Qasmi’s perks, twin-title at PTV declared illegal

Bench noted a ‘sum of Rs284m was paid to him and/or expense incurred by him or on his behalf’

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Staff report

ISLAMABAD

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Attaul Haq Qasmi’s appointment as Pakistan Television’s (PTV) former chairman and managing director was illegal.

In a short order read out by Justice Umar Atta Bandial, the court held former ministers of information and finance, Pervez Rashid and Ishaq Dar respectively, as well as former principal secretary to the prime minister Fawad Hassan Fawad responsible for Qasmi’s appointment and the financial benefits he received. A three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar had heard the suo motu case and verdict was reserved earlier this year.

In its detailed order, the top court pointed out “irregularities/illegalities” in Qasmi’s appointment as managing director as well as the chairman of the state broadcaster.

“Summaries were moved for relaxation of the upper age limit of 65 years for such appointment and for the approval of a handsome salary package of Rs.1,500,000/- in addition to other perks,” the verdict said.

The bench also noted that a “sum of Rs284,163,733 was paid to (Qasmi) and/or expense incurred by him or on his behalf”.

The verdict further said that PTV is a public sector entity, therefore, the appointment and perks granted to Qasmi were open for scrutiny “particularly considering the seemingly arbitrary manner in which he was appointed, despite being overage”. The court order held Qasmi responsible for PTV’s “sharp decline both financially and in its reputation” because he lacked the “skill and experience of running a company”.

The detailed verdict mentioned that during the course of the case, the attorney-general had informed the court that the PTV chairman is elected by its board and the government or the Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage has no role in the decision. However, Qasmi’s counsel had argued that the appointment of Qasmi was made on the recommendation of the federal government that “exercised its discretion that it thought fit at the relevant time and this Court has no jurisdiction to interfere with such discretion/decision making power”.

The verdict acknowledged that under Article 83 of the Articles of Association of PTV, government has the authority to nominate directors to the board — as pointed out by Qasmi’s lawyer — but deemed the argument irrelevant as it refers to appointment of directors and not the chairman.

The bench also questioned the grounds of Qasmi’s appointment, saying that in order to run an entity like PTV, “business management skills and experience of running a big company are the basic requirements for an MD/Chairman”, however, these requirements were not considered by the government. Qasmi had ignited controversy in April 2017 when he appointed himself PTV MD while also remaining the chairman of the state-run broadcaster.

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