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Old Thursday, August 18, 2011
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Lightbulb Culture of hiring retired bureaucrats must end, says SC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said on Friday that it craved for a culture where civil servants did not have to curry favour with their political masters for remaining in service beyond their retirement but were given a clear understanding at the start of their career when it would end.

“We want to end the culture where the bureaucrats should not have any expectation for future extension and should not accommodate political masters,” observed Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, one of the members of a six-judge special bench hearing the alleged mismanagement in last year’s Haj operations.

Justice Mohammad Sair Ali observed that what was being portrayed was that the one (civil servant) who cooperated with the government was awarded future extension, adding that if such a culture was allowed to continue bureaucrats would have to be clubbed with certain political parties.

At the outset Advocate Raja Muhammad Irshad informed the bench that he had been appointed by the government as a special prosecutor to look into three corruption cases — Haj, National Insurance Company Limited (NICL) and Pakistan Steel Mills scams.

He requested the court to grant some time to Federal Investigation Agency Director General Malik Iqbal who had been appointed recently.

“Don’t compel us to open our mouth about the FIA DG who himself is involved in criminal cases,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who heads the special bench.

“We don’t have any trust on anybody and will summon the interior secretary who will be standing before us,” the chief justice said and deplored that whosoever investigated a corruption case was transferred.

He was referring to the recent transfer of Additional DG Syed Jawad Ali Bokhari and Director Hussain Asghar of the FIA who were investigating the Haj corruption case. The entire case had been spoiled by transferring these officers, the CJ added.

This compelled Malik Iqbal to come to the rostrum to explain that when he took over the charge, Hussain Asghar himself had told him that he was not interested in the job.

This was not an issue of interest but obligation, the chief justice retorted and said: “If you are a committed officer you should have resisted and if you are not interested you should not be retained in the disciplined force.”

The court directed the FIA director general to conduct an inquiry to ascertain whether these two officers were persuaded by some quarters not to continue with their investigations into the Haj scam and in case evidence of persuasion was established
appropriate action be taken.

The FIA DG is required to submit a report on the issue.

The chief justice was also dissatisfied with inquiry reports on the Haj probe submitted to the court and said these were incoherent and incomplete, showing no significant progress.

“Our only objective is that these investigations should be fair,” Justice Javed Iqbal said.

The chief justice was not happy over the fact that the government had recovered Rs40 million by involving a brotherly country, but said the court would not indulge in it.

According to media reports, Saudi Arabia paid for the free-loading pilgrims who had performed Haj.

The court also noted with pain that despite incriminating evidence against Minister of State for Religious Affairs Shugufta Jumani and Joint Secretary S.M. Tahir, who had prepared a working paper for the special selection board which approved the appointment of former director general of Haj Rao Shakeel, no action was taken.

“Corruption cases require people with special skills,” the court observed and directed the FIA DG to put behind bar within three days all those involved in Haj corruption.

About the free-loading journalists who had performed Haj on the government expense, the court gave a clean chit when it asked the FIA not to harass them for recovering outstanding expenses while disposing of an application moved by National Press Club President Afzal Butt.

Justice Iqbal asked the FIA DG to understand that there was a difference between the courtesy visa and the regular Haj scheme. “The SC has never given any direction to involve media personnel in the corruption case,” he said, explaining that they went on courtesy visa.

The court said that Hafeez Pirzada, the counsel for the government, had given a list of 27 contractual officers whose services had been terminated by the prime minister on the recommendations of a high-powered committee.

Mr Pirzada said the committee was also examining the case of employees who were on contract, but their tenure was expiring within a short period of time. But the government, he said, had decided that they would not be given a further extension after the expiry of their service tenure.

The court asked the establishment division to submit a comprehensive list explaining reasons for hiring four secretaries on contract — Law Secretary Masood Chistie, the human rights secretary whose tenure will expire in June, Defence Secretary Lt-Gen (retd) Athar Ali whose tenure will expire in July and the additional defence secretary whose tenure will expire in November.

The case will be taken up on April 29.
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