Islamabad - In yet another Nadra-like episode, Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday restored Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Chairman Rashid Ahmad on his post.
The government had sacked Rashid Sunday night, but the court declared the notification of his sacking null and void and restored him to his position till disposal of a petition through which he challenged his sacking.
Only weeks before, the IHC had restored National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) Chairman Tariq Malik within hours of his removal by the government. In both the cases, the government had accused the two men of indulging in corrupt practices and claimed they were appointed in violation of relevant rules and regulations. But opposition parties saw these moves on part of the PML-N government to bring the independent entities like Nadra and Pemra under its thumb.
One-member bench comprising Justice Riaz Ahmed heard Rashid’s petition on Monday afternoon and issued notices to all parties including information ministry, establishment division, Pemra secretary and Pemra acting chairman Tehsin Ali Khan, and sought reply in two weeks.
In his plea filed through counsels Wasim Sajjad and Idrees Ashraf, Rashid Ahmad maintained that he was appointed for a four years by the president on the advice of the prime minister vide a notification dated January 26, 2013. He contended that the post of Pemra chairman is a tenure post under Section 7 of Pemra Ordinance, 2002 and he was sacked without fulfilling the due process of law.
His counsel stated before the court that for removal of the chairman, a procedure is provided in the Pemra Ordinance 2002 as amended by the Pemra (Amendment) Act, 2007. He maintained that evidently, the petitioner was condemned unheard. He therefore prayed the court to declare the order terminating the service of Pemra chief as malafide, arbitrary, illegal and of no legal consequence. He further prayed that the status of acting Pemra chairman may be declared as null and void because the law does not permit him to hold such a position.
The president on Sunday had removed Pemra chief on the advice of prime minister declaring the appointment ab-initio, void, illegal and in violation of Supreme Court guidelines and orders in Pemra acting chairman case and in Kh Asif vs state case. The official sources said his appointment as per requirement was neither open nor transparent. Ch Rashid, being Information secretary and a serving government employee, initiated a summary proposing himself as a candidate of Pemra chairmanship without carrying out open and transparent process of appointment, they added.
According to reports, information ministry had sent a summary to the president for Ch Rasheed’s removal, though legal experts say the government should have fulfilled strict regulations for this purpose. Legal experts say that it’s a constitutional designation and Pemra head can only be discharged according to Section 6 and 7 of Pemra laws. The head of the regulatory authority can only be sacked if he is unable to render his services because of any disease or accident, they add.
Rashid had been appointed chairman of the government’s media watchdog on January 28, 2013, after a ruling by the apex court barred the acting Pemra chairman Dr Abdul Jabbar from holding office.
Federal Minister for Water and Power Development Khawaja Asif had challenged Rashid’s appointment by the former government in the Supreme Court. Asif argued that the appointment was not carried out in accordance with the January 15 order of the Supreme Court regarding the vacant Pemra chairman’s office.
At the time, the court had observed: “The position of Pemra chairman has to be filled by a person who fulfils the exceptional and stringent requirements prescribed in the Pemra Ordinance and not by a casual appointee.” The order also stated, “Moreover, the appointment has to be made through an open and transparent process to ensure that the appointee meets the objective criteria specified in the Pemra Ordinance.“
Ahmad, a former principal information officer has also been accused of corruption in the past, with cases pending in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). According to informed sources, he had been enjoying a good position when former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was holding the ministerial portfolio of Water and Power. During his tenure, he had a major role in handling the rental power projects about which the World Bank, in its report, had raised very critical objections.
The sources further said that in his capacity as federal information secretary and Pemra chairman he was summoned by the Supreme Court to explain his position regarding a controversy with a renowned media group. He also remained under suspension for over a year over charges of massive corruption but Raja Pervez Ashraf reinstated his blue-eyed babu after becoming prime minister. He was later shifted to the country’s supreme media regulatory authority where he could not save his image as he was alleged of doing corruption and indulging in corrupt practices, the sources added. The corruption case against Ch Rashid is still pending with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).