Could Kamran Faisal’s death have been prevented?

Published: January 24, 2013
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Reportedly, Kamran Faisal had been under acute stress, and had seen a psychological counselor before his death. PHOTO: FILE

Kamran Faisal, an official of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself from the ceiling of his hostel room a few days ago.

His family and colleagues have refused to accept his death as a suicide, terming it a ‘premeditated murder’. A number of texts, which he sent a few days before his death to his friends have been leaked to the media; these reveal his concerns for his personal safety.

Sources reveal one text message that chillingly captures his frustration and dilemma with the pressure tactics employed by senior officials of NAB:

“DG HR want affidavit in back date regarding change from case, kia karoon”.

No doubt, the text messages deepen the mystery surrounding his death.

But some, who do not take it as a suicide case, affirm at the same time, that pressure of the senior officers of the National Accountability Bureau must have pushed him to the wall to carry out a desperate act like suicide.

Reportedly, Kamran Faisal had been under acute stress, and had seen a psychological counselor before his death, who had advised him to come for another round of counseling.

In both circumstances, a somber reality stands out starkly – Kamran had been subjected to pressure.

Undeniably, civil servants face harassment from seniors and, sometimes due to the intensity of harassment, a civil servant, investigating high profile cases – involving important personalities of the country in organisations such as the police, National Accountability Bureau, Federal Investigation Agency and Federal Board of Revenue – tends to break down under pressure.

Another officer of the NAB, investigating Rental Power scam, had also been admitted into hospital with the complaint of acute chest pain. Upon diagnosis, he was found suffering from stress and had been immediately operated for angioplasty. He had no previous history of heart problem.

A number of questions can be raised here:

Why do government servants collapse under pressure and what can be done to de-stress them?

I am a career civil servant who has also had the misfortune of working in high-stress environment. Thus, I can share from personal experience that when you are investigating cases where parties involved are well-connected – be it a crime case or a corruption case – an atmosphere of mistrust is created in the office. In such circumstances, you are afraid to talk about your anxieties and fears openly because the same people who are giving you comforting ear could be spying on you.

Thus, the feeling of stress combined with elements of conspiracy can leave a person psychologically vulnerable.

It is possible that Kamran Faisal had not been only unduly pressured to commit unlawful deeds, but also found it difficult to vent out his frustration in a conspiratorial work environment.

Now, I come to the second question.

Public sector organisations of Pakistan do not have any arrangement for psychological counseling of government servants, which is the case in many other countries too.

In Brunei, Canada, and Australia, on the other hand, employees of many public sector agencies such as Defense department, fire brigades, police etcetera are offered psychological counseling through suicide help lines as well as professional psychiatrists to deal with emotionally traumatic situations.

However, in Pakistan, civil servants have to rely on close friends and relatives to pour out their anxieties and find a soothing ear. But, friends and siblings, despite their good intentions, are generally not in a position to offer professional advice. The flow of text messages between Kamran Faisal and his friends also chillingly reveals that he was half-heartedly communicating to his friends by not replying to some of their messages

Therefore, our public sector organisations, especially where the government servants are investigating sensitive cases and are in the media spotlight , must make suitable arrangements to provide them with psychological counseling to handle stressful situations.

This way if an employee faces mentally debilitating pressure, he should be able to confide his insecurities and fears to a professional counselor, and if the counselor detects that the person is exhibiting tendencies of suicide, he should be put under medical surveillance.

By following these procedures, a record of psychological history of a person would also be created that might aid in investigation of unnatural deaths like that of Kamran Faisal’s.

Kamran Faisal has died under tragic circumstances – nothing can be done to bring him back now, but we can ensure that we do not lose other talented professionals by giving them the help they deserve.

Read more by Sameera here.

Sameera Rashid

Sameera Rashid

A research analyst, blogger and a graduate of King's College, London, in public policy.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.