rs540,000 as a difference of market value rent which the illegal occupant did not pay.

It was also directed to submit a compliance report in this regard after execution of the order to the district administration by the federal ombudswoman. Resultantly, the possession of the house was taken back from the illegal occupants and handed it over to the lady on Friday last.  

When contacted, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Muhammad Hamza Shafqat said that the quick action is just because of the new law under which the federal ombudswoman decided the matter instantly. 

“Usually it takes years to get back the possession through courts while the administration is not allowed to get involved in such matter”, he said adding: “However, we acted upon the directions of the federal ombudswoman according to Enforcement of Women’s Property Rights Act 2020 and retrieves the possession within days. 

The new act allows a woman, who is deprived of ownership or possession of her property by any means, can file a complaint to the Ombudswoman, if no proceedings in a court of law are pending regarding that property. 

In case the woman, deprived of her property, is unable to do so, any person or an NGO may initiate action on her behalf. The Ombudswoman, after preliminary assessment, will direct the matter to the concerned Deputy Commissioner.  

The Deputy Commissioner will conduct an inquiry and submit a report to the Ombudswoman within 15 days following which; the Ombudswoman may call for further record or submission of objections by the complainant and her adversaries. The Ombudswoman will pass the orders, preferably within 60 days of receipt of the complaint.

Role of the Ombudswoman will not end after passing the orders but the Act empowers it to ensure implementation of the orders by directing the police and district administration officials to restore possession and title of the property to the complainant. 

Meanwhile, no court or authority can question the validity of the action taken, or grant a stay or interim order after orders by the Ombudswoman have been passed.