A single-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has referred the plea challenging appointment of retired Major General Aamir Azeem Bajwa as Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to Chief Justice Athar Minallah in order to club the case with identical petition in the matter.
A petitioner Ameer Haider Cheema has invoked jurisdiction of the IHC claiming that the appointment of a former head of a telecom organization as the head of telecom regulator amounts to blatant conflict of interest and urged the court to declare the appointment as illegal.
Advocate Umer Ijaz Gilani appeared before single-member bench of the Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in the matter. He apprised the bench saying the petitioner has pointed out that just before he became the head of PTA, the retired major general Aamir Azeem was heading a telecom operator Special Communications Organization (SCO). He apprised the bench that the SCO comes under the Ministry of IT and Telecom, is a licensee of the PTA which competes fiercely with private telecom companies. The petitioner complains that “the appointment of a former head of a state-run telecom licensee as the head of the regulator creates a case of CONFLICT OF INTEREST which is strictly barred under Section 3(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganization) Act, 1996.”
Advocate Umer Ijaz Gilani appeared before single-member bench of the Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani in the matter saying just before he became the head of PTA, the retired major general Aamir Azeem was overseeing a telecom operator Special Communications Organization (SCO). He apprised the bench that the SCO functioning under the ambit of Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication (MoIT &T). He further informed the court while expressing facts of the case that the SCO is a licensee of the PTA saying the SCO competes fiercely with private telecom companies. He submitted that the petitioner claimed, “the appointment of a former head of a state-run telecom licensee as the head of the regulator creates a case of conflict of interest which is strictly barred under Section 3(2) of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Reorganization) Act, 1996.”
Citing Lahore High Court verdict which the court pronounced during 2013 in response to petition Advocate Gilani apprised the LHC had set aside appointment of the then Chairman PTA on the ground that the then Chairman PTA had been served with PTCL, another state-owned telecom licensee.
During the course of the arguments, counsel for the petitioner pointed out that while serving as DG SCO, the incumbent chairman of the PTA who earlier after his appointment as DG SCO had filed a writ petition against PTA (W.P 3291/2018). Advocate Gilani submitted, “now, as Chairman PTA, he is ironically supposed to defend the petition where the SCO was trying to establish a monopoly over the AJK & GB market and to oust all private competitors”.
The petitioner counsel alleged, “While this writ petition was still pending, the DG SCO crossed over to the other side and became Chairman PTA – Since then, the petition has remained suspiciously pending. Recently, eyebrows were also raised when a $1million worth telecom spectrum was handed over by PTA to SCO while private sector licensees were charged a hefty amount, thus creating an impression of non-level playing field in the telecom sector.
“After hearing preliminary arguments of the petitioner, Justice Kayani directed office to place the petition in hand before Chief Justice Athar Minallah. A copy of the order available with TLTP noted, “After arguing the case at some length it has been pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner that connected W.P.No.3291/2018 is pending before Honourable Bench-II of this Court and next date of hearing is 23.6.2022. It is appropriate that both the writ petitions are consolidated and decided by the same learned Bench to avoid conflicting judgments”.
The writer heads a leading news wire service ‘The Law Today Pakistan’ commonly known as TLTP. He has a special focus on news relating to superior courts adjudication, access to right of information, civil, political, social and economic rights under the approach that existing cyber regime realization ensures procedural fairness in administrative law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org