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Election Commission of Pakistan.— File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The controversy over the recent appointment of deputy governor of State Bank of Pakistan deepened on Wednesday when the Ministry of Finance declined to de-notify Ashraf Mahmood Wathra’s appointment despite Election Commission of Pakistan’s orders for his removal ‘within 24 hours’.

Sources told Dawn that the ministry flatly declined to implement the ECP order, saying the appointment had been made in accordance with the law and in consultation with the SBP governor after Mr Wathra had met the required criteria.

Earlier, the ministry had sought three days’ time for consultations and then categorically stated that it would not de-notify Mr Wathra’s appointment.

The sources said the ECP had reviewed the finance ministry’s refusal to implement its orders on Wednesday and found it a violation of its ban on fresh recruitments.

Although both sides avoided making public statements, a ministry official accused the ECP of being selective in seeking removal of only the deputy governor of the central bank even though a number of directors to the SBP board had also been appointed during the purported ban period. In addition, he said, the election commission had not objected to a number of postings in other ministries, including the Ministry of Information, and investment companies.

An ECP official said the ban on fresh appointments was imposed on Jan 22 and applied to all public sector organisations, including ministries, divisions and autonomous and semi-autonomous organisations. “The commission took note of any violation that came to its notice and will do so in future whenever it comes across any deviation from its orders until the election process is completed,” he said.

Taking a serious view of the appointment of SBP’s deputy governor allegedly in violation of its ban on fresh recruitments, the commission had asked the SBP on March 22 to explain why its orders had been violated and demanded reversal of the appointment. It also set a deadline of 24 hours for implementation of its orders.

In response, the SBP had informed the ECP that in terms of Section 10(4) of the SBP Act, 1956, it was the prerogative of the federal government to appoint deputy governors of the State Bank for such period as it might determine.

The ministry official pointed out that former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had also appointed five directors on the SBP board after the Jan 22 order of the ECP, but no such issue was raised. He said the newly appointed directors included Mehmood Mandviwalla, a close relative of former finance minister Saleem H. Mandviwalla, Nawaz Tiwana, Iskandar Khan, Shahid Ahmed Khan and Iqbal Hasan.

The former prime minister had also appointed his son-in-law Shahnawaz Mahmood as deputy managing director of Pak-China Investment Company after Jan 22.

Likewise, Ghulam Nabi Mangrio, who earlier worked with the former prime minister in the ministry of water and power, was appointed as managing director of the Pakistan Security Printing Press.

Similarly, a number of directors were appointed during the period in the Pak-Libya Holding Company and Pak-Iran Investment Company and National Bank of Pakistan.