Ayesha Mumtaz, the director of operations at the Punjab Food Authority, claimed on Saturday she had been sacked from her post after over a year in office.
Mumtaz says she had applied for 104 days paid leave to care for an ailing family member, which was granted. However, says the 39-year-old civil servant, “no one has asked me to report back.”
A spokesman for the Authority denied Mumtaz had been sacked and affirmed to Newsweek she was on paid leave for three months. Newly appointed Director General Noorul Amin Mengal also denied the claims, adding Mumtaz will return to her duties once her leave duration expires.
The Punjab Food Authority is tasked to inspect and document unhygienic conditions at restaurants and food manufacturing units in Punjab province. Under Mumtaz, who became known as the Dabaang (fearless) lady, these activities were ramped up in a high-octane—and public—campaign that cracked down on local eateries. A team of 24 officers has led over 10,000 inspections since June last year, fining several unhygienic eateries and temporarily sealing others.
Mumtaz’s use of social media—the department would name and shame health code violators on Facebook—has been criticized by business owners, but her efforts were praised until August, when she sealed two dried milk factories in Lahore, run by Premier Dairies (Pvt.) Ltd. and Millac Foods (Pvt.) Ltd. The team found bottles of expired powdered milk being packaged and sold to domestic consumers. “This is not only against the law, it is dangerous,” an officer told Newsweek on condition of anonymity, “people could die.”
In addition to packaging expired products, Millac was also operating without a valid license to manufacture dried milk. Both factories were sealed in August, but have since reopened under orders from Mengal, implying a rift with Mumtaz.
Despite the director general’s vehement denials of the sacking Mumtaz remains skeptical. She told Newsweek she has little hope of being allowed to return to her duties.