SC Lifts Bar On Attaul Haq Qasmi's Appointment

Top court overturns former CJP Saqib Nisar's verdict; observes determination of Rs197 million loss was incorrect

SC Lifts Bar On Attaul Haq Qasmi's Appointment

The Supreme Court on Thursday lifted a ban on appointing former Pakistan Television (PTV) managing director Attaul Haq Qasmi as a director in the national broadcaster. The decision came as the top court allowed a review petition filed by Qasmi, overturning another decision by former chief justice Saqib Nisar. 

The top court has also allowed the review of petitions filed by former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former information minister Pervez Rasheed, and former principal secretary to prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad. 

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa, took up the review petitions for hearing. 

The bench held that the top court's verdict in a suo moto notice on the appointment of the managing director was incorrect. 

During the hearing, Fawad Hassan Fawad informed the bench that Qasmi has a 50-year history of being associated with literature and poetry.

Qasmi's counsel contended before the bench that the matter did not warrant the attention of the apex court under Article 184(3), adding that the top court presumed the role of auditor.

Fawad told the bench that he had filed a review petition from jail and added that the observations attributed to him in the judgment were contrary to the facts. 

Upon hearing these arguments, Chief Justice Isa asked which government was in power when the Supreme Court passed the PTV appointment case judgment. 

Fawad responded that, at the time, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led the government. 

During the hearing, PTV's counsel conceded that the court's determination that losses to the tune of Rs197.867 million had been incurred was incorrect. This figure was a major contention when CJP Nisar decided the case. 

What had happened?

In 2018, then-Chief Justice Saqib Nisar led a bench that declared Qasmi's appointment as director and chairman of PTV illegal.

The bench subsequently directed the government to recover losses worth Rs197.867 million from Qasmi, former finance minister Ishaq Dar, former minister for information Pervaiz Rashid and ex-principal secretary to the prime minister Fawad Hasan Fawad.

Announcing the verdict, the court held that Qasmi would pay half of the total amount, or around Rs98.9335 million, because he was the beneficiary of illegal acts. Rashid was directed to pay 20%, or around Rs39.573 million, because he ignored the law and disregarded his duty.

PM Fawad was told to pay $10$ or around 19.787 million because he failed to act with due diligence in processing the summary for the appointment of PTV's director from a person-specific recommendation as opposed to a panel of three names as required by the Esta Code.

The former chief justice, who authored the 48-page verdict, maintained: "These amounts are their liabilities, and they must be reimbursed to PTV.

"We give them an opportunity to do so voluntarily. However, if they fail to do so within two months, PTV is directed to recover the said amounts from them in the stated ratio as per the procedure in practice for the recovery of dues."

The court further held that the federal government bypassed the law and took active steps for appeasement, upon which the court "expresses its disapproval and dismay".

The verdict states, "It also finds that the unlimited benefits/allowances granted to the office of the chairman of PTV are not in line with the policy of the best interests of the public sector company."

The ruling held that administrative actions undertaken by Qasmi were beyond the scope of duties of a chairman; therefore, "all such orders passed by him during his tenure are declared to be illegal and void ab initio".

"The alarming negligence of the government officials, which they tried to justify by stating that they were merely following orders from superiors/political heads, shows their utter lack of ability to withstand pressure and influence from higher officers or political bosses.

"Furthermore, it is evident that each official was trying to shift responsibility from himself onto the other ministry(ies)/division(s). This exercise of shirking responsibility and ignoring the rules has resulted in colossal loss of millions of rupees to the public exchequer and PTV."

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain