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Govt decides not to remove SECP chief

July 13, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Despite a legal provision under the SECP Act, 2016, the finance ministry has decided not to suspend or remove the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Zafar Hijazi, who addressed the SECP employees here on Wednesday, asking them to abide by the Commission’s code of conduct.

An email was circulated late in the afternoon to all the employees at the SECP head office asking them to gather at the main hall as the chairman would address them.

Mr Hijazi in his speech announced that the SECP had forwarded a summary to announce bonus for the employees one and a half times higher than that of last year.

Besides, he asked the employees to abide by the SECP code of conduct and announced that he would remain the chairman to make the commission a strong and effective regulator.

Incidentally, a senior official of the commission said that one of the clauses of the code of conduct says: “Employees will be under obligation to reject any effort by representatives of the executive or legislative branches of the government to affect their independent determination of any matter being considered by the SECP.”

Out on bail, Hijazi announces higher bonus than last year’s, exhorts employees to abide by code of conduct

The official also referred to the registration of an FIR against the chairman on the orders of the Supreme Court and Human Resource Manual of the SECP and said the FIR had been registered against the chairman for forcing his subordinates to sign a backdated order.

Clause 6.3(m) of the HRM says: ‘Threatening or intimidating and coercing any employee or person within the boundaries of the Commission.’

“But the point is if such rules are applicable to the employees then they are applicable to commissioners and the chairman too,” the official added.

The SECP’s external communications department did not respond to a query that several provisions of the code of conduct and HRM applied to the chairman too.

Addressing the employees, Mr Hijazi also announced that he was neither resigning nor going anywhere.

He was possibly referring to the ministry of finance, while a senior official of the ministry told Dawn that there was no consideration over this matter.

“There was no discussion from any quarter over suspending or removing Mr Hijazi, but at the same time there is no legal binding to take action against him,” said the official referring to the law.

Section 18(a) of the SECP Act (Amendment), 2016, states: “Disqualification of Members and Commissioners — No person shall be appointed or continue as Member or Commissioner if he has been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude.”

On the other hand, member of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance Asad Umar said the finance ministry should at least place the SECP chairman on leave to uphold the respect of the corporate sector regulator.

“The FIR against him was not lodged by any person or on a baseless allegation, but it was registered on the orders of the Supreme Court, therefore action should be taken against Mr Hijazi,” the PTI leader said. “What kind of impression the government is giving to the finance sector that the chairman of a regulatory body is involved in fraud and manipulations?”

Mr Umar said the legal dictionary had a term ‘moral turpitude’ used in the criminal law to describe the conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.

He also referred to Clause 6.6 of the SECP HR Manual, ‘such employee against whom proceeding is proposed to be initiated may be placed under suspension with immediate effect’.

However, the SECP chairman has started preparation to fight his case in courts by collecting record, and sources in the SECP said Mr Hijazi held a meeting with Murshed Ahmad Khan, the head of the IT Department.

“Rumours are circulating in the commission that the law department is gathering data of all relevant executives who gave statements in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case,” a senior executive of the SECP said, expressing concern about the environment of suspicion and mistrust in the Commission.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2017