LHC sends PEMRA chairman packing

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–Absar Alam relinquishes charge after high court orders govt to appoint new chairman ‘on merit’

 

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday declared Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) Chairman Absar Alam’s appointment void.

LHC Justice Shahid Karim had reserved the verdict on Nov 29, on a petition filed by a citizen, Munir Ahmed, who had challenged Alam’s appointment to the media regulator.

The judge, in his remarks, said that an advertisement should be placed for the appointment of new PEMRA chief.

“The new PEMRA chief should be appointed on merit,” the bench remarked.

Earlier, PEMRA’s lawyer Ali Gillani had demanded time for providing the court with the record of Absar Alam’s notification but the judge had rejected the plea.

Justice Karim had remarked that the case was being heard for the last 18 months and yet the record had not been submitted before the court, reserving his decision in the case.

PEMRA’s lawyer told the court that Absar Alam had a vast experience of working at various news channels and paid heavy taxes against his income. Meanwhile, the petitioner Munir Ahmad’s lawyer pointed at the irregularities in Absar Alam’s appointment as the chairman of the media regulatory body.

The petitioner maintained that Alam doesn’t fulfil the criteria of being the head of PEMRA, and is misusing his position to promote the agenda of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Under the PEMRA ordinance, the prime minister is authorised to appoint an ’eminent person’ who has skills in media, management, financial affairs, administration, economics and law for appointment as the authority’s chief.

Absar Alam is said to be a close aide to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He has served as resident editor of a national daily while he has also worked on an administrative post in a TV channel.

The petitioner also added that the judgements of the Supreme Court barred contractual appointments on permanent posts. Whereas the appointment of Absar Alam was made as acting chairman of PEMRA.

Earlier, a bench of the Supreme Court in its direction on January 15, 2013, directed the government to appoint a person having elaborate skills in management and fulfills all the requirements of PEMRA rules.

According to sources, Absar Alam had been a handpicked choice for the designation some two years ago and even the advertisement had been tailor-made to ensure Alam’s eligibility for the position.

The government had published its first advertisement on July 23, 2014, which warranted a Master’s degree for eligible candidates for the slot of PEMRA chairman. However, a new advertisement appeared on August 24, 2015, stating that the candidate should be a Graduate (BA/BSc.). The age limit in the first advertisement was from 50-65 years while the age limit in the following advertisement was reduced to 50 years to 61 years.

The court will give its detailed judgement on the case later.

ABSAR RELINQUISHES CHARGE:

Following the decision of the Lahore High Court nullifying his appointment as the PEMRA chairman, Absar Alam relinquished the position.

PEMRA through its official account on social media site Twitter stated,” After Lahore High Court (LHC) decision, Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam has immediately relinquished his charge”.