ISLAMABAD, June 4: Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani did not violate the provisions of the employment contract of Lt-Gen (retired) Naeem Khan Lodhi when he sacked him from the post of Defence Secretary, the Islamabad High Court ruled on Monday.
Lt-Gen Lodhi was fired in January this year at the height of a standoff between the political government and the military after the PML-N took the controversial Memogate issue to the Supreme Court.
He was subsequently appointed head of the Fauji Fertilizer Company run by the Fauji Foundation.
Justice Mohammad Azim Khan Afridi of the IHC dismissed Gen Lodhi’s petition against his sacking, saying: “The competent authority under the contract could remove the defence secretary on a month notice or by giving him a salary and the former secretary has already received his dues”.
The petitioner alleged that his sacking was the first step towards the removal of Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
The petition also said the prime minister in his speech had accused Gen Lodhi of misconduct that badly damaged his repute. However, the government denied this allegation.
F. K. Butt, the counsel for Gen Lodhi, requested the court to postpone the judgment, claiming the matter was being settled by the sacked secretary and the government.
However, the standing counsel, Shabbir Abbasi, after getting instruction from the secretaries of the establishment, defence and law and justice divisions informed the court that the government was not negotiating with the petitioner and the court might pass the orders on merit.
During the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Tariq Mehmood Jahangiri told the court that the government never questioned the integrity of the sacked secretary and his appointment in the FFC was done with the consensus of the federal government.
It may be mentioned that Gen Lodhi had claimed that he was removed after he refused to follow the government line in the Memogate controversy and submitted to the Supreme Court the replies of the chief of army staff and the then director general of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) which were different from the one filed by the government.
The government in its reply submitted to the apex court declared the memorandum as a pack of lies, but the former spymaster urged the apex court for a through probe into the matter.
The prime minister strongly reacted to the defiance of Gen Lodhi as he disowned the government’s reply and forwarded to the court the replies of the COAS and the then ISI director general Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha.
Before sacking Gen Lodhi, the prime minister made a speech at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) and said he would not accept a state within the state at any cost.
DAG Jahangiri denied the claim of former secretary defence that the government wanted to remove the army chief and former DG ISI. Gen Pasha left his office after completion of his term and Gen Kayani is still the COAS, therefore, his presumptions are wrong, he added.
He asserted that Gen Lodhi could file a review to the prime minister under the civil services rules within 30 days of his termination but he did not avail of the alternative remedy.
He said Gen Lodhi’s allegation that the government was responsible for his defamation was also wrong.
Gen Lodhi’s counsel told the court that the sacking of his client as defence secretary was illegal and that it was intended to clear the way to arbitrarily remove the army chief and the then DG ISI.
He stated that on November 28, 2011, his client was appointed as defence secretary for a period of two years but on January 11, 2012, the government removed him without issuing any charge-sheet or show-cause notice.
The former defence secretary also accused the bureaucracy and the civilian government of pressuring him to sign an affidavit on the Memogate issue prepared by the government functionaries.
His petition said he could not justify signing an affidavit prepared by someone else and one that was contrary to the facts.