ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was asked on Saturday to issue a restraining order against a top official of the Pakistan State Oil (PSO) since, according to the petitioner, he did not fulfil the criteria for appointment as managing director (MD) or chief executive officer (CEO) of the state-owned oil marketing company.

The petition was filed by Amanullah of Justice Help Line — the same organisation that prompted the apex court to initiate suo motu action against the Sept 22, 2013, Peshawar church bombing, which culminated in a landmark judgment on minority rights.

The petitioner has requested the Supreme Court to order the secretaries of Petroleum and the Establishment Division to have the office of MD PSO vacated immediately by setting aside the notification regarding the current MD’s appointment.

Petitioner claims the incumbent lacks requisite experience

The PSO was established under the Marketing of Petroleum Products (Control Act), 1974, and is the major energy provider for all sectors of the economy. But, according to the petition, it is fast losing its market share, which jeopardises the working of institutions such as Railways, the armed forces, airline operators and the industrial, agricultural and transportation sector.

The PSO had a turnover of more than Rs4 trillion a year, which is equivalent to 70 per cent of the total oil storage of Pakistan, and a 53 per cent overall market share, the petition argued, adding that this had now been reduced to about 40 per cent.

The PSO is also a strategic asset of the state, which was why the Supreme Court had blocked its privatisation back in 2007, the petition said.

But the deplorable situation emerged primarily due to the indifference of the government, which appointing the wrong MDs who did not pay much attention to PSO’s organisational functions or its operational and financial obligations towards the exchequer, the petition emphasised.

Referring to the current MD, the petition alleged that the individual has no relevant experience, nor does he have the requisite 25 years in the oil industry, nor has he ever worked in any major oil and gas company.

The current MD has worked in only one company for 28 years, hence, there is no question of having “profound oil and gas industry experience,” the petition said, adding that even though his appointment was made on May 11, 2015, he joined five months later in October because he was allegedly busy in completing the controversial LNG Terminal Project, which is currently being investigated by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The incumbent MD served in the Engro Vopak Terminal Ltd, whose LPG business improved only when the competing terminal, Progas Limited, went into litigation and ceased operations.

It was an established practice in the PSO’s corporate environment that the senior-most officer from within the company would automatically become MD of the company. But since 2000-1, not a single competent officer with relevant experience who fulfils all the employment criteria has been appointed MD at the PSO.

The petitioner has pleaded before the apex court to order that all actions and decisions made by the incumbent MD since July last year be declared null and void.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2016