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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday suspended a notification of the caretaker Punjab government regarding termination of 10 assistant advocate generals and reinstated the law officers.

Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi passed the order on a petition moved by the assistant advocate generals appointed by the former government of Shahbaz Sharif, however, terminated by the caretaker government.

Earlier, Additional Advocate General Shan Gul appeared before the court and defended the impugned decision of the caretaker government.

However, he pointed out that the process for the appointment of the petitioners/law officers was initiated and completed much before the ban on fresh appointments imposed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in April 2018. The notification of the petitioners’ appointment was issued after the ECP’s ban only, he added. He argued that the impugned decision had been taken on the reservation shown by the ECP.

Being dissatisfied with the government’s view, Justice Qureshi suspended the operation of the impugned notification and restored the petitioners to their posts. The judge also directed the law secretary to submit a detailed reply on the matter within two weeks.

10 AAGs were terminated by caretaker govt

Representing the removed law officers, Advocate Shahzad Shaukat argued that the caretaker government had no mandate to make terminations. He said the caretaker government, under Election Rules 2017, could only transfer or shuffle public officials after the approval of the ECP.

He said the process for the appointment of the petitioners was initiated in 2016 and they underwent a series of interviews and scrutiny before being shortlisted for the posts.

He said the petitioners had been appointed for a probation period of six months and their services were to be regularised in light of their performance.

The counsel further argued that the caretaker government acted beyond its jurisdiction as its job was to ensure fair and free election only. He said the ban on the fresh appointments by the ECP did not apply on such posts.

The 10 assistant advocate generals removed by the interim government include Barrister Asjad Saeed, Amar Sanaullah, Tariq Mahmood Butt, Ahmad Hassan Rana, Muhammad Tariq Nadeem, Barrister Bushra Saqib, Asif Afzal Bhatti, Chaudhry Jawad Yaqub, Khalid Masood Ghani and Barrister Ameer Abbas Ali Khan.

They were appointed by the former government on May 26 and 30 last. The impugned notification said the assistant advocate generals were appointed in derogation of ECP ban.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2018