ISLAMABAD: The appointment of Shaukat Hussain as chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has been challenged in the Lahore High Court.
The petitioner has pleaded the court to reverse the allegedly unconstitutional and illegal selection by the outgoing government, saying that the decision is based on favouritism and violates transparency.
The writ petition has been filed in the provincial court under Article 199 of the Constitution as public interest litigation. Last week, the government appointed Hussain as the SECP chairman for three years by taking cabinet approval through circulation of the summary.
Munir Ahmad, a high court advocate, has filed the petition through advocate Azhar Siddique.
"The appointment of Shaukat Hussain as chairman is illegal, without jurisdiction, based on favoritism and nepotism, violation of transparency and level playing field and deviation from the settled law by the Superior Court," stated the petitioner.
Shaukat Hussain appointed SECP chairman in apparent haste
The petitioner has further pleaded that the decision was also in violation of the provisions of the SECP Act whereby he has been purely selected on liking and his political relationship especially with Ishaq Dar, the former finance minister.
The petitioner has further requested the court to suspend the decision to appoint Hussain till the decision is issued on the writ petition.
The government has mishandled the appointment issue as it moved two summaries in a span of three days, first seeking the appointment of Tahir Mehmood as SECP chairman, before deciding to appoint Hussain.
The petitioner said Finance Minister Miftah Ismail wanted to appoint senior most commissioner, Tahir Mahmood, as permanent SECP chief. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also approved his appointment, he added.
But another summary in favour of Hussain was moved on the recommendation of former SECP chief Zafar Hijazi and Dar on May 11, 2018, after which the Ministry of Finance issued the appointment notification of Hussain. The petitioner has claimed that the appointment was in sheer violation of Article 90 and 91 of the Constitution as the cabinet had approved the appointment of Mehmood. It is also violation of Rules of Business and Mustafa Impex Case, added the petitioner.
IHC dismisses Hijazi's applications in record tampering case
"Prima facie, decision was taken on the basis of the facts that Tahir Mahmood was the main witness in the record tempering case initiated by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against Zafar Hijazi, and Ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif." On the basis of this fact, Hijazi and Dar intervened and manipulated the final process of Mahmood's appointment and were successful in appointing a junior commissioner as chairman, according to the petitioner.
While narrating the fast track promotion process of SECP chairman, the petitioner has stated that on January 10, 2018, the federal government promoted Hussain from the post of director to executive director on probation for a period of six months. It then appointed Hussain as SECP commissioner on March 27, 2018 for a period of three years.
The SECP is the financial regulatory agency in Pakistan whose aim is to develop a modern and efficient corporate sector and a capital market based on sound regulatory principles, in order to encourage investment and foster economic growth and prosperity in Pakistan.
The government increased the numbers of SECP commissioners from five to seven in September last year. The petitioner claimed that the purpose was to dilute SECP's independence.