LHC raises question of unelected people running federal govt

Published July 17, 2020
LHC CJ says special assistant to PM appears responsible for petrol crisis. — AFP/File
LHC CJ says special assistant to PM appears responsible for petrol crisis. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan says there is a common impression that the affairs of the federal government are being run by unelected special assistants to the prime minister.

“At the end, unelected persons just grab their bags and return to their offices. But elected persons have to face the people of their constituencies,” the chief justice observed on Thursday while referring to a fundamental difference between elected and unelected persons.

Chief Justice Khan was hearing a case against the petrol shortage in the country and the government’s failure to take stern action against the responsible.

Attorney General of Pakistan Khalid Javed Khan, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) chairperson Uzma Adil, Punjab Chief Secretary Jawad Rafiq and other functionaries were present in the court.

CJ says special assistant to PM appears responsible for petrol crisis

The attorney general presented before the court the minutes of a federal cabinet’s meeting on the petrol crisis issue.

After going through the same, the CJ observed that the minutes of the meetings showed the government had no sympathy for the people.

Without naming Nadeem Babar, the special assistant to the prime minister on petroleum, the CJ expressed wonder that the special assistant had told the cabinet that the reason behind the petrol shortage was panic among the masses.

“Prima facie the cabinet has been misguided and the special assistant running the relevant ministry is responsible for the crisis,” the chief justice said to the attorney general, asking him to explain what action had been taken against the oil marketing companies (OMCs) in light of the cabinet’s decision and whether the OMCs had maintained the mandatory stock of 20 days as per their contracts, he asked the top law officer.

Chief Justice Khan lamented that the oil prices were increased on June 26 without a summary from Ogra and the government claimed that there was an oral consultation with the regulator.

However, AGP Khalid Javed Khan said he would not defend this act. He also sought time from the court to submit terms of reference (ToRs) for the government’s commission on the petrol crisis.

The CJ said the attorney general was fully empowered to give his advice to the government on the commission. However, he said, the report of the commission would not be binding on the court as a separate judicial order could be passed if the court did not find the report satisfactory.

The AGP said the commission would take six to eight weeks to complete its report.

The chief justice asked the attorney general to also look into the ToRs submitted by amicus curiae Awais Khalid for the commission. He further asked the AGP to submit replies to the petition on behalf of the respondents if the government failed to form any commission.

However, the AGP assured the court that it would not happen.

Ogra chairperson Ms Adil told the court that she stood superannuated so her successor should be asked to attend the subsequent hearings. She suggested to the court to also summon an inquiry report by the former chairman of the authority, Saeed Ahmad.

The CJ adjourned further hearing for six weeks.

Outside the court, Ms Adil confirmed to the media persons that no summary had been sought from Ogra before pre-scheduled increase in the petrol prices on June 26.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2020

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