LAHORE: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday took exception to a resolution recently passed by the Punjab Assembly against the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the wake of the arrest of former director general of the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Ahad Khan Cheema.
“Tell your political bosses to get another resolution passed against the Supreme Court as it summons you (bureaucrats),” CJP Nisar told Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed, who appeared before a three-judge special bench to represent the provincial government in multiple suo motu notices of public interest taken by the top judge. Justice Mansoor Ahmad Malik and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members of the bench.
The chief justice made these remarks when LDA director general Zahid Akhtar Zaman was explaining details of the LDA-City housing scheme, which was initially approved during the tenure of Mr Cheema.
The chief justice interrupted the LDA director general and asked him, “Where is Mr Cheema nowadays?” “He is in the custody of NAB,” Mr Zaman quickly responded. When asked by the court, he further said that Mr Cheema was now head of the Quaid-i-Azam Thermal Power Company and had been recently promoted to BPS-20.
Asks chief secretary to tell his bosses to get another resolution passed against apex court
The chief justice summoned the service profile of Mr Cheema when the chief secretary, on the bench’s query, disclosed that Mr Cheema had been receiving a monthly salary of about Rs125,000 while now he would be getting about Rs1.4 million from the public sector company employment.
In response to a query about the strike observed by the officials of the Pakistan Administration Service (PAS) against the arrest of Mr Cheema, Mr Zaman said he had not observed strike, neither did he participate in any protest. “If any officer wants to resign, submit it before us. We would get that approved,” said CJP Nisar.
He ordered NAB not to cause any harassment to anyone and directed the bureaucrats of Punjab to cooperate with the anti-corruption watchdog whenever needed and do not observe strike.
Coming back to the housing scheme, the chief justice said that there were complaints the land for the LDA-City had been acquired from people under coercion.
Had NAB not taken notice of the complaints over the housing scheme, the Supreme Court might have taken action, he said, adding that the affairs of the project appeared to be shady.
However, Mr Zaman denied having received any such complaint during his tenure as the director general of the LDA.
The bench adjourned the case till March 8 with the directive to the LDA chief to submit the complete record of the housing scheme along with the rules which allowed the authority to launch a project under public-private partnership.
The bench also issued notices to six private companies/developers engaged in the LDA-City project on Ferozepur Road. The companies are: the Millennium Land Developers, Urban Developers, Paragon City, Alfa Estate, Pak Estate and Maymar Housing Service.
During the hearing of another suo motu case, the chief justice questioned the media campaign about the Punjab government’s ‘performance’ being run with taxpayers’ money.
Since general elections were around the corner, such a media campaign amounted to pre-poll rigging, he observed while referring to long advertisements broadcast by the electronic media showing performance of the provincial government in different sectors along with the picture of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
“The chief minister should have paid for the advertisements from his own pocket. The court cannot allow misuse of public money,” the chief justice said.
Earlier, Punjab Information Secretary Raja Jahangir told a three-judge special bench that Rs5.5 million was paid to 12 television channels for one-day broadcasting of an advertisement.
The chief justice asked the secretary to tell the name of the authority who had ordered the media campaign through the use of public money. He also questioned appearance of the chief minister’s prominent photo in the TV advertisements.
He went on to say that the government would have to justify the misuse of taxpayers’ money for its own promotion.
The bench adjourned the matter for March 8 and directed the information secretary to come up with a detailed reply about the promotional campaign of the provincial government.
Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2018