Contrary to official claims, the new auditor-general of Pakistan, Akhtar Buland Rana, was not cleared of sexual harassment charges by an internal inquiry conducted by the Controller Military Accounts (Defense Purchase).
While President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani have claimed that Rana is innocent, the inquiry report, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, recommended that disciplinary action be taken against Rana for harassing FS*, who was serving as the Controller Military Accounts (CMA) Karachi.
The inquiry was held in 2008 and 35 officers supported FS’ claims of harassment. Rana reportedly swore on the Holy Quran that “FS was like a daughter to him”. However, the report is damning, with extensive eyewitness accounts and statements offering proof of Rana’s inappropriate behaviour towards FS.
FS alleged that Rana, who was then serving as Chief Controller Military Accounts (CCMA), had harassed her and behaved in an obnoxious manner over a period of time, including on his visits to Karachi. Rana had told FS on the phone that he was “sensing a cold attitude” by her towards him which he was not happy with. When in Karachi, he asked her to join him on a trip to the Pano Aqil cantonment, not on an official visit, but where he was going to “relax”.
FS also noted during the inquiry that none of her peers had been asked to accompany on trips to “relax” and he had singled her out.
In her statement, she alleged that Rana did not accept her refusal. “He kept on pursuing and that too in a very aggressive and threatening manner and kept on insisting that I should accompany him to Pano Aqil and used obnoxious language”.
FS had already reported his behaviour to her superiors by then. She sent a junior officer to accompany Rana to the cantonment. However, on Rana’s next visit to Karachi “he asked [her] to come to his guest house, where he was staying, for dinner”.
Report confirms harassment
Other officers testified to Rana’s inappropriate behaviour towards FS, adding that he was rude to her, cut her off during meetings and behaved in a manner that did not befit his position. Rana reportedly said that FS should ‘behave nicely with seniors’, commented on how she was single and he was away from his family and complained that she didn’t pay any attention to him.
The report states: “The incessant sexual cues, hints and innuendos stated to have been experienced by Ms FS, culminating in (Rana’s) cavalier insistence to give him company in the field trip to Pano Aqil Cantt to relax (of all the places there is hardly any thrill of relaxation and recreation in this military post) broke the camel’s back in long ordeal of insinuations. All direct and circumstantial evidence indicates that the lady officer, Ms FS CMA Karachi has been harassed by Mr Muhammad Buland Akhtar Rana, former CCMA.”
The report also reveals comments made by Rana, including allegations that the military turns its “black money to white” and does not follow correct audit procedures.
While the Chief Justice of Pakistan had sent President Zardari a letter questioning the allegations against Rana, the president replied stating that Rana was acquitted in a harassment case. PM Gilani has also openly defended Rana.
A government press release quoted a spokesperson as saying that Rana “was the senior most officer of Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service in BPS-22 and was serving as the Additional Auditor General Pakistan before his present appointment which reflected his competence and requisite experience so important for holding the constitutional position.”
Rana was promoted to grade 22 shortly before his appointment as auditor general.
Rana was reportedly cleared by a second inquiry on the grounds that he had sworn an oath on the Quran, FS had made a verbal complaint initially and that the inquiry did not mention “sexual harassment” but just “harassment”.
“This is a very questionable appointment,” says analyst Ayesha Siddiqa, who has worked in the military accountant general’s office.
According to Siddiqa, an AGP has to point fingers at other groups and organisations, but given the numerous allegations, Rana does not have the moral standing to do his job. Siddiqa believes that if the government had to appoint Rana, it should have set up a neutral higher commission to investigate the charges. *Name has been hidden to protect the individual’s privacy
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2011.