What has been going on at Ogra (Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority) is enough for a great script for a box-office-hit of a movie. A high stakes political and corporate drama has unfolded and continues to make waves.

In February the Federal Government sent Ogra chairman Saeed Ahmed Khan on forced leave for three months in wake of countrywide petrol crisis. Saeed Khan challenged the forced leave in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), which restored him. The order to restore Khan was then suspended in Intra Court Appeal (ICA) filed by the Federal Government in the matter. On Monday, while resuming the hearing of the ICA, a division bench of the IHC issued directives to complete inquiry of the matter in a month. Now, all the members of Ogra and its members are facing inquiries. All the accusations relate to corruption, embezzlement and conflict of interest.

Little wonder that the IHC stopped Ogra from functioning. The authority had been dysfunctional since August last year. The bench directed that all the orders and steps the authority took so far were without a lawful authority. Now oil and gas pricing remain at a standstill and there is not organisation to manage this. Without a functional Ogra, the government cannot take decisions related to the oil and gas sectors. This means, we are in for price hikes at best, and gross shortages and oil hoarding at worse.

The intricacies of the case are ridiculous. Ogra chairman, Saeed Ahmed Khan, was sent on a three-month’s “forced leave” till an inquiry into the petroleum crisis in January this year was conducted by the Public Service Commission. The organisation has been running amok without a chairman, and there has been no presence of a quorum for months. A chairman and two board members are needed for this (Ogra has a total of four members). The executive had the authority to take action against the official in the light of the rules related to the efficiency and discipline for civil servants. However, the counsel for the Ogra chairman argued that his client was not a civil servant but the chairman of a statutory body and not subject to the rules. Additionally, under the Ogra ordinance the chairman had a four-year job security and could not be sent on a forced leave.

Firstly, when these bodies are made by our parliaments, are they made to offer up economic interests to cronies, or are they actually made for efficient functioning? Ogra did not become this way because those in charge were being honest and just doing their job. Why does everyone have a corruption change against them given enough time? The Steel Mills and the NICL case are but two recent examples of the moral crisis of rich men in charge. Secondly, it is aggravating to see that these men, who are in charge of the most important and powerful regulatory authority in Pakistan have made such a hash of things, in blatant disregard for the effects of their actions on the common man.