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PML-N stalwarts, ex-judges in the race for lucrative slot

Both ruling party leaders and former judges are in the run to replace the chief of the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission (PMIC), who is retiring today (Monday), The Express Tribune has learnt.

Incumbent PMIC Chairman Amir Muhammad Khan Marwat will reach the age of superannuation today, leaving the top slot of the Prime Minister Office’s investigation arm vacant. To replace him, the PM Office is considering different names to fill the high-profile position that has remained controversial owing to allegedly politically motivated inquiries PMIC initiated against opposition leaders.

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Sources in the PM Office told The Express Tribune that Premier Nawaz Sharif was not inclined to grant extension to the outgoing PMIC chairman, who belongs to the civil services, and was mulling over appointing one of his party members or a ‘trusted’ former judge in his stead.

The names of several Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNAs – including Daniyal Aziz and Talal Chaudhry – and senators – including Mushahidullah Khan and Ayesha Raza Farooq – have been reviewed but no decision has been made, officials said. Some former judges, including Ahmad Farooq Sheikh and Khawaja Sharif are also under consideration, the officials said.

“The prime minister has kept the cards close to his chest as far as appointment of new PMIC chairman is concerned,” a close aide to the premier said. “A few names have been reviewed but he has not spoken his mind yet.”

Insiders said it is possible the government will not immediately appoint a new PMIC chairman after Marwat retires.

Lately, PMIC has been in the spotlight for allegedly ‘coercing’ opposition members into accepting the federal government’s terms on certain issues. Former PMIC chief Col Saifuddin Qureshi was accused of initiating politically motivated inquiries in connection to this.

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The Express Tribune reported on October 29 that a confidential performance report, dated December 10, 2014, revealed that the then Qureshi-led PMIC initiated an inquiry against National Assembly opposition leader Khursheed Shah in May that year, ahead of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s dharna that continued till August.

The report — a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune – was about the “probe regarding alleged illegal appointments and promotions of officers/officials during the last five years” by Shah as minister for labour and manpower.

The report revealed that in August 2014, another high-profile inquiry was initiated into an alleged ‘multibillion-rupee scam’ that involved Sindh’s accountant general and other senior officials. “The inquiry is still under follow-up,” it said.

Allegedly, the trails of both these probes led to the PPP’s top leadership. Related inquiries were brushed under the carpet after PPP in general and Shah in particular remained soft on the government throughout the 2014 PTI dharna, sources said.

Notably, PPP also remained soft on the government during its recent showdown with PTI reportedly after being told that inquiries were being reopened.

PM Office insiders said several other such inquiries have been used by the federal government as political ‘bargaining chips’ in dealing with opposition.

Despite attempts, Prime Minister’s Spokesman Musadik Malik was not available to comment on the issue.

Prime Minister’s Adviser Ameer Muqam, meanwhile, denied that personal likes and dislikes were involved in the PMIC chairman’s appointment. He also rejected the argument that PMIC was mainly used by the federal government against opposition. “If this is true, is there any one politician who has been victimised by our government?”

When told about Khursheed Shah inquiry episode, Muqam said, “I am not aware about the issue and need to look into details before commenting on it.” A new PMIC chairman would be appointed soon, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2016.



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