PTV Staffer Fired For Accusing Boss Nauman Niaz Of Harassment Awaits Justice
Ikram el Hak writes about the case of a PTV staffer who was fired for accusing her bosses of harassment. The victim continues to fight her case in the courts with little success because she cannot afford to hire good lawyers due to her unemployment. No one in the media industry has tried to help her, perhaps because she is not connected with the right people.
In the summer of 2016, I received a screen grab of tweets by Pakistan Television (PTV)’s Islamabad-based female camera operator Nadia Aziz. She was urging Maryam Nawaz to take action against her alleged harasser, PTV Sports director Noman Niaz.
She accused controller PTV Sports Osama Azhar of the same and said they both were in this together.
PTV Sports has been under backlash for substandard production of domestic cricket matches but sexual harassment allegations were unheard of until 2016. However, just because it was unheard of does not mean it didn’t happen. Sexual harassment at PTV is not a new phenomenon as such stories keep surfacing from time to time – with little or no action against the accused.
Two PTV hosts Tanzeela Mazhar and Yashfeen Jamal were also fired for leveling similar allegations against their director current affairs. Nadia lodged her complaint in the office of Federal Ombudsperson for women harassment, Justice (retd) Yasmin Abbasi.
On October 17, 2017, six PTV officers were indicted with two year ban on their promotions while the judge slapped a fine of 1 lac and ordered immediate restoration of Nadia to her post. This news was published in one of the country’s leading newspapers, Express News the next day, but the report did not name the prime accused Dr Noman.
Nevertheless, Yasmin Abbasi observed that Nadia took her complaint to PTV officials where she suffered further harassment, the paper reported. According to Nadia Aziz the Justice ordered a thorough investigation against Dr Noman as well but the accused decided to move women harassment cell at the Presidency.
Ombudsperson there set aside the decision, suspending the penalties imposed by Justice Yasmin Abbasi and to add to Nadia’s miseries, her restoration orders were also suspended.
Nadia felt victimized by the decision and alleged that she wasn’t properly heard. She moved the Islamabad High Court against the ombudsperson’s decision.
Her case is still sub-judice so I will avoid speculation, but the reality is that she is fighting her case on her own, with no lawyer to represent her. She is facing financial problems as she has been unemployed for three years.
We saw actors and activists rightly lending support to Meesha Shafi in the wake of her allegations of sexual harassment against fellow singer Ali Zafar. But why does the society not stand up for victims who come from a relatively humble background and are not privileged enough to hire good lawyers?
The women coming from a privileged class are mostly strong enough to handle such a situation on their own without much support. And in case the victim of sexual harassment is famous like Meesha, an army of supporters stand behind them. Those who have a fan following do get at least some support after they go public with harassment allegations, and this helps them overcome the crisis.
But the women like Nadia who are in desperate need of such support are left unattended. It is not known as to what the outcome of Nadia case will be, but at least we can impart her the requisite psychological and moral help in order to help her stay strong and continue fighting till she gets justice. Abandoning women from lower classes means we have decided to shut the door on women empowerment for that section of the society. Lower classes are usually hostile towards the concept of feminism, and if we don’t help women from that section, it would only strengthen their misconceptions about feminism.
Nadia Aziz has quite a story to tell about her ordeal at PTV. She says she didn’t just suffer humiliation but also massive financial losses due to a never-ending process of perusing her case in the courts. She could scarcely afford the legal help that she needed.
There are few women who have the capacity to take such long and hazardous route in pursuit of justice and fight for an environment free of exploitation. Most give up due to the inefficiency of the system that is supposed to serve them justice.
Sexual harassment has become a pandemic disease in our society with very little cure available. Without women participation in every sphere of life, no country can make any tangible progress in the contemporary age of cut-throat competition. And if working women are not offered equal opportunities and secured environment, the dream of women empowerment will not see the light of the day.