PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the provincial advocate general seeking his response to a petition against changes to the law to protect the use of government helicopters by unauthorised persons since 2008.

A bench consisting of Justice Roohul Amin Khan and Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan also directed the National Accountability Bureau, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, to provide details of its notice for the recovery of dues from the people, who used government helicopters despite being not authorised to do so.

It was hearing a petition filed by parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the dissolved provincial assembly, Sardar Mohammad Yousaf, who requested the court to declare unconstitutional the last year’s legislation by the assembly to change the KP Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) Act, 1975.

The two laws in question, including the KP Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Act and Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (second Amendment) Act, were passed by the provincial assembly in Sept and Dec 2022, respectively.

Petitioner claims move made to benefit Imran, other ‘authorised’ people

Senior lawyer Mohammad Tariq Afridi appeared for the petitioner and said the original law was made in 1975 to determine the salaries, allowances and privileges of ministers and their families.

He said in 2018, the NAB had launched an inquiry into the use of government helicopters by 1,800 “unrelated” people, including former prime minister and PTI chief Imran Khan during the tenure of former chief minister Pervez Khattak.

The lawyer contended that the collective flight time of Mr Imran was 166 hours, while the others used the helicopter for 561 hours.

He added that the government had also rented out those helicopters illegally to private entities causing loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs340 million because of fuel, repair and other expenditure.

Mr Afridi contended that to stop the NAB from inquiring into the matter and to protect financial corruption and ill-gotten gains of the top leaders of the then ruling party, the provincial government enacted the Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Amendment) Act through which sections 7A and 7B were inserted in the original law.

Through those amendments, he said the chief minister was empowered to allow a minister or public servant to use an aircraft or helicopter of the government for official use at government expenses.

However, he argued that when the government realised that the said amendment was defective and could not achieve the desired results, it then passed the Ministers (Salaries, Allowances and Privileges) (Second Amendment) Act.

The counsel said that amendment was passed as a Money Bill in an illegal manner, so the governor had to give his assent to it instead of returning it to the assembly for reconsideration.

Mr Afridi said the amended law legalised official journeys and excursions carried out by the chief minister, advisor, special assistant to the chief minister, public servant or any individual on and from Nov 1, 2008 till the commencement of the Act.

He argued that introduction of the impugned amendments as a Money Bill by bypassing the regular legislative procedure under Article 70 of the Constitution was liable to be declared as unconstitutional and based on mala fide intentions.

During the hearing, the bench asked NAB additional deputy prosecutor general Mohammad Ali whether the bureau had made recovery from any unauthorised persons for using government helicopters.

Mr Ali replied that the NAB had sent a recovery notice to former MPA Arbab Jehandad Khan.

The bench directed him to produce on next hearing the details of all recovery notices issued to “unauthorised” people over the use of government helicopters.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2023

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