No immunity to former Peshawar Development Authority chiefs: govt

Published April 8, 2021
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has vehemently denied giving any immunity to former director generals of Peshawar Development Authority through an ordinance. — Creative Commons/File
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has vehemently denied giving any immunity to former director generals of Peshawar Development Authority through an ordinance. — Creative Commons/File

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has vehemently denied giving any immunity to former director generals of Peshawar Development Authority through an ordinance tabled in KP assembly on Tuesday.

In a statement issued here on Wednesday, the government argued that a news item that appeared in Dawn misinterpreted and misrepresented a section in the Peshawar Development Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, regarding immunity to the former DGs of PDA.

After careful reading of the ordinance, it is obvious that the reporter misconstrued and misread the relevant section, leading to the erroneous assumption of mala fide on part of the government. Dawn regrets the mistake.

The official statement said that the relevant section was meant to address the likely legal complications in appointment of past Director General(s), immunity in most restrictive sense was also added in the ordinance.

“Immunities to the actions of past Director General.—Before the commencement of the Peshawar Development Authority (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, an action taken, decision made, proceedings conducted or any other official business of the Authority run by any of its past Director Generals, shall not be called in question, merely for want of any deficiency in his qualification or experience.”

As the language of the proposed amendment vividly suggests, the immunity is only with respect to any deficiency in qualification or experience of any past DG. The provision, by no stretch of imagination, provides any immunity vis-à-vis merit of any decision or against any act of corruption, inefficiency or other corrupt practice. The impression that any blanket immunity is provided to any past DG for all his acts is thus clearly not true.

Even the Chief Justice Peshawar High Court, during the hearing of a case relating to PDA namely Imtiaz Saleem v. Government today shown his reservations in open Court while cognizant of the news item and required the Advocate General to explain such blanket immunity, as claimed in the news item.

When the judge was shown the actual text of the ordinance and the rationale was explained, he got satisfied and did not choose to further pursue the matter.

The statement said that a well-worded legal provision and necessary amendments were made in Section 9 of the ordinance by virtue of the ordinance, promulgated on February 23, 2021 for improving the criteria for the post of DG PDA.

In fact, Section 9 of the Peshawar Development Authority Act, 2017, in its original form, provided appointment of a DG either through posting (transfer) of Officer of Grade 20 or through initial recruitment.

Sub-section (2) of Section 9 required that the DG while having at least 12 years administrative experience must possess atleast a Second-Class Master’s Degree in Business Administration or Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering from a recognized University.

This condition was originally applicable to both modes of appointments i.e. posting (by transfer) and initial recruitment but the Department kept interpreting it mistakenly and kept sending the name of officers of government who did not possess this qualification (as provided in the Act).

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2021

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