ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has challenged the appointment of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Hanif Abbasi as special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM),
In the petition filed in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), Sheikh Rashid questioned the federal government’s appointment of Hanif Abbasi, stating that the office of the SAPM required the selection of “people possessing high virtues and strong moral fibre…to these important public offices.”
The petitioner contended that Abbasi being “a person with a criminal conviction, particularly a conviction for dealing in narcotics which is an offence involving ‘moral turpitude,” is unsuitable to hold such a position.
Rashid argued that the SAPM’s office was one of the few public offices recognised and identified by the provisions of Article 260 of the Constitution. It furthered that while the PML-N leader was convicted and sentenced for the offences, the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) suspension of the sentence did not forgive his conviction.
It said the court only suspended the sentence and he still carries the conviction. Therefore, the peition said being a convict, Abbasi is disqualified from holding the public office of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister.
The petition lambasted Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s judgement stating that the prime minister’s discretion to appoint Special Assistants is apparently without codified conditions or limitations but in essence bur is neither ‘unfettered’ nor ‘absolute’.”
Rashid furthered that the premier is subject to exercise the discretion reasonably, lawfully and constitutionally – to appoint a person who is fit to hold such high public office and is not otherwise disqualified from holding such office.
“Unfortunately, by appointing a convict (that too in narcotics case), the Prime Minister has not only misused his authority but also made a mockery of the rule of law and the Constitution,” it maintained.
In 2018, an anti-narcotics court handed down life imprisonment to Hanif Abbasi in the eight-year-old ephedrine case. In 2019, the LHC had suspended the PML-N leader’s life sentence in the ephedrine quota case and ordered his release on bail.
On April 28, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appointed Hanif Abbasi and ambassador (retd) Muhammad Sadiq as his special assistants. According to notifications issued by the Cabinet Division, the status of Hanif Abbasi will be equal to that of a federal minister.