ISLAMABAD: The recent appointment of a new auditor-general has become a simmering point of contention for the government – the latest quarter raising questions being none other than the Supreme Court.
A day after being lambasted by National Assembly Opposition Leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who also chairs the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Gilani said on Thursday that he has also received a letter from the Chief Justice of Pakistan on the issue.
“I have received a letter in which some points have been raised on some unspecified complaints. We will respond to it,” Gilani told journalists at an iftar reception at the Prime Minister House.
Later, he confirmed that the letter was from Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
Prime Minister Gilani appointed Akhtar Buland Rana to the post of auditor-general two days ago. He replaced Tanvir Ali Agha, who had earlier resigned amid a controversy (an acting auditor-general was appointed in the interim period).
The prime minister had promoted Rana, who is reported to be a close friend of the premier, to grade-22 (the highest rank in the civil service) a few weeks ago so that he could qualify for the post. The Auditor-General’s office conducts random audits of accounts of public sector institutions. Its reports are taken up by the powerful parliamentary watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee.
The government insists that the appointment of any person to the key post is the sole prerogative of the prime minister.
Gilani defended his decision over the appointment, saying that the official was a “person of integrity and the senior-most officer in the Auditor General’s office.”
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan currently heads the PAC in accordance with the Charter of Democracy – an agreement signed between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and opposition Muslim League-Nawaz two years before the 2008 general elections.
Nisar is opposed to Rana’s appointment and has dissolved the sub-committees of PAC in protest. Gilani claimed that he has voluntarily abdicated his authority to promote any official from grade 21 to 22 after the Supreme Court gave some ‘observations’ in this regard.
Now a full board headed by the prime minister decides such matters, he added.
To a question about complaints of rampant corruption in the government, Gilani said he had been hearing these accusations since he entered politics, and successive governments, including the military regimes, failed to overcome this problem. Gilani said he held a meeting with President Asif Zardari recently to accelerate the pace of work on new accountability laws, which, he said, would be tabled in parliament soon.
The government intends to set up a national accountability commission to replace the Musharraf era National Accountability Bureau. A bill has been pending before the National Assembly’s standing committee on law and justice for over two years but it has not been finalised because of differences between the two major parties, the ruling PPP and the opposition PML-N, over some clauses of proposed legislation.
After a failure to reconcile the matter, it seems the government will now bring its own version of the bill with dissenting notes by the PML-N.
Commenting about corruption charges leveled against his son Abdul Qadir Gilani, a member of the Punjab Assembly, and Moonis Elahi, the son of former chief minister Punjab Pervez Elahi, the prime minister said that the court had absolved his son since the accuser failed to establish the charges while case against Moonis was still pending.
Indiscriminate action in Karachi
Gilani said the decision to carry out a ‘surgical operation’ against outlaws through police and Rangers in Karachi had unanimously been taken by the Sindh cabinet, and the federal government was fully supporting the provincial government in this regard. He said nine troubled areas had been identified in the Sindh metropolis where “across the board operations will be conducted”.
Gilani skipped a question about the Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain’s demand for his resignation, saying: “Altaf bhai is a dear fellow. (We don’t mind) he can say anything.”
Gilani evaded a question over reappointment of Akram Shehidi as his press secretary after he retired from grade-22 some time ago, saying he has not done anything illegal.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.