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KP: appointments and merit

Updated August 09, 2013

THIS is in response to reports (July 28) wherein there is a tussle among Nowshera lawyers over the appointment of advocate-general and additional AGs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Since the PTI has taken charge of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, there are lawyers who hope to become advocate-general, additional advocate-general and deputy advocate-general.

In the recent past, if we look at the MMA and ANP governments, these posts were given to advocates having political affiliations with the party which was governing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Merit and qualifications were totally ignored while appointing people for these posts. Recently the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, has categorically asked the government to ensure that appointments for AG and additional AGs should be made on merit. He has said that this is keeping in view what happened in the past.

The constitutional provision relating to the appointment of advocate-general is there. It says that a person who is ‘qualified as a judge of the high court’ shall be appointed an advocate-general.

The interesting aspect of the case is that the constitution (Article 144) speaks about the qualification of the advocate-general but it nowhere speaks regarding the disqualification of the advocate-general. This is also fortified by the Supreme Court in one of its judgments.

Another important issue is that there is no constitutional provision regarding the appointment of additional AGs and deputy AGs and there is no statutory law in this regard.

So, the entire discretion is left on the sweet will of the government which tries its best to appoint its near and dear ones for these key posts, which ultimately results in the poor performance by law officers in the province.

It is time qualified and capable persons were appointed for the said posts. Furthermore, the PTI, before and after the general elections, promised to follow merit and bring about a change. If slogans are not transformed into action, it will result in the collapse of the PTI in the province.

If the PTI really wants this province as a role model for the country, nepotism and favoritism should be discouraged.

The provincial assembly must formulate and promulgate laws regarding the strict criteria for appointments for these key posts and should also prescribe for their disqualification.

Interestingly, in the recent past, during the ANP government, lawyers who didn’t have licences for practising at the high court were also appointed to these posts. This created distrust not only in the bar but also in the bench.

I suggest written test and interviews should be held for appointments for additional and deputy AGs. Competent individuals can be appointed only if a board of competent lawyers and retired and sitting judges of the superior judiciary is constituted for conducting interviews to ensure that merit is being observed.