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January 13, 2019

SC asks ACE to continue probe into PKLI irregularities

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January 13, 2019

LAHORE: The Supreme Court (SC) asked the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) Director General Hussain Asghar to continue probe against the previous management of the Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute (PKLI).

A two-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, was hearing a case on Saturday regarding alleged irregularities at the PKLI. The ACE DG submitted an inquiry report on the PKLI. He said the project was supposed to be completed by December 2017; however, it was still under construction. He said the government officials were involved in misappropriation of funds and a detailed investigation could be held after registration of a case. The DG pointed out that no action had been taken against the contractors for delaying the project. Representing the PKLI previous management, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan challenged the fairness of the ACE report. He said the report was mainly based on a forensic audit, which itself carried grave factual mistakes. He also requested the bench to stop the ACE from lodging an FIR till the submission of a reply to the report. “The FIR carries a big stigma,” he added. However, the bench did not pass any restraining order to this effect, and directed the ACE not to cause any illegal arrest in the case. The bench also directed Barrister Ahsan and other counsels for the PKLI's old management to submit their replies to the report by Jan 16. Next hearing will be held in Islamabad.

Meanwhile, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid also appeared in the court and told the bench that paediatric liver transplant would start at PKLI within the next six months. The minister told the bench that she, along with the chief minister, visited the institute the other day and had a detailed meeting with the doctors over there. She said the doctors assured the government that the institute would be able to hold the first-ever paediatric liver transplant in public sector by June 2019. The health minister stated the draft of a new legislation to govern the institute has been approved by the provincial cabinet and forwarded to the chief minister. She said the draft bill would be presented in the assembly after the approval by the chief minister. The new law would abolish the trust of the PKLI and the government would run it through a board of governors, she added.

A senior lawyer, Zafar IqbalKalanuri, raised objections on the composition of the BoG and said the government wanted to bring the old people back to capture the institute again. However, Dr Rashid dispelled the impression, saying the lawyer’s assumptions were wrong. She undertook that no official from the previous regime would be included in the BoG.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Nisar also took notice of a negative campaign in the government circles against Dr Rashid in the light of harsh remarks of the court regarding her working. The chief justice said the court remarks have been misconstrued. “I was personally very happy when you were given the portfolio of health minister,” the chief justice told Dr Rashid and added that it was his wish to see a practicing doctor running the health ministry.

Dr Rashid was facing severe criticism by the chief justice in the recent weeks, firstly over the issue of Punjab Healthcare Commission’s board and then over a lack of legislation regarding Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute. The chief justice had expressed his disappointment with Dr Rashid’s performance since taking over charge, saying he had a lot of expectations from her.

However, in what seemed a departure from his evaluation of the minister’s conduct, the chief justice on Saturday appreciated Dr Rashid when told by the minister that his recent remarks had led to the opposition demanding her resignation. “[We] will not let you resign; you should keep doing your work,” the top judge said. “There is no need to be worried. You are very respectable. Your entire career has been spotless.” The CJ advised her not to be disappointed by criticism. Justice Nisar offered the minister advice from his personal experience, saying: “Campaigns are run against us as well; there are such WhatsApp groups. Should we stop working in such a situation then? “Your character is worthy of admiration and we do not have the words to appreciate it with,” the judge added.

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