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Official removed after jailbreak restored

November 28, 2012

PESHAWAR, Nov 27: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday directed the provincial government to end the suspension of former Bannu Commissioner Abdullah Mehsud and appoint him to an office of his grade.

The directions were issued by a bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth during the hearing into a petition of Mr Mehsud, who was suspended over the April 2012 escape of over 300 prisoners from Bannu Jail after a militant attack, for restoration of his service.

The bench observed that under the Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules, a government official couldn’t be placed under suspension for more than six months and since the petitioner had been suspended for more than that period, he should be reinstated to the service.

It observed that an official had already been posted to the Bannu commissioner’s office and therefore, the government should appoint the petitioner to some other office of his grade.

The bench later admitted the petition to full hearing and gave 20 days to the provincial government for compliance with its directions.

During the hearing, the chief justice observed that the bench had conducted a judicial inquiry into the April 15, 2012 Bannu jailbreak and its findings were startling.

He observed that the inquiry revealed that the attackers had reached Bannu from Mir Ali in North Waziristan Agency after crossing eight checkposts of law-enforcement agencies and that they were armed with modern weapons, including rocket propelled grenades.

The chief justice observed that the inquiry also revealed that messages about attackers were conveyed to law-enforcement agencies but they didn’t respond.

When the chief justice asked the petitioner why he had not responded to the attack, he replied that he was informed by the relevant telephone operator that it was a normal attack.

The bench observed how an attack on a prison could be declared a normal attack.

Jehanzeb Mehsud, lawyer for the petitioner, said he was first suspended by the government on May 28 for three months and his suspension was extended on Aug 26 for three months.

He said several officers were suspended over the jailbreak and they were restored and appointed to different posts but the petitioner continued to be under suspension.

The lawyer said there was no lapse on part of the petitioner over the jailbreak.

PETITION ON PERKS ADMITTED: Also in the day, the bench admitted to the full hearing a writ petition filed by provincial Ombudsman Badshah Gul Wazir for perks and privileges equivalent to a judge of the high court and those of ombudsmen in other provinces.

Zahoorul Haq, lawyer for the petitioner, said the office of the provincial ombudsman was created under the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Ombudsman Act, 2010 and that his client’s appointment was made under Section 3 of the Act.

He said in other provinces, the perks and privileges of the provincial ombudsman were equivalent to those of a judge of the high court.

The lawyer said the provincial chief minister had approved the sought-after perks and privileges for the ombudsman but the bureaucracy had been creating hurdles to it.

The bench expressed displeasure over the failure of the respondents, including the provincial chief secretary and the finance secretary, to file response to the petition and observed that they should file the reply before the next date of hearing otherwise they would forfeit their right of hearing by the court.