PESHAWAR: Despite passage of almost a year, the Khyber-Pakhunkhwa (K-P) government has failed to appoint head of the provincial Ehtesab Commission (EC). Currently, the EC affairs are looked after by an acting director general (DG). Interestingly, most universities in the K-P are also headed by acting vice chancellors.
The position has been lying vacant since February 2016 when the EC’s first DG Gen (retd) Hamid Khan handed in his resignation due to his differences with the provincial government on various issues.
Immediately after Hamid’s resignation, the provincial government had formed a four-member search and scrutiny committee for appointment of the DG.
Headed by former IGP Abbas Khan and comprising former chief secretary Ejaz Qureshi, former judge Sher Muhammad Khan and former minister Musarrat Qadeem – the committee published an advertisement and shortlisted 10 candidates in June.
However, no appointment could be made against the ad due to some unknown reasons. Later, another advertisement was published in the month of July asking for applications with directions from the government to ensure appointment within 120 days.
“The advertisement was time-barred as 120 days are more than enough to scrutinise all applications and applicants and conduct interviews. However, no appointment has been made so far,” an official said.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a member of the committee, who requested anonymity, said around 100 persons including bureaucrats and lawyers had applied for the vacancy. “Initially we had shortlisted five names out of 100 and sent them for further scrutiny,” he said.
Terming the process a time consuming and tedious task, he said the search committee was looking for a candidate with a strong background and fair track record. “A candidate with strong background and fair career history will never accept pressure from the government,” he said.
However, he refused to share names of the five shortlisted candidates, adding that it would lead to an intensified lobbying for the post. He said they could try to also influence members of the committee that would render the cause of fair appointment useless.
The committee would select one name from the shortlisted candidates and would send it for approval to the Legislative Committee, headed by K-P Assembly’s speaker. As per rules the LC should approve it but if it does not then the members will have to vote and reject the name with a two-thirds majority.
No rules and regulations
Almost two and a half years have passed but the provincial government has failed to formulate rules and regulations for the commission.
Due to this, the entire staff has been working on contracts since their appointments. Officials at the commission are unanimous that job insecurity has badly affected the process of accountability.
“Our ongoing inquiries into several corruption references have suffered due to fear of losing jobs as we are being continuously threatened with cancellation or non-renewal of contracts,” said a senior EC officer.
He said their contracts were recently extended that are going to expire this March. The staffers are unaware of service regularisation and this fear has paralysed the very purpose of eradicating corrupt practices and the corrupt from the province, he added.
The K-P Assembly has recently made several amendments to the Ehtesab Law, tying hands of the officials to arrest and interrogate officials. “We cannot hold inquiry into ongoing uplift projects nor can we arrest anyone without court permission,” he said.
Adviser to CM Mushtaq Ghani could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2017.
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