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 Sunday, April 10, 2011
Major scandal hits BISP
ISLAMABAD: The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) has been hit by a unique scandal where one of its top executives has alleged that 100 “forged” appointment letters of assistant directors, complaint assistants and others were issued to favourite candidates.
The BISP chairperson, however, has refuted the allegations and has blamed the officer of having been involved in cases of sexual harassment.
These appointments are reportedly the same about which President Asif Ali Zardari was briefed by BISP chief Farzana Raja at Naudero on April 4. The president, however, did not know that these appointment letters, already issued to the candidates concerned, had become controversial as the officer concerned had refused to own them.
Farzana Raja told The News that the signature on the letters were not forged but were “twisted”, and she had already referred them to forensic experts. The officer concerned, Sindh BISP Director General Akbar Aleem Shamim, on April 6 wrote to his director, secretary/managing director of the BISP in Islamabad and other concerned and insisted that he had not signed what he called the “bogus offer letters”.
Official documents show Shamim termed it a criminal conspiracy and warned the concerned director headquarter, Sindh, Pervaiz Iqbal, of proceeding against him under criminal law.
But the BISP head office in Islamabad, instead of inquiring into the matter, issued an office order on April 8 asking the officer to immediately leave the office.
According to Farzana, the Establishment Division has been approached to initiate an inquiry against the officer on charges of sexual harassment.
Farzana said that the officer was transferred and posted to Karachi from Punjab only a month back after he was accused of sexual harassment there. When probed she said that an inquiry was held, but the officer was forgiven by her secretary in consultation with her (Farzana).
Farzana also confirmed that despite the inquiry of sexual harassment of one of his female employees, she and her secretary gave “outstanding” ACR to the officer and posted him to Karachi.
Shamim, when contacted to explain his position vis a vis BISP chief’s allegations of sexual harassment, said that he knew that he would be dragged in all sorts of scandals after he had refused to own the appointments, which he insisted were made in violation of merit and without any formal approval.
The appointment process, he said, was never completed and even the score sheets of written tests of candidates were not finalized but despite all this the appointment letters were issued to 100 candidates.
About the allegations of sexual harassment, he said the BISP chairperson was trying to harass him and explained that the case of sexual harassment during his stint in Punjab was baseless and was cooked up by the employee whose contract was terminated by him on the recommendation of his director. He asked that if he was not of good character than why did the BISP chairperson appoint him as the head of BISP in Sindh besides judging him as “outstanding” in his ACR.
Farzana Raja, however, admitted that it was a mistake on her part to give an “outstanding” ranking to the officer. She also lamented that she, on the advice of her secretary, forgave the officer in the sexual harassment case of Punjab but urged that there has been no irregularity in the recent appointment of 100 BISP officials in Sindh.
She said that there has been no violation of merit and that the process of recruitment was followed in line with the procedure and in a transparent manner.
Farzana Raja said that her office had also received complaints of sexual harassment against Shamim even from Karachi. She did not have much to say when asked why a sexual harasser was removed from Karachi, given an outstanding report and then made in charge of the BISP, Sindh. She, however, said that the officer had objected to the Sindh appointments only after he got the hint that he was being proceeded against.
She referred to an April 4 explanation sought by her secretary from Shamim. In the said explanation letter, the officer was asked to explain three points: (i) Leaving the station and place of duty at Naudero prematurely and without permission while the president of Pakistan and chairperson were themselves at the venue, discussing issues pertaining to BISP; (ii) making insufficient logistic arrangements for the stay of the chairperson; and (iii) repeated negligent and irresponsible behaviour especially in the wake of an inquiry being already held against him while posted as DG (Punjab).
According to a Sindh BISP source, the chairperson got upset with her DG, Sindh, Shamim, after the latter could not provide official vehicles to Farzana’s husband to his satisfaction in the same tour of Karachi and Naudero.
To the above three points, Shamim gave a written response to the BISP secretary and narrated the complete tale of his engagement in Naudero to conclude that no breach of discipline or decorum was committed by him. On the second point, he said that the all logistic arrangement made for the chairperson were in place. He says, in his response, that he had even asked the chairperson that if her stay was comfortable to which she had replied in affirmative.
Regarding the Punjab probe, he wrote that to the best of his knowledge no inquiry was pending with the BISP, Islamabad, except for what he called “ill-motivated” probe, launched against him and conducted by a junior officer on contract in the matter of his termination of two undesirable complaint assistants. He reminded the secretary that in his meeting with the chairperson in the secretary’s presence in Oct 2010 his services as DG, Punjab, were lauded, and he was given an outstanding ACR for the year ending December 2010.
On April 6 Shamim wrote to his Director HQ, Sindh, and also marked the copies of the same letter to the BISP secretary and other concerned in Islamabad, to highlight the issue of bogus offer letters to 100 appointees in Sindh. The letter, whose subject was “Explanation—issuance of Bogus Offer Letters of 25 Assistant Directors, 25 Assistant Complaints, 25 Naib Qasids and 25 Chowkidars”, also contained the list of all those appointed through the alleged bogus offer letters.
He conveyed through the same letter that he had come to the knowledge that these appointments were made in his name and bearing purportedly his signatures, which he wholly disowned.
He said that as the issue was being dealt by Director Pervaiz Iqbal, so he was constrained to believe that the forged offer letters were issued by Iqbal, which amounts to criminal conspiracy.
In the same letter, he added, “I am fully aware that the Selection Committee under the chairmanship of Dr Muhammad Sarwar Khan, Director General (Administration), has yet to finalize the selection and put up the formal minutes after signatures of all concerned, to the worthy secretary, BISP, and chairperson, BISP, for their formal approval.”
Believing that the recruitment process has not yet completed, he asked his director HQ Pervaiz Iqbal to explain in writing his position as to who had signed the 100 call letters on his behalf. He also wrote: “I have further been informed through reliable source that you are calling the directors to Karachi without my permission and obtaining their signatures on the minutes of meeting as it happened on 05.04.2011 in my absence. And further to seek your explanation as to why not criminal charges be pressed against you in this regard, your reply is desired immediately so as to reach the undersigned by 07.04.2011 positively.”
Instead of getting a response to the explanation, Shamim had sought, he got an office order from BISP, Islamabad headquarters, under the signature of Director HR Ms Farhana Bashir, conveying to him: “With the approval of the competent authority, it has been decided that Akbar Aleem Shamim shall cease to hold the office of director general (Inspection and Training) as well as the additional charge of director general, Sindh, with immediate effect.”
Without any wastage of time, the Establishment Division has also been approached to issue a charge sheet against the officer on the basis of statements, which the BISP has promised to provide to the ED sooner than later.