LAHORE - A large-scale replacements of the law officers at the Punjab Advocate General office is on the cards by the Punjab government after political and legal hiccups had held that back for over 14 months since the PML-N government had made an attempt to bring new law officers.
Official sources have confided that the PML-N government has now finally come down to undertake wide retrenchment of the law officers who either were appointed during the PML-Q government in the Punjab, or the interim government set up to conduct elections. The sources said at a high level meeting, also attended by PML-N Punjab President Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khan Khosa and acting Advocate General Raza Farooq, it has been decided in principle to remove about 37 law officers of the Advocate General office retaining only five to eight from the existing strength.
Sources said the PPP, which runs a coalition government with PML-N in the province, has also been taken on board in this regard. They name Additional Advocate General Muhammad Hanif Khatana, Ch Muhammad Hussain, Assistant Advocates General Sarfraz Ali Khan, Amjad Chattha, and Mr Rizvi among those who have been given green signal to continue the job while all the rest are being removed.
A summary for the removal of the law officers, the sources say, has been approved by Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahaz Sharif and a notification in this regard is expected within a day or two.
During the stint of Advocate General Aftab Iqbal Chaudhary, salaries and allowances of the law officers were revised to grant a package of about Rs2.25lakh each to the Additional and Rs 1.40 lakh to Assistance Advocate General in addition to telephone, fuel and other benefits.
After coalition government of PLM-N and the PPP was set up in Punjab in April 2008, the government wanted to replace most of the law officers but it could not go for it partly for the political reasons and partly on account of a legal order which had stayed the removal of the law officers.
Later the SC clarified the order and it paved way for the appointment of Khwaja Harris Ahmad as Advocate General Punjab although it came about after a considerable delay following a summary in this respect was sent by Chief Minister Punjab to the Punjab Governor.
When Khwaja Harris was heading the AG office, the coalition partners in the government worked out a formula to equally divide 80 per cent of the law officers appointments between PPP and the PML-N, while leaving 20 per cent at the discretion of Advocate General Punjab.
But that formula also could not be materialised due to the ensuing tussle and tension between the coalition partners on the judges issues which culminated into a temporary loss of Chief Ministership to Mian Shahbaz Sharif through a judicial order and imposition of governor rule in the Province. With that Khawaja Harris had also resigned the office. Later on the Sharif government in the Punjab was restored by the Supreme Court after the PML-N demand for the judges restoration was also met by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on March 16 last.
Following that the office of the AG remained vacant on which now Mr Raza Farooq has been appointed.
On contact with some law officers, they confirmed that large scale replacement of the law officer was on the on anvil. Two of them said, they believe it would come about in a day or two.
Sources also claim that as many as 63 advocates have been interviewed by the relevant authorities for selecting about 35 out of them for induction as law officers.