PM’s principal secretary says practice of verbal approvals has been in place for ‘two decades’
SC orders audit of perks, privileges given to former PTV chief
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar on Monday, while hearing the case of Attaul Haq Qasmi’s appointment as Pakistan Television (PTV) managing director (MD), reprimanded Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Fawad Hasan Fawad on learning that the controversial appointment had been approved on verbal orders from the former premier.
“Which law allows you to obey verbal orders from the prime minister?” the CJP inquired during the hearing, “You do not have the authority to approve a summary sent by the prime minister.”
Fawad, in his defence, said that the practice of approving verbal orders by the prime minister (PM) was not exclusive to his tenure and had been in place for “two decades”.
A three-member Supreme Court bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar heard the suo motu case of Qasmi’s appointment as PTV MD as well as the amount of salary and perks he received during his tenure and reserved its decision in the case.
The bench on Monday ordered an audit of the monetary privileges given to Qasmi over the past two years by a private firm within a week. The former PTV chairman had received Rs1.5m as salary and other benefits and was also allocated a special advertising budget for a programme he used to host on PTV. That amount, added to other benefits, had rounded up to the massive sum of Rs278m.
During the hearing, Fawad Hasan Fawad stated that the summary of Qasmi’s appointment was sent to the establishment division by PTV’s board of directors. It was then sent to the then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif who approved it, Fawad told the court. He added that neither he nor the PM had approved financial privileges.
“I’m saying this under oath,” he said. “The Finance Division had approved monetary incentives.”
“A notice to the former PM could be issued over the matter if the authorities failed to prove the appointment lawful,” the CJP remarked, adding that the court will summon representatives of the Finance Ministry as well.
Qasmi’s lawyer Ayesha Hamid tried to defend his appointment saying that the state television had earned a revenue of “Rs600 million during the former MD’s tenure”. The CJP dismissed this argument and termed the appointment as “against the law and based on dishonesty”.
Justice Nisar also admonished former information minister Pervez Rashid for not appointing a lawyer, reminding him that the court had warned him of consequences if he failed to hire a legal representative.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing indefinitely.
Earlier on February 12, CJP Nisar questioned who was behind the appointment of former Pakistan Television (PTV) chairman Ataul Haq Qasmi as managing director (MD), warning that if the appointment was illegal, all expenses incurred by the state-run media group would be recovered from the person responsible as court summoned the 10-year tax record of Qasmi.
Qasmi looked after the affairs of PTV as its chairperson on a contract after the three-year contract of former MD Mohammad Malick expired on February 26, 2016.
Qasmi had stirred up controversy in April 2017 when he appointed himself PTV MD. Five days later, he was replaced by Information Secretary Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, who was appointed as acting MD. Sukhera resigned in December last year, saying that it had become “increasingly difficult… to work for the restoration of [the] past glory of PTV”.
Qasmi had allegedly received an aggregate of Rs278 million as salary and employee benefits during his two-year term.