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President Mamnoon sacks PEMRA Chairman

18 April, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday ordered the dismissal of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) Chairman Chaudhry Rashid Ahmad from service on Thursday after examining the findings of an inquiry report, which was ordered by him in compliance with the Islamabad High Court (IHC) orders and the advice of the prime minister.

The government had sacked Chaudhry Rasheed in December 2013 in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment to remove illegally appointed officials. The PPP government kept the crucially important office of Pemra chairman vacant for more than two years in order to make an appointment during its last days so any favourite appointee could continue even after the completion of PPP government's term on March 15, 2013 to protect hundreds of illegal appointments made by the PPP regime and many other illegal acts. Chaudhry Rashid was appointed by the PPP government in its dying days for a period of four years. Illegal appointments included sons and daughters of high and mighty powerful elite of the country and thus the process of removal of Chaudhry was being delayed.

After federal government dismissed Chaudhry Rashid in December 2013, the latter challenged the same in IHC which restored him but at the same directed the federal government to continue process of his removal but by following laid down procedure and giving him opportunity to respond after serving a show cause notice. The president ordered an inquiry on advice of the prime minister as was directed by the IHC and authorised federal Interior Secretary Shahid Khan as inquiry officer who concluded that massive irregularities and even frauds were committed in the process of appointment of Chaudhry Rashid as Pemar chairman and even during the process of his promotion from grade-21 to grade-22.

It is important to mention that a three-member committee headed by retired police officer Pervaiz Rathore is running affairs of Pemra and is probing massive irregularities committed during last five years. These irregularities range from irregular and illegal appointments mostly of fake degree holders, illegal issuance of different licences and unnecessary harassment by previous Pemra management. Pervaiz Rathore enjoyed exceptional reputation of being an honest, dedicated, hardworking and professional officer.

Pemra officials hoped that he would unearth all massive irregularities committed during last five years and also point out those responsible for such corrupt practices and he would continue monitoring Pemra affairs. It is also important to mention that after Pervaiz Rathore started taking to task those involved in wrongful practices in past, many started moves to get him removed and get some favourite appointed on the top slot of regulatory body of electronic media in Pakistan so to avoid any adverse action against their corruption. Senior Pemra officials say that any process of new appointment should be started after Pervaiz Rathore completed his mission of cleansing of authority on which prime minister deputed him so affairs of Pemra may be streamlined for future.

Important parts of the inquiry report submitted by inquiry officer read as: "The president of Pakistan/Authority on the advice of prime minister of Pakistan designated the undersigned as authorised officer on 28th January 2014 for:

a) Serving an approved show cause notice upon Rashid Ahmed, Chairman Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) on account of acts of omission/commission in terms of section 7 of the Pemra (Amendment) Act 2007; and

b) Grant Rashid Ahmed a personal hearing. c) Report within ten days.

2. The show cause notice was served upon Rashid Ahmed Chairman Pemra on 6th February 2014. It inter alia alleged that:-

a) The appointment of Rashid Ahmad as Pemra chairman for four years, while serving as Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is illegal.

b) Submitting a summary to the prime minister with a panel of three names only and securing appointment of chairman Pemra on the basis of a deficient, disguised, biased and unlawful summary is invalid as per directions of the Supreme Court.

c) The Establishment Division in its comments in the summary highlighted the requirement of a public advertisement. However the summary placed before the prime minister omitted these paras whereby the prime minister was not properly assisted in decision making. No attempt was made to select from a pool of potential talent and selection procedure provided at Sr. No. 140 of Estacode was bypassed.

d) The fact that Rashid Ahmed was approaching retirement within three months was not disclosed as is required in Sr. No. 10 of Estacode.

e) Orders of the Honourable Supreme Court passed In Constitutional Petitions No.104/2012 and 105/2012, which state "that the position of chairman Pemra has to be filled by a person who fulfills the exceptional and stringent requirement prescribed in the Pemra ordinance and not by a casual appointee" were violated.

f) In further violation of Rules of Business, 1973 the notification of appointment as chairman Pemra was issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting by a subordinate of Rashid Ahmed, Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting instead of the Establishment Division.

g) The record revealed that promotion of Rashid Ahmed from BPS-21 to BPS-22 was achieved on the basis of false certificate issued by an Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Inquiries were pending against Rashid Ahmad in NAB and FIA, however a certificate was issued that no inquiry was pending against the fads.

h) The appointment of Rashid Ahmed as Chairman Pemra was initiated and finalized under his own supervision. This process was neither open nor transparent and violated, inter alia, articles 4,9,18 & 25 of the Constitution and Section 6 of the Pemra Ordinance 2002 read with rules 5(9), 11, 15 & 15-A of the Rules of Business, 1973 and the relevant government instructions contained in Estacode as well as specific directions of the Hon'able Supreme Court.

