ISLAMABAD                -              The Islamabad High Court (IHC) Thursday directed the federal government to submit its detailed reply in a petition filed against termination of services of retired Rear Admiral Jamil Akhtar as chairman of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT).

A single bench of IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the petition and sought written reply from the federal government by maintaining its stay order against the removal of Chairman KPT.

The bench noted in its order, “The learned Additional Attorney General has been heard at length. After hearing, it appears that a more detailed reply is required to be filed by the respondent, particularly the Secretary Ministry of Maritime Affairs and respondent no. 5 (Minister for Maritime Affairs) to justify interference in the affairs of the Karachi Port Trust.”

It added, “It prima facie, appears to this Court that the Federal Cabinet was not properly briefed while submitting the case. The learned Additional Attorney General could not satisfy this Court that allegations of irregularities could be raised on the basis of an audit which has not been completed.”

The IHC Chief Justice maintained that the additional attorney general could not show that appointment of private auditors and the fee could be authorised by the Ministry.

According to the court order, “The learned Additional Attorney General shall satisfy this Court as to how private auditors could be appointed when even forensic audit could have been conducted through the Auditor General of Pakistan.”

After issuing above-mentioned directions, the IHC bench deferred the hearing in this petition till April 16.

Akhtar was appointed the chairman of KPT by the previous government on November 23, 2017 for three years but the federal government removed him from the post on March 25, citing different reasons.

According to a notification issued by the Establishment Division on March 25, the federal government removed Akhtar from the post “forthwith by modifying/reducing his period of initial appointment in terms of Section 11 of the KPT Act, 1886, with immediate effect.”

Later, another notification of the division said that “the federal government is pleased to assign additional charge of the post of the chairman of the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) to Mr Shakeel Mangnejo (BS-21), Director General of Ports and Shipping, Karachi, under the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, for a period of three months.”

However, a notification issued by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs stated that Akhtar had been removed from the office of the chairman of the KPT with immediate effect because of “irregularities in the KPT.”

In the same notification, the ministry directed Mangnejo to assume the additional charge of the KPT chairman in accordance with the notification issued by the Establishment Division.

Another notification related to the issue stated that the “federal government, in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 11 of the KPT Act, 1886, has been pleased to remove (retired) Rear Admiral Jamil Akhtar HI (M) from the post of chairman KPT forthwith.”

Petitioner’s counsel contended before the court that the petitioner had been appointed the KPT chairman and, by virtue of his office, he had also been one of the trustees of the trust.

He argued that without placing the matter before the federal cabinet, the federal government had issued the impugned notification of March 25 and that, too, by misinterpreting the Section 11 read with Section 15 and 15(A) of the Karachi Port Trust Act, 1886.

The counsel for the petitioner stated that once a trustee or the chairman was appointed, then his removal could only be made on the grounds clearly written in the above-mentioned sections of the KPT Act.