A Supreme Court bench on Wednesday took the Punjab Chief Secretary Yousaf Naseem Khokher to task after he distanced himself from cases initiated by the Anti Corruption Establishment (ACE) against the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) and city’s mayor.
A three-member bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was hearing a contempt case against ACE that was filed against the body by Lahore mayor and LDA Director General Amina Imran Khan. The petitioners accused ACE of harassing them and their staff after the anti-corruption department registered two first information reports against LDA DG and city mayor on information it received through ‘source reports’.
Justice Saeed noted that the court had asked ACE not to harass the petitioners, yet the department filed two cases against Khan the very next day. The judge said that ACE authorities had “ignored court’s directions”.
“Why don’t we issue a contempt of court notice?” he asked the chief secretary, who appeared before the court today.
The chief secretary said that ACE officials “had not asked his permission” before registering cases against LDA DG and that the matter had “nothing to do with him”.
“If [this matter] doesn’t have to do anything with you, then you should find another job,” Justice Saeed responded. He expressed surprise that the chief secretary of the country’s biggest province was saying that he “doesn’t know anything”.
“Tell us who is running the government in Punjab, to whom should we send the notice?” he asked, adding that the court would issue the notice to authorities that were higher than the chief secretary’s office. Justice Saeed said that the court had issued orders to stop ACE from harassing LDA DG through the province’s advocate general and additional advocate general. The advocate general, however, said that his office had not been consulted before ACE registered cases against LDA authorities.
The judge bashed Khokher, saying that the official had directed ACE to “harass the LDA DG to disobey court directions”.
“The officer who is assisting the court is being harassed,” Justice Saeed regretted and added that he thought the matter concerned the National Accountability Bureau.
“Okay secretary general sahib, you should get post-arrest bail,” the judge said.
The secretary general insisted that ACE DG Hussain Asghar did not report to him.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who was also part of the bench, asked when Asghar was retiring. The secretary general told him on Feb 22.
“Is he getting an extension?” Justice Ahsan asked.
Justice Saeed wondered if Asghar was trying to “please the chief minister to get an extension”.
“Does the chief minister like disobeying our [court’s] orders?” he asked.
Meanwhile, Justice Ahsan said that Asghar had approached the court in order to get a “free hand so he can strangle others”.
“ACE DG [Asghar] has started to perform the jobs of LDA and Metropolitan Corporation Lahore,” Justice Ahsan remarked.
To this, Asghar responded that it was ACE’s “responsibility to protect the state’s interest whenever [someone] does anything wrong”.
“Which law gives you this authority? Tell us,” Justice Ahsan demanded.
Justice Saeed said that “ACE DG’s remarks had made it clear who was running Punjab’s government”.
The provincial advocate general urged the court to “give another chance [to the government], so whatever that was done wrong can be fixed”.
The court warned that it would summon the Punjab chief minister [Usman Buzdar] if the cases against Lahore’s mayor and LDA DG were not retracted. The hearing was adjourned until Feb 27.