Supreme Court of Pakistan suspends caretakers’ transfers, appointments

Islamabad: The Supreme Court on Wednesday except the transfers made for the conduct of free and fair elections and running day-to-day business suspended all the appointments, postings and transfers carried out by the caretaker government. The Dispatch News Desk (DND) reported.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, instructed the interim set-up not to make further appointments, transfers and postings till the pendency of the petition – filed by Khawaja Muhammad Asif, a PML-N MNA elect, about the appointments, postings and transfers made by the caretaker government. The bench however noted that besides the petitioner, Federal Law Minister Ahmer Bilal Sufi had also objected to the recent appointments, transfers and postings. During Wednesday’s proceedings, Justice Chaudhry warned the incoming government to maintain the highest standards of transparency in making appointments.

The chief justice said to the petitioner, “You have taken up a double-edged sword by challenging the appointments made by the caretakers. Mind it the government in waiting has to follow and maintain the highest standards of transparency and merit for future appointments to avoid interference of the apex court. The practice of appointing cronies, favourites and relatives should be discouraged. Such practices have been the cause of contentions for the past five years.”

PML-N’s Khawaja Asif contended the Pakistan Software Export Board chairman had been removed and Saleem Ahmed Ranjha appointed through direct induction by former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani.  The petitioner stated the FIA director general, who was appointed a month ago, had also been in the process of being replaced, while certain employees/officers of Pakistan Telecommunication Authority had also been removed from service without observance of the procedure set out in the relevant statute.

Upon this, the bench observed that it seemed the caretakers had not followed the due process for new appointments and that the issue would be decided after hearing the responding authorities, ie the caretaker prime minister and establishment division secretary. “What is the point of filing a petition in the Supreme Court against these appointments when the new government can undo them through executive orders,” questioned Justice Gulzar Ahmed.  Asif replied recently-appointed persons, if removed, could claim certain rights, and a cycle of litigation would evolve.

Responding to the petition, Attorney General of Pakistan Irfan Qadir contended that the interim government could make appointments and postings to run day-to-day affairs of the state and to meet any eventuality till the new elected government took over.

The principal law officer for the federation however stated he needed to get instructions from the government on factual position about the appointments of certain individuals and the process followed. The court later adjourned the hearing till June 4.

In his plea, the PML-N leader had mentioned that National Highway Authority chairman Hamid Ali Khan was replaced on May 16 by Sajjad Hussain Baloch; the NEPRA chairman was replaced on the same day, and Justice (retired) Ahmad Khan Lashari was appointed; SNGPL Managing Director Arif Hameed was replaced on May 15 by Amin Tufail; the SSGCL managing director was replaced on March 15 by Rahat Kamal Siddiqui; Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation Managing Director Khalid Khokhar was replaced by Saifullah Khan. National Fertilizer Chairman Rizwan Mumtaz Ali was removed on May 09; Oil and Gas Development Corporation Managing Director Masood Siddiqui was removed on May 06; State Life Corporation chairman was removed on May 16; Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation chairman was reportedly removed and another appointed against the slot.