The office of Auditor-General of Pakistan has constitutional cover but the newly-appointed AGP Akhtar Buland Rana is still at risk since the inquiry report that cleared him of charges can be challenged in court.
President Zardari appointed Rana on August 23 to the post of auditor-general, the government’s top financial watchdog.
Some political parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), had expressed serious reservations over his appointment.
“The inquiry conducted by the Election Commission apparently erased (some) dark spots (but it still) can be challenged in the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) along with a plea to reinvestigate the charges against him,” said Advocate Ather Minallah in a talk with The Express Tribune.
According to an interpretation of Article 168 (5) of the Constitution, the Auditor-General of Pakistan can be removed from office only by the Supreme Judicial Council after receiving a reference from the president or any other source.
Article 209 (5) after the 18th constitutional amendment says, if, on information from any source, the council or the president is of the opinion that a judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court, (a) may be incapable of properly performing the duties of his office by reason of physical or mental incapacity; or (b) may have been guilty of misconduct, the president shall direct the council to, or the council may, on its own motion, inquire into the matter.
“The ECP secretary conducted the inquiry (which was carried out) on the direction of the prime minister, who, after getting clearance, advised the president to appoint Akhtar Buland Rana,” said Ather, adding: “The matter is quite multifarious: it raises many legal questions”.
Even when Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry informed the president and prime minster about the legal complexities involved in the issue, the president told the chief justice to swear in Rana.
The PAC was scheduled to take up AGP’s audit reports of the PPP government. These reports – about rental power plants, Hajj corruption and allotment of plots to bureaucrats – have already been put before parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.