PTV chairman’s hiring seems against SC guidelines: IHC

Published January 13, 2021
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah advised the counsel for the PTV chairman to peruse the Supreme Court decision that had set aside the appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as the PTV chairman. — AFP/File
IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah advised the counsel for the PTV chairman to peruse the Supreme Court decision that had set aside the appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as the PTV chairman. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The appointment of Naeem Bokhari as the Pakistan Television (PTV) chairman appears to have been made in violation of guidelines set by the Supreme Court (SC), observed the chief justice of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday.

Hearing identical petitions against appointment of Mr Bokhari, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah advised the counsel for the PTV chairman to peruse the Supreme Court decision that had set aside the appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as the PTV chairman.

This appeared to be a hint for Mr Bokhari, a senior advocate, to adopt a respectable exit from the government job instead of being ruled against by the court.

The court noted that the appointment had been made “prima facie in violation of the guidelines set by the Supreme Court”.

When the court resumed hearing of the identical petitions, the attorney general was not present despite the fact the court had issued him notice seeking assistance in the case.

The court asked Mr Bokhari’s counsel whether he had perused the judgement of the apex court in Mr Qasmi’s case, the counsel said the judgement does not pertain to the case of Mr Bokhari’s appointment.

Justice Minallah, however, citing the same judgement pointed out that it has explained in detail the process for the appointment of the PTV chairman and prescribed the age limit and selection through inviting applications after publishing an advertisement.

In the order sheet, the judge asked Mr Bokhari for a careful reading of the judgement since he is a senior lawyer.

The IHC chief justice asked the attorney general to ensure his attendance on Jan 14 when the case will be taken up again.

In Nov 2018, the Supreme Court declared Ataul Haq Qasmi’s appointment illegal. The court ordered the federal government to appoint a full-time managing director of PTV after fulfilling all legal, procedural and codal formalities strictly in accordance with the law.

The judgement observed that public officials, particularly heads of ministries who were elected representatives of the people, owed their allegiance and loyalty to Pakistan, the Constitution and the law. They were obligated to act accordingly and without being influenced by extraneous considerations.

Public officials were not allowed to take decisions arbitrarily after circumventing the law and at their own whims to certain individuals, the judgement said.

Justice Minallah was hearing the identical petitions filed by advocates Raja Shakeel Abbasi and Asif Gujjar.

While Mr Abbasi challenged the appointment of Mr Bokhari, Mr Gujjar argued against the appointment of other members of the PTV board as well, including the acting managing director Shahira Shahid, retired Col Hassan Imad Mohammadi, Asad Ahmed Jaspal, Asghar Nadeem Syed and Waseem Raza Abid.

The lawyers termed the appointments in violation of various verdicts of the Supreme Court, including the one authored in the case of Mr Qasmi, and IHC which laid down guidelines for such appointments. The petitioners said contrary to the direction of the apex court, the vacancy had not been advertised in the press and the appointment was made without inviting applications for the vacant position.

He said the federal cabinet had relaxed the upper age limit for 65-year-old Bokhari without mentioning a plausible reason in the minutes of the cabinet meeting.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2021

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