Free of cost justice for overseas Pakistanis?

By Muhammad Javed

YOUNIS, MIR AKBAR DIED, YOU AND ME ARE IN LINE – THIS OLD MAN APOLOGIES FOR NOT HELPING YOU
A large size prominent advertisement has appeared on 27 November 2017 titled “Free of Cost Justice” from the Federal Insurance Ombudsman.  It reads “in case you are facing any complain in redressal of your grievance, register your complaint”.

 

  1. If the memories of this 70 plus 75% blind are not bent upon failing him, it is about 7 years, a middle aged Pakistani illiterate labourer Mohammad Younis met with an industrial accident in Bahrain.  We have still village generation who while going out keep on their shoulders a large size handkerchief or a piece of cloth used for multipurpose use.  My grandfather even a day before his death had it on his shoulder. Mohammad Younis had rounded it around his neck.  It came in the grip of the moving industrial machine pulling his neck forward.  In short, his throat and fingers were slashed.  In a very critical condition, he was taken to the biggest hospital. Two immediate operations and top level medical attention, as the incident sparked a fire in the local press, saved his life.  His throat was stitched narrowing his breathing-food pipeline for ever.  For long, he laid motionless face up on the ground unable even to take liquid food. On worsening of his condition due to hunger, every third day he was taken to the Emergency for food through injections and drips.  He did not get any type of help whatsoever from the Pakistan Embassy.  He lived in Bahrain, as is usual with such class, in a premises shared by 2-3 dozen “bachelors”.  Three four times I went to see this stranger and found him lying in a corner on the floor.  In his room, there lived 5 or 6 others from his native area.  These poor roommates as far they could, took good care of this sick man.  Exactly I don’t know if one was really a relative or as traditionally we introduce our accompanying companions “brothers”, one of these 5-6, signed a statement to the Pakistan Embassy that the Embassy had extended all possible help and that no financial assistance was needed (by the injured and his taking care relative).  The only help came was that after the front page cover up of the incident, a representative of the Embassy briefly visited the patient in the hospital.  No practical whatsoever help was given.  I asked this signing-relative why did he signed despite knowing well the injured had received nothing from the Embassy.  His reply was “sir, we have to work here and one day to go to Pakistan”.

 

  1. Under Bahrain law, the injured was to get social security insurance compensation as well as legal compensation from the employer.  The injured, his so called relative and others living with him were all semi literate labourers not aware about procedural things.   As such the community welfare officer of the Embassy needed either directly completed all such formalities or under his own guidance got completed from the injured/his relative.  No such a thing was done.  As soon as the injured was able to sit, one night the company took him without any advance information to the airport and put him in the plane.  The employer, as I learnt later, was a Pakistani, hence perhaps was the reason no case was “got” registered against him and likewise no registration of social security claim.

 

  1. Every Pakistani before going abroad on employment, pays two huge amounts.  One is for membership of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation on the premise that OPF looks after its Pakistanis. The second huge amount is payment to the Protector of Immigrants Islamabad on the premise that he provided protection at foreign soil to the Pakistanis working.  In practice, one pays this heavy amount, gets a stamp from the so called Protector on his passport and thereafter during his stay abroad he never has any touch whatsoever with the so called Protector.  So what type of protection the Protector provides no one knows.  One often reads in print, listens on the talk shows, in news about SC asking questions about Overseas Pakistanis suffering abroad but never hears about any “practical protection” provided to any suffering Pakistani. This senior citizen might still have somewhere in his old papers a copy of an old letter to him from the Protector saying that “after once issuing the clearance, we have no role with the Pakistani concerned working abroad”.

 

  1. A third compulsory payment a Pakistani going abroad makes is buying a State Life Immigrants Policy.  This Insurance Policy promises Rs. 2 lacs in case of death of the insured Overseas Pakistani or part payment in case of disability.  This limit today perhaps is Rs. 3 lacs.  The State Life was informed of the accident as well as about the injuries of the victim with Bahrain Government Hospital papers.  No response was received.

