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March 14, 2018

Lawyers professional fee recovery case: PHC summons US embassy, other officials


March 14, 2018

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has summoned Mission Director of the Embassy of the United States of America and secretary Economic Affairs Division to resolve the issue of professional fee and other charges claimed by lawyers against the USAID and Academy for Educational Development, an American non-governmental organisation.

A single-member bench of Justice Ikramullah Khan issued the order after the lawyers pointed out that the respondents had not submitted replies in the civil suits for recovery of fee.

The case was filed by Peshawar lawyers including Abdul Sattar Khan, Sanaullah Khan and Taimur Khan against the decision of the civil court for not issuing direction to the State Bank of Pakistan to attach the accounts of USAID in Pakistan till recovery of the appellants’ professional fee, per diem, expenditure of the USA visit, punitive compensation and compound interest on legal fee.

The lawyers requested the court to set aside the civil court decision and issue direction to the State Bank of Pakistan to attach the USAID accounts till recovery of their professional fee and other charges.

During arguments, the petitioners’ lawyers submitted before the court that their agreed professional fee had been withheld by the donor of the Upper Fata Livelihood Program implementer, which in this case is an American NGO, Academy for Educational Development (AED) that had now been acquired by FHI360.

The lawyers contended that regular monthly fee invoices were submitted to the donor Agency (USAID) and its contractor AED. They claimed that once the arbitration cases claiming 3.2 million dollars were decided in favour of USAID contractor AED, the company wound up its activities without paying the lawyers professional fee and other charges.

The petitioners said that they had gone to the USA to demand their legal fee and after a meeting held at the Ronald Reagan building with the USAID and AED representatives, they were promised and shown that payments had been wired to Pakistan to AED accountants.

The petitioners submitted that when they returned to Pakistan they found that the amount had been sent, but they are still not paid.

During the course of hearing, Justice Ikramullah Khan remarked that the lawyers were entitled to the agreed professional fee even if they lose the cases.

The petitioners informed the bench that the Economic Affairs Division, being a regulator of all international NGOs in Pakistan, was a silent spectator to all. They said the international NGOs considered themselves above the law of the land.

They argued that despite the fact that USAID Mission Director is a party to the recovery suit being a donor of the Upper Fata Livelihood Program, but has never respected the civil court summons and High Court notices and the cases are decided ex-parte.

They said the AED and FHI360 had also been placed ex-parte and had never appeared before the civil court and high court.

The lawyers filed four suits for recovery of their legal fee and other charges against the respondents, including Academy for Education Development, the US-based NGO through its chief executive, FHI360 through its president and chief executive officer in the US, and USAID Pakistan through its Mission Director in the US Embassy Islamabad from March 2013 to October 2013.

In the first suit, appellant Abdul Sattar claimed professional fee of 35,000 US dollars, Sanaullah claimed 128,000 US dollars and Taimur Khan 76,800 US dollars.

In the second suit, Sanuallah claimed 1,942 dollars as per diem from the respondents and Taimur Khan claimed 1,857 dollars. In the third recovery suit, Sanaullah and Taimur Khan claimed 14,000 US dollars as expenditure on the US visit for pursuing the cases. In the fourth recovery suit, the three lawyers claimed 150,000 dollars each as punitive compensation/damages against the respondents. The court fixed April 16 for next hearing of the case.

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