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ISLAMABAD: Members of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) may lose their jobs if the federal government implements a recent Islamabad High Court (IHC) verdict that declared the mayor’s additional appointment as CDA chairman illegal and also blocks bureaucrats’ promotions to the highest positions in the civic agency.

IHC Justice Athar Minallah on Dec 29, 2017 allowed three identical petitions filed against the appointment of Islamabad Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz as acting CDA chairman.

In the verdict, Justice Minallah addressed the issue of poor management of the CDA, which he said was due to the lack of autonomy for the CDA board.

The civic body’s board is constituted of the chairman, member finance and accounts, member administration, member planning and design, member engineering, member environment and member estate. The commissioners of Rawalpindi and Islamabad are also ex-officio members.

Only five members are currently working in the civic agency: Member Administration Mohammad Yasir Pirzada, Member Finance Fahad Haroon, Member Planning Asad Kayani, Member Estate Khushal Khan and Member Engineering Shahid Sohail.

Since the beginning, the federal government has posted chosen bureaucrats to run the CDA board.

Discussing the details of the CDA Ordinance 1960, the court pointed out that “the appointment of a civil servant as member was definitely in violation of clause (f) of section 8 [of the ordinance] and an illegality committed for a long time in the past... Moreover, the appointment of a member cannot be made in violation of the principles and law enunciated in the case of statutory regulatory entities, intended by the legislature to be independent and autonomous”.

It then explained how the Supreme Court framed the criteria for making appointments in the regulatory authorities and “laid down the test for examining the validity of the appointment process” in order to find the most suitable person.

As per the IHC verdict, “autonomy [in the CDA like organizations] is only possible when appointments in key positions in these regulators are made in a demonstrably transparent manner”.

Furthermore, it pointed out that “it is an obvious legislative intent and implicit in the scheme of the ordinance of 1960 that qualified and competent persons of integrity, having expertise in the relevant fields are to be appointed as member of the [CDA] board”.

It goes on to say that “it was not the legislative intent to relegate the authority to a subordinate department of the federal government and thus erode and undermine its independence and autonomy”.

Justice Minallah observed that “the federal government has been making appointments in the past in violation of the express provision of the ordinance of 1960, particularly in disregard to the scheme of the ordinance and the disqualification expressly provided in clause (f) of section 8”.

He added that “it is probably for this reason that the master plan has been massively violated and a weak authority appears to be unable to implement the provisions of the ordinance of 1960 and the rules and regulations are not being implemented”.

He said: “Instead of making Islamabad, the Capital of Pakistan, symbol for the people and the heart and soul of the nation as envisaged by its founding planners, unchecked illegal and unregulated construction is gradually making it difficult to achieve the object and purpose for which the ordinance of 1960 was promulgated.”

The verdict held that “the key to ensuring the autonomy of the authority is the appointment of members of the board strictly in accordance with the intent of the legislature mandated under section 6 of the ordinance”.

Since the court has ruled the mayor holding additional charge as CDA chairman illegal and directed the federal government to make a suitable appointment on the vacant post within 45 days, it also passed direction for the incumbent members saying: “In case the current members of the board… were appointed in violation of the settled law then in order to ensure continuity they may continue to serve till appointments have been notified in accordance with section 6 of [the CDA Ordinance] and the principles and law enunciated by the august Supreme Court.”

A CDA member told Dawn the government and board members are confused regarding the implementation of the verdict and that they are looking for an appropriate forum to challenge the verdict to get some relief.

CDA spokesperson Malik Saleem said the authority had referred the verdict to the Capital Administration and Development Division.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2018