 

  1. Since the injured was an illiterate, out of humanitarian feelings, I wrote to the Federal Insurance describing about this injured with reference to his “State Life” Overseas Pakistanis insurance policy.  The Federal Insurance Ombudsman responded me that his office would take up the case and advised me to submit a complaint formally which meant with copies like insurance policy.  I complied this advice.  While I was hoping justice for the injured, the response from the Federal Insurance shocked me that the State Life was out of his jurisdiction hence he was not taking up the complaint.  When I first wrote him, did not the Ombudsman read words “State Life” in that?  State Life is largest insurance company.  If it was out of ambit of the Federal Insurance Ombudsman, then a very logical question arises what for is such a large set up as a separate insurance ombudsman on huge national expense? Only to provide good jobs to some?

 

  1. I read the relevant law to which the Federal Insurance Ombudsman referred to.  I could not find in that that he was barred to entertain “public” complaints against State Life.  I addressed repeatedly the Ministry of Law for an interpretation of the said clause of law.  I did not get any guiding answer.

 

  1. This reminded me an old saying that it was the man sitting on the chair who gave justice, not a line or two of a law or procedure.  It is universally said that if the man on the chair is blessed by God with public spirit, he would interpret the line on the doctrine that laws are made for the benefit of public at large.  And if the man on the chair is deprived of public spirit, he interprets the same on the theology of control over the public.  The Establishment of Ombudsman 1982 Ordinance stated that Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were out of ambit of the Ombudsman.  The man sitting on the chair then, Mr. Justice Sardar Muhammad Iqbal, was luckily God blessed with public spirit.  He interpreted that his jurisdiction over these two Ministries was barred to the extent of defence policies, defence strategies, defence procurement or foreign policy, foreign relations, foreign bilateral agreements etc.  He interpreted that his jurisdiction, as far as issues affecting the general public, in no case was barred.  No one could dare courage to challenge this interpretation knowing well the strong intent of the man sitting on the chair.  He provided relief to thousands and thousands including this senior citizen by taking complaints against Pakistani Embassies, PIA etc. A Pakistani driver Anar Khan in Bahrain had to telephone more than a dozen time to his Bank in Jhelum as his family did not get the money he sent.  It was delayed for three weeks.  The Ombudsman then sitting on the chair to his luck  was a public spirited man.  He not only awarded compensation for delayed payment but also got him refunded from the Bank all the money he spent on telephone calls to his Bank in Jhelum.  Today no public spirited man is on the chair unfortunately, hence today no such natural decision can even be imagined.   No one could had ever dared “taking up or registering” a complaint against Special Communications (telecommunication authority in Azad Kashmir).  The above relative of the injured, resident in Azad Kashmir filed a complaint with the Federal Ombudsman (Mr. Muhammad Sardar Iqbal) and got a phone connection which according to him he could never had otherwise thought of.  “No one” could dare tell the man sitting on the chair “then” that Ministry of Defence and thus the special commissions was out of his jurisdiction.  They all knew the man sitting is who had had said “I am an ombudsman now, not a judge”, hence I am not to care what was written on a sheet as a procedure or a law but as an Ombudsman I am to see if that piece of rule can exist in today’s civilized world. I had never been able to restore any confidence again on the Federal Insurance Ombudsman, after seeing why on my first letter, in the first place, he advised me to file the complaint if his jurisdiction was barred.

 

  1. It is not restricted to the politicians to raise empty slogans.  Of late this tendency has knocked at the doors of high level functionaries. Three or four years back, perhaps during an interview, the Federal Insurance Ombudsman stated words like that anyone aggrieved from an insurance related issue can approach him.  Once again giving reference to this slogan-cum-open-invitation, the Federal Insurance Ombudsman was formally approached.  He forwarded it to the Federal Ombudsman from where never any progress was ever heard of against this fresh complaint.

 

  1. In the era of suo moto and public interest litigation, this complaint of non receipt of insurance compensation against the purchased Overseas Pakistanis State Life Insurance was raised before the apex court.  There came no “formal” court Judgement declaring if the complainant was wrong in filing complaint or was the SLIC, but came a two line letter signed by the court Director attached therewith copies of comments from the concerned department “for the information of the illiterate aggrieved” and conveying that case was closed.  The Apex Court public interest section acting just like a post office received the complaint and forwarded the defence comments without giving any Decision. The Cell or the Court did not care to see that the complainant had himself already received the same comments directly and he approached to the high Court to evaluate the grievance of the complainant and that of Ministry’s view and arrive and declare its final Decision, even if it was turning down complainant’s complaint.  But alas he was a down trodden poor villager.

