ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso may be having sleepless nights because of concerns for holding elections in an orderly manner, but another trouble is in store for him. The Supreme Court issued on Wednesday contempt notices against him and other senior civil officers for violating one of its judgments.
“Prima facie the premature transfer [and] posting of at least 20 senior government officers seems to violate the Anita Turab case [judgment],” observed a three-judge bench headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja.
Mr Khoso is the third prime minister in recent past to be accused of committing contempt of court.
Earlier, former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani was convicted of committing contempt of court and subsequently disqualified on June 19 last year for not writing a letter to the Swiss authorities to reopen graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. His successor Raja Pervez Ashraf faced the same charges but was let off the hook on Nov 14 last year when the apex court withdrew a contempt notice against him after he had written the letter to the Swiss authorities.
The bench took notice of the transfer and posting by the caretaker government of 20 senior officers on a petition filed by senior bureaucrat Shafqat Hussain Naghmi.
In its Nov 12, 2012, judgment in the Anita Turab case, the apex court had held that civil servants were not bound to obey illegal orders of their superiors because they owed their first and foremost allegiance to the law and the constitution.
Besides the competent authority (caretaker prime minister), notices under Section 3 of the Contempt of the Court Ordinance 2003, read with article 204 of the constitution, have also been issued to Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Khawaja Siddiq Akbar and Establishment Secretary Taimur Azmat Usman. They have been asked to submit within a week a reply explaining why the transfers/postings should not be declared null and void.
The officers posted out to different departments have been directed to appear in person at the next hearing the date of which will be fixed later.
Shafqat Naghmi, a BS-22 officer, was appointed as industries secretary on Aug 23 last year, but on April 3 this year he was removed and transferred to the Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD).
The establishment secretary in a report on transfer of Mr Naghmi had relied on a notification issued by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) asking for a reshuffle in bureaucracy to ensure that elections were held in a transparent and impartial manner.
But the court observed that the ECP had not given any such instruction.
The establishment division informed the court that transfers/postings had been made on verbal instructions of the competent authority (caretaker prime minister).
Mr Naghmi informed the court that posts of some secretaries had been changed more than once within a month. Punjab chief secretary Nasir Khosa was transferred to the finance division as its secretary, but after eight days he was posted out to the textile ministry.
Similarly, Sami Saeed, chairman of the Planning and Development, Punjab, was appointed as industries secretary, but the notification was withdrawn within a few days.
Shahid Rasheed was transferred from the Board of Investment to the Ministry of Information Technology, but was again transferred to the industries ministry as secretary within 27 days.
Two grade-21 acting secretaries — Zafar Qadir and Abdul Khaliq — were transferred but after three weeks they were taken back. Mr Qadir, acting finance secretary, was transferred but brought back as special finance secretary within three weeks.
The ministries and departments which saw massive transfers include establishment, CADD, food security, communications, water and power, textile, finance, economic affairs, statistics, interior, national heritage, information technology, industries, production, Board of Investment, narcotics control, parliamentary affairs, national harmony and states and frontier regions.