The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has once again adjourned hearing on petitions challenging appointment of advisers and special assistants to the prime minister (SAPMs) on request of the federal government. There are a total of 19 unelected SAPMs and advisers in the PM’s cabinet.
When an IHC division bench, comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Ghulam Azam Qambrani, on Tuesday resumed hearing of the case, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Raja Khalid Khan told the bench that Additional Attorney General Tariq Khokhar, who is supposed to argue the case, is out of country.
Justice Aamer Farooq asked the DAG if the government had no other counsel to represent it in this case. “The federal government is using delaying tactics,” he added. The judge said the order-sheet of the court bears testimony to the fact that delay in the case is due to the government.
DAG Raja Khalid Khan argued that IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah has already given a verdict in favour of the government on a petition challenging eligibility of SAPMs with dual nationality. Justice Farooq disagreed with the claim and asked the counsel to read Justice Minallah’s verdict again.
“The verdict [issued by Justice Minallah] has settled many questions. “The verdict says the SAPMs cannot be federal cabinet members. If they cannot be a member of the cabinet then how they can possibly sit in cabinet committee meetings?”
Rejecting the petition against appointment of dual nationals as SAPMs, IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah had ruled that the “patriotism of Pakistani citizens holding dual nationality cannot be doubted”.
The IHC had remarked in a written judgment unveiled on July 30 that the premier is accountable to the people and could not run the state affairs alone.
“The federal government has made the Rules of 1973 and has described the ‘Organization of Divisions’ in rule 4 ibid. Sub rule 6 of rule 4 enables the Prime Minister to appoint Special Assistant or Special Assistants and to determine their status and functions,” IHC chief justice wrote.
Appearing before the division bench on Tuesday, one of the petitioners, Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha, said his case is not against the SAPMs. Rather, he has raised objection to presence of unelected people in the meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Privatization.
Last week, the bench had clubbed the petition against the PM’s unelected SAPMs and advisers with another petition filed against the inclusion of the PM’s advisers in the privatization committee meeting.
Later, the bench accepted the government’s request and adjourned hearing of the case till September 9.
In his petition against SAPMs, the petitioner, Farrukh Nawaz Bhatti, asked the court to declare the appointment of the SAPMs as unconstitutional. The petitioner also requested the IHC to order the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to conduct inquiries against the special assistants.
He claimed that according to rule 4 (6) of Business Rules of 1973, the prime minister has the authority to appoint special assistants but to give them the status of federal ministers or state ministers is against the law. “Appointment of SAPMs is not made under Article 92 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” he said.
He argued that the prime minister’s discretion to appoint friends and cronies, who had no specialisation in the relevant fields, as SAPMs was illegal and a burden on the economy.