 

  1. Muhammad Younis the labourer since then is in his village in Azad Kashmir.  About three years back, I learnt that he was not able to properly work due to his crushed fingers and slashed-stitched throat.  I am sure today he, being an illiterate would not be aware of that the State owned State Life had not paid him and thus, legally and technically, the State and the State institutions (SLIC, Protector, Overseas Ministry, OPF, Federal Ombudsman, Insurance Ombudsman, Apex Court) have all totally failed to provide him true natural justice and, thus, the State still owed him, mainly because he is a poor man not an Ayan Ali or a “Hamza” whom the State could refund Rs. 40 crore earlier paid by him to the NAB in settlement.

 

  1. 1Two things in this episode, never would get deleted from the mind screen of this old man, and whenever those two pictures surface, the head of this old man goes down in deep shame.  In our beloved country it is only we the foolish ordinary who still possess “self shame” otherwise this invisible item has long distanced itself for ever from those who should actually.مجھے کیوں نکالا  is a golden example of it.    First was a statement from the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation that that the Employer (Pakistani) was fully meeting the medical bills of the injured victim.  I know OPF sits in Islamabad, hence at its own it can not know that.  This information came to it through some other source (Pakistan Embassy in Bahrain).  Whosoever, however, drafted this sentence of the defence had not shame and character that Bahrain’s biggest state hospital Salmaniya Medical Complex till then was providing free medical facilities to all including expatriates.   However, OPF’s this sentence gave answer to a puzzle as to why the Pakistan Embassy got signed from the relative that all possible help and assistance was provided by the Embassy and that the injured did not need any other assistance from the Embassy.  The second was the attitude of the Federal Ombudsman Office towards a person lying, then, on a almost dying bed.  He laid motionless on the floor.  I typed his application addressed to the Federal Ombudsman.  One of his roommate went to the room and got thumb impressed from that motionless person.  Prompt came a letter from the Federal Ombudsman asking the motionless sick man to make certain paper-formalities to complete his application, threatening thereon that in case he did not do so within stipulated time, adverse action could be taken against him.  This letter was signed by a consultant and issued with the “approval of” Federal Ombudsman.  Reading of it was a real shame.  It nakedly showed beyond any doubt that the Consultant or the Federal Ombudsman had no, even the basic human feelings for an almost dying person.  This old man for two years wrote and even filed a formal complaint with the Federal Ombudsman office to know what law gave the power to take adverse action against a complainant if he did not complete his application.  Never came any response.  Justice Sardar Iqbal was the first Ombudsman Pakistan in 1980s.  One midnight some passengers having problem phoned him. Sardar Iqbal turned his bedroom into his chamber, picked up his official telephone and within one hour the passengers were in the flight.  Sardar Iqbal since had feelings for the ordinary and knew how an ordinary suffers, he did not ask these callers first to complete paper formalities otherwise he would take adverse action against them (for wakening him midnight!!!).   
  2. It is a true specimen and a naked picture of true justice to the ordinary in our beloved homeland.  Younis, this 70 plus old today himself is sick and almost blind, once or twice a monthly felling on roads, apologies to you that he could not practically help you.  I know insurance compensation of Rs. 50,000 or Rs. 70,000 for your partial disability even today is too good an amount in your today’ medical condition and in a remote village life, but, brother, unfortunately there is no Government in our beloved Pakistan since 10 years more specifically to say.  Forgive me where ever you are today.  Mir Akbar, also somewhere from your Tehsil who was a waiter in Lahore Hotel Bahrain, whom I think you knew, died in his home two months back.  Like you he struggled too for about 20 seeking justice when he was looted y Rawalpindi Development Authority.  Just to console the “soul” of the dead, a fortnight back on knowing about his death, as a civic minded, still having old bad habit, I wrote to My Lordship Chief Justice of Pakistan how  Pakistani Mir Akbar died in search of justice, who knows “whose” collar the deceased will catch on the judgement day.

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