PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Thursday admitted that actions by the provincial Ehtesab Commission and lacunas in the Ehtesab Commission Act had brought work at government departments to a standstill.
Khattak told a news conference here that a cabinet committee had been set up to recommend amendments to the law to rein in the Ehtesab Commission and allay apprehensions of civil servants, who had stopped working and thus, bringing official work to a near halt in departments.
Dispelling the impression that the commission has been used for victimising political opponents, the chief minister said the government had set up a committee to remove flaws from the existing act and would also seek input from the parliamentary leaders of the opposition parties before amending the Ehtesab Act 2014.
“Officials of the commission have taken away documents from offices for investigation and have not been returned which brought official work to standstill,” he said while responding to a question.
So worried was the chief minister over the state of affairs that he invited his party’s chairman, Imran Khan, to address bureaucrats shortly before Eidul Azha in an effort to allay their apprehensions over arrests on procedural matters, participants of the meeting told Dawn.
CM says cabinet panel formed to propose amendments to Ehtesab Commission law
The PTI chief had promised to speak to Ehtesab Commission director general retired lieutenant general Hamid Khan about those apprehensions.
Imran’s assurances, the officers said, did little to assuage their apprehensions in the absence of amendments in the law. The first quarter review made it obvious, releases for the Rs147-billion Annual Development Programme dropped to a paltry Rs9 billion, while spending for foreign assisted projects showed zero.
The commission did seem to have halted its action against serving officers and cabinet members, but opposition parties, including ANP, JUI-F and PPP now say the Ehtesab Commission has turned its guns against its leaders, calling its action politically motivated.
“Following making amendments to the KP Ehtesab Act, the commission would be legally bound to complete investigations against any person within three months,” the chief minister said.
“If investigators can’t find KPEC actions brings work at govt depts to a halt: Khattak credible information and evidences against a suspect, then the commission will have to close that file forever,” he said inviting political parties and media to give viable recommendations to make accountability process more transparent and effective.
Khattak said the government intended to bring an amendment to the law so that a suspect should not be arrested merely on the basis of allegations and could only be arrested if during investigation, proper evidences were acquired against him or her.
He insisted that the commission was independent and nobody could dictate it.
Denying allegations of ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari that the commission was being used as a tool of victimisation, the chief minister said one of his ministers, father of a PTI lawmaker and several officers had been arrested on the charges of corruption and misuse of powers.
The commission had arrested mines and mineral development minister Ziaullah Afridi for misusing powers and allowing illegal mining.
Former minister of PPP Liaquat Shabab and several officials arrested on corruption charges have been released on bail.
“Yes, there are shortcomings in the act. As a result, several accused have been released on bail, but this perception is wrong that the commission is dictated from Bani Gala (Imran Khan’s residence in Islamabad),” Khattak replied when asked that the commission was receiving directives from the PTI chief.
The chief minister said he never met retired lieutenant general Hamid Khan and that under the law, he being the chief executive of the province could not interfere in the affairs of the commission.
He said it was the PTI’s election commitment that KP would be made a ‘corruption-free’ province.
Khattak said he believed in across-the-board accountability and that people, who had looted national wealth, were making the commission controversial.
He said the provincial assembly had passed the Ehtesab Act unanimously with no political party making objection to it.
The chief minister said a legislative committee consisting of representatives of all parliamentary parties was made in 2014 and that committee approved names of the commissioners.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2015