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August 11, 2020

LHC issues notice to Centre on plea against PM’s advisers, SAPMs

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August 11, 2020

LAHORE: Lahore High Court Chief Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan on Monday issued a notice to the federal government on a constitutional petition challenging appointments of advisers and Special Assistants to the Prime Minister.

The court also sought a comprehensive report about qualifications and appointment procedure of the aides along with their assets details, perks and privileges, specialisation in their respective field and services for the country. The LHC CJ regretted that unfortunately elite people came with empty briefcases, filled them and left with impunity.

Justice Khan also issued notices to all advisers and SAPMs and asked them to furnish their separate replies. As the hearing resumed, the petitioner-lawyer Nadeem Sarwar informed the court that the register's office objection had been removed and the notifications regarding appointment of advisers and SAPMs had been annexed to the petition.

Federal law officer Ishtiaq A Khan objected to the maintainability of the petition, saying that Islamabad High Court had already dismissed the same petition a couple of weeks ago. The court, however, dismissed his objection and asked him to assist the court on constitutional issues involved in the case.

Justice Khan advised additional attorney general Khan that he might separate from the case if he could not render assistance to the court impartially. CJ reminded him that former attorney general Pakistan had also quit to present the federal government in Justice Qazi Faez Isa case.

Justice Khan asked AAG to identify the constitutional provision that allowed the prime minister to appoint advisers and SAPMs. AAG Khan replied that the prime minister was empowered to appoint advisers under article 93 of the Constitution and they could take part in parliament proceedings under article 57 but right of vote had not been given to them. He, however, could not satisfy the court on the appointment of SAPMs and their criteria.

When asked where the federal government did derive power from to grant status of federal ministers to the special assistants to the prime minister, Ishtiaq pointed out that it had been done in the light of the Supreme Court’s verdict in the Zulfi Bukhari case.

To another court’s query, AAG admitted that SAPMs could not sit in cabinet meetings or participate in policy making decisions, adding that their role was confined to advisory nature and they were invited to the cabinet meeting as experts.

Justice Khan also cast serious doubts over the procedure of appointment of SAPs and their eligibility. Without naming Zulfi Bukhari, he remarked that did the prime minister enjoy unbridled powers to appoint his close friend as SAPM.

Could a person be appointed as SPA who was so trustworthy that you only eat the food brought by him? What is the criteria of their appointment? They made wrong choices and removed them after sometime. Justice Khan said the most of SAPMs took shelter under the umbrella of overseas Pakistani and claimed they brought foreign remittance to the country whereas in fact, white collar overseas were the real backbone of the country's economy and they sent huge money in the form of foreign exchange.

CJ regretted that Pakistani business tycoons in foreign countries had never sent huge money like Rs 200 or 300 million to the country. They only spent money on their stay in luxury hotels and parties with friends. White collar overseas Pakistan work 16-18 hours and send their hard-earned money to their country. They are the real heroes but some opportunists usurped their rights. They presented the cheque to the prime minister and came to limelight through the media, CJ observed.

The next date would be fixed by the LHC registrar’s office after receiving the replies from respondents. The petitioner-lawyer argued that the respondents being not the members of the National Assembly could not exercise authority and power of the federal government, which was a domain of elected representatives of the people.

He said the appointment of dual national special assistants was also against the national interest and defence of Pakistan. The lawyer argued that as per Article 90 of the Constitution the executive authority of the federation shall be exercised by the prime minister and federal ministers. He said that the cabinet of ministers that had been authorized by Article 91(1) and the prime minister was only the head of the cabinet and could not assume power of any federal minister.

“Even if one minister is missing, there can be no cabinet. Therefore, no exercise of authority by the prime minister and other ministers alone,” the petitioner added. He pointed out that by insertion of unelected members no cabinet constitutionally existed and the prime minister was non-existent and incapable of performing his function as prime minister.

The petitioner pleaded that the appointment of SAPM and advisers conferring the title of state ministers and perks and privileges was in utter disregard of the constitutional mandate. He asked the court to declare that Prime Minister Imran Khan was non-existent and be restrained from acting as chief executive of the country. He further asked the court to restrain all the respondent SAPMs and advisers from exercising executive authority of the federation.