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SC guidelines sought for appointment of top SBP officials

March 31, 2013

The Supreme Court of Pakistan.—File Photo.

ISLAMABAD: Recent controversy over the appointment of a deputy governor to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has prompted a citizen to file a petition in the Supreme Court to seek an order for the government to develop a transparent procedure to ensure that only persons possessing knowledge and integrity got important positions at the central bank.

Moved by Advocate Mohammad Aamir Rana on behalf of Aswad Imtiaz, the petition says that the federal government has been appointing persons of its choice as governors and deputy governors of the SBP, without following a just and equitable process.

Apart from the government through its finance secretary and the SBP, Mr Imtiaz has made SBP Governor Yaseen Anwar and Deputy Governors Kazi Abdul Muktadir and Ashraf Mahmood Wathra respondents in his petition. The March 5 appointment of Mr Wathra as deputy governor by the then prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, for a three-year term stirred quite a controversy after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) raised objections and directed the finance ministry to remove him because the ECP considered the appointment a violation of the ban it had imposed on Jan 22 on fresh recruitments.

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

The petition has urged the court to declare the appointment of the SBP governor and two deputy governors illegal and without lawful authority.

In addition, it said, the finance ministry and the SBP should be directed to produce before the court complete record of the process through which the governor and the deputy governors were appointed.

The petitioner is of the opinion that the prevalent practice allows the finance ministry to select nominations against such posts without any advertisement and the finance secretary, after informally meeting the potential candidates, moves a summary to the prime minister or the president wherein names of the persons to be appointed are suggested along with their ‘unverified’ CVs.

There is no standard procedure in the ministries, even to the extent of preparing the summary or sending the reference to the prime minister and in most cases only one name is suggested against a vacancy, the petition alleged.

Such process does not suffice to meet the ends of justice and there are reasonable apprehensions that it is prone to abuse as incompetent people or people of unsubstantiated credentials can be appointed. The qualification and credentials of the selected persons are not scrutinised by a selection panel, it deplored.

The Rules of Business 1973 of the SBP provide room for undue interference by the minister concerned whose approval is mandatory for sending the summary to the prime minister. Such a process is immune to political capture, thus detrimental to the autonomy of the banking regulator.

All organs of the state are bound to make endeavours for the uplift and benefits of economic growth of people, the petition said, adding it was necessary that the federal government enact rules and procedure for all appointments, especially when choosing a person to head a public institution/regulatory body having consequences on the economic condition of the public at large as their wellbeing is inextricably linked to the performance of such persons.

After the 18th Amendment, it points out, all policymakers relating to regulatory bodies are to be approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in terms of article 154 of the constitution, but the CCI has failed to make any policy about the appointment of the heads and members of regulatory bodies.