ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has set aside the policy introduced by former special assistant to the prime minister Zulfi Bukhari for selection of community welfare attachés (CWAs) in 12 missions in Europe, US, UK and other countries.

The IHC’s division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Sardar Ejaz Ishaq Khan issued a detailed order on the appeals filed by the government against the order of the single member bench comprising Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb.

The Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis in 2019 changed the selection criteria by amending the policy.

As per amendment, officers are required to secure 40pc marks in interview and 60pc in written test to qualify for foreign posting.

Previously, a candidate required 20pc in interview and 80pc marks in the written test.

Interestingly, applications were sought under the previous policy and the candidates qualified the written test in accordance with the policy introduced in 2016.

However, the overseas ministry in December 2019 changed the selection criteria after the candidates had qualified the written test. Subsequently, some candidates challenged the recommendation of the interview committee not to appoint them against the posts of community welfare attaches in Pakistan’s missions abroad.

Shahid Mehmood Khokhar, the counsel for the petitioners, adopted before the court that on Oct 27, 2019, the overseas ministry published an advertisement inviting applications for the selection of CWAs under the 2016 selection policy.

The court observed that the process for selection of CWAs had already commenced under the policy of 2016 as it existed then it is only when the interviews were to be conducted, the policy was changed and the selection criteria was altered in the mid process. Though it is correct proposition that no candidate acquires vested right till he/she is selected, but no justification has been put forth by the appellants for the change in the policy criteria and it only smacks mala fide as if issued to favour someone.”

“If the policy had been amended before process was started, the decision would have been otherwise. It was the legitimate expectation of every candidate that he or she shall be governed by applicable policy or the law for the process of selection, which was defeated when the same was changed. Moreover, as noted in the impugned judgement that amendments made in the policy of 2016 were never made public which also raises concerns for all the testing candidates,” the court order added.

The court observed that the Selection Board was headed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zulfi Bukhari adding that SAPM “is not a Minister for State or a Federal Minister but only enjoys status for the purposes of perks and privileges. The said incumbent cannot participate in the cabinet proceedings and though can sit in the parliament but only as a spectator”.

Subsequently, the court set aside the policy amended by the said board and upheld the decision of the single member bench.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2022

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