LAHORE: The caretaker Punjab government’s amended Anti-Corruption Establishment Ordinance that clipped powers of the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) director-general has lapsed after completing its 90 days life – relieving restrictions on the working of the ACE director general (DG).

The Mohsin Naqvi-led caretaker government had got “The Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (Amendment) Ordinance 2023” promulgated after the DG had ‘dared’ to lodge FIRs against Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS) officers.

The ACE DG had lodged two FIRs against three PAS officers – former secretary of services Masood Mukhtar, former secretary of coordination to chief minister Dr Asif Tufail in a case of posting Muhammad Khan Bhatti on deputation as principal secretary to chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, and FIR against former special secretary to chief minister Dr Khurram Shahzad, among others, in a case of “illegally” allowing a sugar mill to enhance its sanctioned crushing capacity.

The bureaucracy had sprung up against the lodging of FIRs against the PAS officers and maneuvered the caretaker chief minister, who allowed the initiation of a summary by Additional Chief Secretary Ahmad Raza Sarwar. The summary was immediately approved and sent to Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman, who promulgated the ordinance on Dec 1 last year.

Sources in the civil secretariat told Dawn that there seems no urgency as no summary has been initiated for the newly elected chief minister Maryam Nawaz for her nod to take the matter to the Punjab Assembly for legislation. The sources say the ACE DG’s powers have been restored and could be exercised in required circumstances.

Through the ordinance, the civil bureaucracy had bound the ACE DG to send a reference to obtain prior permission in writing for BPS-01 to BPS-16 from the appointing authority, for BPS-17 from the secretary of the administrative department, for BPS-18 and BPS-19 from the additional chief secretary, and for a deputy commissioner, commissioner, secretary to the government, head of an attached department or any other public servant in BPS- 20 and above, from the chief secretary – before registering a criminal case.

The ordinance required that the “secretary or the additional chief secretary or the chief secretary, as the case may be, may constitute a committee of at least three members and may refer the reference to such committee for its examination.

The committee was supposed to give its recommendations to the secretary or the additional chief secretary or the chief secretary, as the case may be, within 15 days from the receipt of the reference and the secretary or the additional chief secretary or the chief secretary, as the case may be, shall decide whether to grant the permission for registration of criminal case against public servant or not.”

The ordinance had also barred the ACE that “no public servant up to BPS-17 shall be arrested without prior permission in writing of the administrative secretary or head of an attached department, and no public servant in BPS-18 or BPS-19 shall be arrested without prior permission in writing of the ACS and no deputy commissioner, commissioner or administrative secretary, head of an attached department, and no other public servant of BPS-20 and above shall be arrested without prior permission, in writing, of the chief secretary.

The amended ordinance had also empowered the chief secretary that he could call for the record of any case or preliminary probe, pending or finalized, for purposes of satisfying himself as to the correctness, legality or propriety of any order passed or decision taken in such preliminary probe by the DG or any other officer of the ACE.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

ICJ rebuke
Updated 26 May, 2024

ICJ rebuke

The reason for Israel’s criminal behaviour is that it is protected by its powerful Western friends.
Hot spells
26 May, 2024

Hot spells

WITH Pakistan already dealing with a heatwave that has affected 26 districts since May 21, word from the climate...
Defiant stance
26 May, 2024

Defiant stance

AT a time when the country is in talks with the IMF for a medium-term loan crucial to bolstering the fragile ...
More pledges
Updated 25 May, 2024

More pledges

There needs to be continuity in economic policies, while development must be focused on bringing prosperity to the masses.
Pemra overreach
25 May, 2024

Pemra overreach

IT seems, at best, a misguided measure and, at worst, an attempt to abuse regulatory power to silence the media. A...
Enduring threat
25 May, 2024

Enduring threat

THE death this week of journalist Nasrullah Gadani, who succumbed to injuries after being attacked by gunmen, is yet...