President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday appointed Aneece Marghub as acting Auditor-General of Pakistan (AGP) after Syed Tanvir Ali Agha stepped down amid a controversy on whether he can continue for another four months.
Agha is the second high-ranking official to have left his office in the past two weeks. Earlier, central bank governor Shahid Kardar resigned due to policy differences with the government.
“President Asif Ali Zardari approved the appointment of Aneece Marghub as acting auditor-general (while) pending the appointment of a regular AGP,” said presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar.
Marghub was previously serving as the additional AGP and handling the administrative affairs of the AGP office.
Race to the top
The president’s decision to appoint an interim AGP has left the race for the lucrative post open. Sources say there are three candidates vying for the prestigious constitutional post having a term of four years.
Buland Akhtar Rana, who hails from Multan and is purportedly close to the prime minister, is being tipped as the favourite.
The names of former secretary establishment division Abdul Rauf Chaudhry and Chairman Federal Board of Revenue Salman Siddique are also under consideration.
Siddique, who will retire in January 2012, is striving to get the AGP post at the back of his performance to achieve the tax collection target.
Controversy surrounds departure
The position of the AGP fell vacant after Agha completed four years in the office.
He took oath as the 16th AGP for a period of five years on July 20, 2007, under the pre-18th amendment constitution. According to the then-constitution, he would have remained in office for five year or until 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
His five-year term would have completed in July 2012 but he would turn 65 on November 14, 2011.
Through the 18th amendment, the term of the office was reduced to four years or 65 years of age, whichever is earlier.
Sources said Agha contended that he had taken oath of office for five years but his term would end on November 14. His stance was endorsed by the law division through a letter, sources said.
On Monday, Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood visited Agha in his office and conveyed to him the government’s message that he would have to leave the office on Tuesday, sources said.
They added that Agha told the finance secretary that he would take the government to the Supreme Court since his stance was endorsed by the law division. His family, however, restrained him from knocking the apex court’s door, sources added.
The back story
Sources said the AGP has been forced to leave the office prematurely due to multiple factors, including upcoming audit reports on the National Insurance Corporation Ltd financial scandal, the Hajj scandal, AGP’s liaison with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that embarrassed the government at many occasion and grilling of the most powerful District Management Group (DMG) secretaries in the PAC meetings.
Sources said that three DMG secretaries, including Cabinet Secretary Nargis Sathi, Principal Secretary to the PM Khusnud Akhtar Lashari and Secretary Establishment Sohail Ahmad prevailed upon the PM and did not allow the AGP to have a meeting with him despite repeated requests.
They added that the AGP wanted to apprise the premier about the PAC’s working and matters pertaining to legality of his term. He wrote two letters to PM but did not receive a response, sources said.
They added that Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has proposed to the premier to grant a one-year extension to the AGP through a resolution in parliament. The PAC, during last three years, recovered Rs117 billion and gives most of the credit to the office of the AGP.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2011.