IHC rejects plea of female candidate for Hajj DG slot

Court rules that no gender discrimination took place during appointment

Our Correspondent February 19, 2023
Photo: File


The Islamabad High Court on Saturday dismissed the plea of a woman, Saima Sabah -- a BS-20 officer of Pakistan Audit and Accounts Service -- against the religious affairs ministry, ruling that the decision to not appoint her the Hajj director general had nothing to do with her gender.

A two-judge bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz, also observed that there was no recording on an official level during the petitioner’s interview with Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Minister Mufti Abdul Shakoor for the post.

The court observed that the conversation between her and the minister was recorded by the petitioner herself -- an act that was neither appropriate, nor could be relied upon as evidence.

The IHC bench had already reserved its verdict. The court also dismissed the intra-court appeal filed by Sabah against the judgment announced by Justice  Babar Sattar, who had rejected her plea as well.

The ministry was represented by lawyer Hafiz Ahsaan Khokhar.

The National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR) recently claimed that the ministry of religious affairs had rejected a candidate for the slot of the Hajj director general, allegedly because she was a female.

Expressing “serious concerns”, the NCHR noted that the eligibility criteria for the position of Hajj director general did not exclude women.

In a tweet, the commission pointed out that Sabah was the highest-scoring candidate for the position by obtaining 71 marks.

It added that there was a precedent of a woman serving as Saudi Arabia’s Hajj director general for 19 months.

“Why should Pakistan impose restrictions on the best qualified candidate Saima Sabah just because she is a woman?” it questioned.

The commission further tweeted that while the Saudis were encouraging women to manage Hajj pilgrims, the country’s religious affairs ministry was “rejecting qualified candidates on basis of gender”.

An audio clip of the interview, allegedly between the minister and Sabah, had surfaced on social media, in which a man believed to be Shakoor was telling a woman, purportedly the candidate, that Hajj was completely dependent on its director general and if the appearance as well as personality of the person holding that post was not according to the Sunnah, what message would it give (the Muslim world) about Pakistan’s mission.

To this, the woman could be heard saying that she and her father were both Muslims.

The voice of the man believed to be that of the minister replied that he was talking about her and covering the head with a scarf was compulsory for a woman in Islam.

The woman replied that she agreed with him but would use a dupatta to cover her head when necessary.

The man then asked the woman if she comprehended the importance of hijab and the consequences of her choice of not wearing one.

“What impression would it give to countries around the world?” he asked.

Later, in a statement issued on his Twitter account, the minister claimed that he could not even think of committing gender discrimination while occupying a constitutional office.

He added that an informal talk after the interview was edited and presented in the audio clip.


Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