An apex court on Monday reserved its decision in a case regarding the controversial appointment of playwright Attaul Haq Qasmi as Pakistan Television (PTV) Managing Director (MD).
A three-member Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) had heard the case.
Qasmi had ignited controversy in April 2017 when he appointed himself PTV MD while also remaining the chairman of the state-run broadcaster.
Five days later, under immense pressure, he was replaced by Information Secretary Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, who was appointed as acting MD at the time. The two had known differences, and Qasmi subsequently resigned in December last year saying that it had become "increasingly difficult... to work for the restoration of [the] past glory of PTV".
In an earlier hearing, Justice Nisar had warned that if the appointment was found to have been illegal, all expenses incurred by the state-run broadcaster on Qasmi would be recovered from the person responsible for hiring him.
"I want the man who conceived the idea of Qasmi leading the PTV," the chief justice had remarked.
The bench on Monday separately ordered an audit of the monetary privileges given to Qasmi over the past two years by a private firm within a week. The former PTV chairman had received Rs1.5m as salary and other benefits and was also allocated a special advertising budget for a programme he used to host on PTV. That amount, added to other benefits, had rounded up to the massive sum of Rs278m.
During the course of the hearing, CJP Mian Saqib Nisar lashed out at Secretary to Prime Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad on learning that the appointment of the former PTV chairman had been approved over verbal orders from the former premier.
"Which law allows you to obey verbal orders from the prime minister?" the CJP enquired during today's hearing. "You do not have the authority to approve a summary sent by the prime minister."
Fawad, in his defence, said that the practice of approving verbal orders by the prime minister (PM) was not exclusive to his tenure and had been in place for "two decades".
He then said that the summary of Qasmi's appointment was sent to the establishment division by PTV's board of directors. It was then sent to then prime minister Nawaz Sharif who approved it, Fawad told the court. He added that neither he nor the PM had approved financial privileges.
"I'm saying this under oath," he said. "The finance division had approved monetary incentives." The CJP told him that the court will summon representatives of the Finance Ministry as well.
Qasmi's lawyer Ayesha Hamid, in today's hearing, tried to defend his appointment saying that the state television had earned a revenue of "Rs600 million during the former MD's tenure". The CJP dismissed this argument and termed the appointment as "against the law and based on dishonesty".
Justice Nisar also admonished former information minister Pervez Rashid for not appointing a lawyer, reminding him that the court had warned him of consequences if he failed to hire a legal representative.