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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the government departments concerned to cooperate with the interior ministry to ensure repatriation of former finance minister Ishaq Dar from the United Kingdom.

A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar regretted that despite affixing notices at his residence, the former finance minister had preferred not to appear before the court.

On a suo motu, the Supreme Court had taken up a case relating the appointment of playwright and columnist Ataul Haq Qasmi as chairman of the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) on a hefty package. Mr Qasmi was looking after the affairs of PTV as its chairman after the three-year contract of former managing director Moham­mad Malick expired on Feb 26, 2016.

Although the apex court reserved its ruling on the appointment of Mr Qasmi, it explained that the decision regarding repatriation of Mr Dar from the UK would be announced on July 14.

Apex court reserves ruling on appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as PTV chairman

The interior ministry told the court that Mr Dar’s passport could not be cancelled without issuing a show-cause notice to him.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, however, wondered what steps the government was taking to bring Mr Dar back when he was also wanted by the accountability court in a corruption reference.

The interior ministry, however, told the court that NAB had requested for the issuance of a red warrant against Mr Dar, recalling that the passport and CNIC of former president Gen Pervez Musharraf were also cancelled earlier.

However, the court inquired about measures or plans the government had to invoke in such cases, asking would the government not do anything if someone plundered money and then fled away to escape justice.

The court mentioned how former prime minister Nawaz Sharif used to meet Mr Dar in London, wondering about any mechanism to bring back an absconder.

When the court asked about the time needed by the interior ministry to repatriate Mr Dar, it was told that the ministry was in direct contact with NAB and the moment relevant papers were received the process for issuance of red warrants would be initiated.

In its order, the Supreme Court directed the departments concerned to provide all possible assistance to the interior ministry to ensure Mr Dar’s presence in the court.

Former finance secretary Dr Waqar Masood Khan informed the court that PTV was an independent commercial institution and the finance ministry had nothing to do with its budget.

The court again said that Mr Dar should come to Pakistan and explain how Mr Qasmi was appointed as PTV chairman at a huge salary.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan argued that no politician could indulge in corruption without the assistance of the bureaucracy, adding that he had not met Mr Qasmi but had read his books.

He said it would look odd if a person like Mr Qasmi was sent to jail; it would be in the fitness of things if he returned the emoluments received by him during his tenure in PTV.

The AG said Faiz Ahmed Faiz was also sent to jail and today “we revered him”.

At this, Justice Ahsan interjected by saying Faiz sahib went to jail for some cause. When the court said it could close the case if Mr Qasmi agreed to return the salary, Advocate Ayesha Hamid, representing Mr Qasmi, said her client was not ready to return the salary because he believed that he earned it rightfully.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2018