3. Rashid Ahmad replied to the show cause notice without a satisfactory response to material facts of the case (Annex-ll). He could not contravene the reality that the entire exercise of proposing his own name for the position of chairman Pemra while serving as Secretary Information and Broadcasting Division is illegal and amounts to a corrupt practice under Section 9 (a) of the National Accountability Ordinance 1999. His interim reply repeatedly focuses on non issues while falling to address the central charge of manipulating his own appointment without open advertisement and mandatory requirement to offer equal opportunity to eligible aspirants in a self-propelled arid self-serving exercise in negation of public interest.

4. The contention of the show cause notice that the initial appointment is Illegal and all subsequent actions based on an illegal action are therefore invalid, is not addressed nor responded to by quoting any substantial rules or law or evidence to the contrary. Rashid Ahmed has relied on lengthy superfluous arguments in an attempt to digress from the main allegations in the show cause notice.

5. Rashid Ahmed was given two opportunities of personal hearing on 26 February 2014 and 6th March 2014. Rashid Ahmed sought examination of various documents from Establishment Division in support of his defence. The available documents were secured and made available for his examination at a personal hearing date on 26th February, 2014, However, Rashid Ahmad did not appear on 26th February, 2014 or 6th March, 2014, citing writ petition No.314/2014 as the reason.

6. By not appearing for personal hearing on both occasions, Rashid Ahmed violated Islamabad High Court orders in writ petition No 4606/2013 which clearly states that "proceedings may continue against him provided he is given an opportunity for personal hearing". He also flouted the instant proceedings as per law that allowed him a fair chance of being heard in person twice and examination of record sought by him.

7. The conduct during the preceding of Rashid Ahmed is clearly malafide as he has not given any substantial explanation for his illegal appointment as Chairman Pemra while himself serving as Secretary Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Instead he has chosen to shield behind a second judgement of Islamabad High Court in writ petition No.312 of 2014 which does not contravene the earlier judgment in writ petition No.4606/2012 filed by Rashid Ahmed himself. Copy of CMA No 2 in writ petition No 312/2014 is placed at Annex. He therefore stands in direct contempt of court and is attempting to subvert the course of justice.

8. The opinion of Law Division was sought on the question of continuing the proceedings against the appointment of Rashid Ahmed as Chairman Pemra. The matter was referred to the Attorney General of Pakistan by the Law Division. The opinion of attorney general held that instant proceedings against Rashid Ahmad are valid and may continue as he had concealed the facts of the case from the court and obtained a judgment based on falsehood.

9. It is also evident from record that his promotion to BS-22 was based on concealment of facts. The material fact that inquiry was pending was not placed on record and therefore the promotion cannot be deemed to be valid and is liable to be reviewed.

10. It is therefore obvious that Rashid Ahmed has not been able to provide substantial evidence to contradict the fact that his initial appointment as Chairman Pemra while serving as Secretary Ministry of Information and broadcasting is illegal, void ab initio and he may be dismissed from his present position of Chairman Pemra.

11. As an extra precaution before a determinative conclusion of this case it is submitted that the matter may once again be referred to Law Division and Office of the Attorney General to safeguard against any impeding controversy as Rashid Ahmed is already in litigation far beyond the means of a civil servant.

12. It is also placed on record that the undersigned is a member of Pemra as well as authorised officer in these proceedings therefore bias has also been agitated. Such contention albeit is not sustainable in view of judgments of the superior courts.

13. Submitted."

It is important to mention here that after submission of this detailed inquiry report, the matter was once again referred to Law Division and office of the Attorney General of Pakistan as per para-11 of the report.

End.

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