January 16, 2021 3:47:21 pm
The Pakistan Cabinet has removed Naeem Bukhari, a close associate of Prime Minister Imran Khan, from the position of chairman of state-run Pakistan Television (PTV), following a high court order restraining him from working as the head of the channel, according to multiple media reports on Saturday.
Supreme Court lawyer, politician, and former TV host Bukhari was appointed as chief of the state broadcaster in November last year, inviting criticism for getting benefit from his closeness to Prime Minister Khan.
In an embarrassment to Khan, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday restrained Bukhari from working as the PTV chairman while hearing a set of petitions challenging his appointment, citing it a violation of a 2018 Supreme Court order in a similar case.
Justice Minallah had remarked that the Cabinet did not make a clear decision on relaxing the age limit for 65-year-old Bukhari.
The Cabinet, through circulation, took a decision in which Bukhari and two other PTV directors were removed from their posts as they were over 65 years, the Dawn News reported, quoting Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry.
When asked why the decision was taken in haste and made through circulation instead of convening a formal meeting of the Cabinet, the minister said the government had to take a decision as presently the PTV was without a head and facing a “chaos-like situation,” the report said.
The Cabinet also restored Aamer Manzoor as the managing director of PTV, the Geo News reported. Manzoor was removed by the corporation’s board of directors on January 1.
Barring Bukhari from serving as PTV chairman, the high court had directed the government to move a fresh summary for his appointment and clarifying special age relaxation for him. The court adjourned the hearing for two weeks.
While passing the order, the IHC recalled a 2018 Supreme Court decision, which set aside the appointment of Ataul Haq Qasmi as PTV chairman.
The apex court in Qasmi’s appointment case had ordered the federal government to appoint a full-time managing director of PTV after fulfilling all legal, procedural, and codal formalities strictly in accordance with the law.
The court noted that the information ministry had repeated the same mistakes as those made in Qasmi’s case and did not go through the apex court’s judgement before sending the summary to the federal Cabinet.
The petition while challenging Bukhari’s appointment pointed out that contrary to the direction of the apex court, the vacancy had not been advertised in the press and the appointment was made without inviting applications for the vacant position.
It said the federal cabinet had relaxed the upper age limit for Bukhari, without mentioning plausible reasons in the minutes of the federal cabinet meeting.
Bukhari successfully defended Khan in 2017 in a famous case seeking his disqualification from public office for failing to show the source of income for buying an estate in the suburbs of Islamabad. He also led the legal team of Khan in the Panama Papers leak case.
Interestingly, Bukhari’s appointment was made in apparent haste as the federal Cabinet had in its meeting considered a summary for his appointment but did not endorse his induction as PTV chairman.