PESHAWAR, Aug 23: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ombudsman and the provincial law minister have locked horns over certain appointments in the Ombudsman Secretariat.
The latter has ordered a halt to the recruitment process, while the former termed it interference in his legal powers.
According to the official sources, in a recent written communication from the Ombudsman Secretariat, it was even warned that the acts of the minister in ‘interfering’ in the affairs of the Ombudsman Secretariat attracted Section 16 of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Ombudsman Act, 2010, which dealt with the committing of the contempt of the ombudsman.
The law minister demanded details of the staff of the Ombudsman Secretariat through his private secretary and vide a letter on July 10, while the secretariat provided the details on July 24.
Another letter was sent on July 31, 2013, by the minister’s private secretary, Manzoor Elahi, to the section officer (admin) of the ombudsman department saying minister Israrullah Khan Gandapur had ordered that the ongoing process of appointment of junior clerk be held in abeyance and an official be deputed to discuss the same with him at his office.
The minister also ordered via the letter that the position regarding appointment of six drivers be clarified and that the positions be filled up after obtaining his prior permission.
Also, he issued directions for knowing about the place of the domiciles of the naib qasids, watchmen, sweepers and gardeners.
The said section officer sent a reply to the letter saying under Section 3 (4) of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Ombudsman Act 2010, the provincial ombudsman should in all matters perform his functions and exercise his powers fairly, honestly, diligently and independently of the executive, and all executive authorities throughout the province shall act in aid of the provincial ombudsman.
The letter said the ombudsman office was neither attached department nor a subordinate organisation/ office of the law department.
“As such, the fore quoted letter of your office is not only violative of the foresaid provisions of law, but it is also tantamount to interference in the powers and functions of the Ombudsman and is an attempt to impede and obstruct the process and working of the ombudsman office, to lower the status of the ombudsman as a subordinate functionary of law department, to influence him to appoint certain favourities and prima facie attracts the provisions of Section 16 of the Act,” the letter said.
It added that to avoid future legal and other complications, the sad letter of the office of law department may be withdrawn at the earliest.
The ombudsman, Mr Badshah Gul Wazir, who is a former provincial law secretary had taken oath as the first ever ombudsman in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Jan 5, 2011.
An official at the Ombudsman Secretariat informed that the minister had also conveyed certain threats to the ombudsman.
He added that recently the secretary of the Ombudsman Secretariat and the director (investigation) were called by the minister to his office and were told that the ombudsman has to follow his directions otherwise he was going either to reduce his tenure from four to three years or repeal the said Act and abolish the office of the ombudsman altogether.
The government has been giving least attention to the office of the ombudsman which is evident from the fact that the secretariat is situated in a rented building but no allocation has been made in the annual budget for 203-14 by the finance department for the payment of rent.