Islamabad bank harassment case: Mazari says employee fired, arrested

ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari on Sunday confirmed that an employee of a top Pakistani bank caught harassing a woman on video has been arrested and “issued letter of dismissal”.

Mazari’s tweet came a few hours after a video went viral on social media wherein a man, identified as Usman Gohar and likely in his mid-30s, was caught on video sexually harassing a woman, groping her as she stood by his desk, and then taking his seat as if nothing happened.

Noting that the deputy commissioner of Islamabad, Muhammed Hamza Shafqaat, informed her of the bank employee’s arrest, the minister lauded the federal capital’s authorities, including the administration and the police, for “quick action”.

Shireen Mazari also shared a picture of the man, with his face blurred and posing alongside a police officer after his arrest.

Prior to the federal minister’s post, DC Shafqaat had said Usman Gohar “cannot be hired by any other bank” as per the regulations of the State Bank of Pakistan.

“Police raided his house. The culprit has turned his cell off and his hiding for the last 3 hours. One special team is searching for him,” he had added.

Following the arrest, the deputy inspector-general (DIG) of police for operations had noted that “further legal action [was] being taken”.

Faysal Bank, too, issued a statement, saying Usman Gohar “has been terminated effective immediately” but stressed that though an employee, he was not a branch manager.

“Faysal Bank strongly condemns such individual act of unprofessional behavior and #workplaceharassment by an employee, which is contrary to the strong value system, ethical standards and professional work environment being maintained by the Bank for all its employees,” it said.

Workplace harassment

Earlier, on Saturday, a video had gone viral on the Internet showing the incident of sexual harassment; it was viewed tens of thousands of times on Twitter.

Workplace harassment is quite common in Pakistan despite the government introducing the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, with the aim to “create a safe working environment for women, which is free from harassment, abuse and intimidation to facilitate their right to work with dignity”.

While the law “is not only restricted to workplaces [and] is applicable to all public spheres”, it has been criticised for being futile in informal sectors, such as entertainment, where a relationship between an employer and an employee is not defined or inked into a contract.

A UN Women blog post published in August 2020 stated that the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010, some “236 inquiry committees have been notified in different government departments” across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Many women who face sexual harassment choose not to come forward due to fear of their families’ reputation being tarnished or losing their jobs, with those hailing from lower socioeconomic background even less likely to report such incidents.

According to a research carried out by Pakistan’s first anti-harassment awareness campaign, Stop Harassment Now, a whopping 96% of women said they or their colleagues faced some form of sexual harassment at workplaces.

Social media reaction

Social media users also joined in the conversation on sexual harassment, offering various insights and sharing their own experiences as well.

“A man’s non-consensual touch suddenly makes you feel powerless & small,” shared one user.

Another said this likely pointed to “an identified pattern” if a video was being recorded and needed “to be put an end to”.

“Is someone going to take an action or not,” asked another.

And some others, following Shafqaat’s request to take down the video, spoke of the hypocrisy among certain people in campaigning to take down videos of alleged sexual harassers and seemingly no action when women’s compromising videos went viral.