SC gives govt 10 days to file replies on audit 'immunity'
13 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday gave 10 days for filing of replies to 19 federal entities that claim that they have immunity from audit of their finances and accounts by the auditor general of Pakistan.
Deputy Attorney General Dil Muhammad Alizai informed a two-member bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry that all the institutions wanted to engage separate private counsels to represent them in the Supreme Court. The court was told that so far only two institutions have submitted their replies. On this Justice Gulzar Ahmed remarked that all the institutions should have filed their replies by now.
The court was hearing the application moved by anchorpersons Hamid Mir and Absar Alam requesting making public of evidence in support of the allegations made by senior officers of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) which were also made part of the voluminous report issued by a two-man media commission headed by retired Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid. The commission was appointed by the apex court on January 15 in response to the petitions filed by Hamid Mir, Absar Alam and Asad Kharal requesting the court to disclose the names of the beneficiaries of secret funds being maintained by the Information Ministry.
The report, along with recommendations, was submitted to the court on July 3. Hamid Mir contended that PEMRA had levelled a serious allegation, the evidence of which should be shared with the Supreme Court. Whereas Absar Alam said the regulatory authority had made highly objectionable and unsubstantiated assertions without any evidence. According to the media commission PEMRA officials, including its chairman, Chaudhry Rashid Ahmed, the then executive director Dr Abdul Jabbar, DG Licensing Ashfak Jumani, GM Legal Nasir Ahmed and Secretary Suhail Ahmed, accused a media group of receiving foreign funding/sponsorship for its programmes to the tune of 20 million pounds.
PEMRA has denied making the allegations against the media house. "We categorically deny this and have even contacted top bosses of the media house to satisfy them," PEMRA counsel Zulfikar Maluka said. He submitted the PEMRA officials' statements denying the allegation. Justice Gulzar Ahmed said the court was not concerned about whether the programmes were foreign funded or not, it would examine whether the law has been violated or not. However, Justice Ijaz Chaudhry noted if the allegations damage the credibility of the anchorpersons then it was a serious matter.
Asad Kharal, another petitioner, informed the court that the appointment of incumbent PEMRA chairman, Chaudhry Rashid Ahmad, is a clear-cut violation of the Supreme Court's judgement of January 15 and notice may be issued to the attorney general of Pakistan for clarification of the government's position regarding his appointment. Before adjourning the case until August 26 the court told the petitioners from the media house that if they wanted to file their replies they could do so within 10 days.
On the other hand the federal government has served intimation notices on Hamid Mir, Absar Alam, Asad Kharal, auditor general of Pakistan and the 19 institutions that claim that their finances/accounts are not subject to audit by the auditor general of Pakistan.