ISLAMABAD: After the removal of heads of several autonomous and public bodies like PEMRA, PTV and CDA by the higher courts, questions are being asked about another high-profile appointment made without any advertisement and without following the procedural formalities of shortlisting and interviews, it has learnt.
According to documents available with Pakistan Today, Frequency Allocation Board (FAB) Executive Director (ED) Brigadier (r) Muhammad Naeem was appointed on July 21, 2017, through a simple notification in clear violation of government policies and the decisions of superior judiciary. In the past, the appointment to the same post was made after due process and proper advertisement in 2009, and later in 2012.
FAB is an autonomous body under the administrative control of Cabinet Division and was established under Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act, 1996.
It is surprising to note that while the Cabinet Division had advertised posts of heads of regulatory bodies PEMRA and PTA, the appointment of FAB executive director was made without it.
“The federal government is pleased to appoint Brigadier (r) Muhammad Naeem as FAB executive director under Cabinet Division for a period three years, with immediate effect and until further orders,” said the notification.
Interestingly, even prior to becoming FAB ED, Muhammad Naeem got himself appointed as FAB director general in Grade-20 on December 31, 2015, on a contract basis, without fulfilling procedural formalities of advertisement, shortlisting, interview and above all without the approval of the prime minister, which is mandatory for appointments of Grade-20 as per rules.
FAB Spokesman Ghulam Safdar claimed that the board was a special institution unlike PTA or PEMRA so there was no need for advertisement or interview for the appointment of its chief. When asked about the advertisement for the head of FAB in the past, he claimed that it only happened twice out of eight times when an ED was appointed.
Documents further said that the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT) had questioned Naeem’s appointment without the approval of the prime minister during the short period when the regulatory body was placed under the MoIT in 2016-17. However, Muhammad Naeem and FAB had nothing in reply and got saved from this accountability as the regulatory bodies moved back under Cabinet Division.
Naeem was on deputation from Ministry of Defence as National Frequency Management and Monitoring System DG and was also performing the duties of Administration DG while the Employees Service Regulations, 2014 were being framed and unlawfully implemented. These un-approved rules had paved way for his irregular appointment as DG in FAB.
In accordance with Rule 11 of Rules of Business 1973, “no division shall, without previous consultation with the Establishment Division, issue or authorise the issue of any orders which involves ‘a change in the terms and conditions of service of federal civil servants’ or ‘a change in the statutory rights and privileges of any federal government servant’”
Both the Establishment Division and Finance Division had already confirmed in their comments submitted to the Islamabad High Court (IHC), in a petition filed by FAB ex-director Rao Abdul Waheed, that FAB Service Regulations, 2014 were not approved by both the divisions.
Sources in the FAB said that under Naeem’s supervision, FAB’s management did not get the service regulations approved from Establishment Division as well as Finance Division, and implemented them in the department as they provided extra-constitutional powers to executive director, including powers to appoint and terminate employees.
When contacted, Brigadier (r) Naeem denied any wrongdoing in his appointment. “Its usual mudslinging which is common in government departments,” he said.
FAB Spokesman Ghulam Safdar also defended the appointment of Naeem as director general without the approval of the prime minister, saying that the Cabinet Division completed the formalities for the appointment.
He further said that the executive director had worked in the organisation and gained necessary knowledge and skills for the post, which was normally not available elsewhere. However, he rejected the allegations that relatives of audit officers and other related ministries were hired by FAB recently on hefty packages to avoid objection to its chief’s appointment.