LAHORE - After the person-specific amendment to Section 5 of the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF) Act 2004 in 2016, Engineer Qamar ul Islam Raja, PML-N MPA from Rawalpindi, has once again managed to get selected as Chairman of the Punjab Education Foundation on 7th of March 2018.

Earlier, parliamentarians were not allowed to become part of the PEF Board of Directors and a writ petition was also filed in the Lahore High Court through Ch Shoaib Saleem Advocate wherein the then Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had restrained the PML-N MPs Qamar ul Islam Raja, Saira Afzal Tarar and Rana Muhammad Afzal to continue as member of the PEF BoD. However, during pendency of the petition, the PEF managed to get its Act amended through the Punjab Assembly. Interestingly, major amendments made in the PEF Act were related only to politicians who were allowed to continue being members of the PEF Board of Directors.

After reconstitution of the PEF BoD for the period of three years, the Secretary Schools has notified two parliamentarians as members of the Board of Directors of the Punjab Education Foundation that include Federal Minister for State on Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan and MPA Qamar ul Islam Raja – both belonging to the ruling party PML-N. Others official members include secretaries to different departments including secretary schools.

Moreover, the assembly term for the two newly board members, state minister for finance Rana Afzal and MPA Qamar Raja, will end after two months and they would remain no more members of the PEF BoD during that period, hence the BoD will automatically stand infructuous, sources stated.

Commenting on the development, a former education secretary said "With the appointments of parliamentarians as BOD members, the spirit of the PEF law was compromised". The parliamentarians of the ruling party cannot act like the private members, he added. According to source, there were around six secretaries working as ex-officio members. There was no need to amend the law to accomodate some parliamentarians in an independent organization, he said.

Before the amendment in PEF Act in 2016, the Lahore High Court had also issued a notice to PEF Chairman Qamar-ul-Islam Raja in a contempt petition. Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was the LHC CJ who issued the notice and sought reply from the contemnor.

The petition was filed by the petitioner counsel Ch Shoaib Saleem. The petitioner pleaded in the contempt petition that PEF Chairman Qamar-ul-Islam Raja was restrained beside two others, Federal Minster, Saira Afzal Tarar MNA and State Minister Rana Muhammad Afzal MNA on March 27, 2015, not to attend the PEF’s Board of Directors meeting.

The court had observed in its order that prima-facie the contemnor did these two BODs besides he didn't qualify to be from the private sector as envisaged under section 5(2) of the Punjab Education Foundation Act 2004. He was restrained to participate in any BoD meeting of the Foundation.

But the contemnor, Qamar-ul-Islam Raja, not only headed the 18th BoD meeting of the PEF but also came up with major changes in all the rules and regulation of and increased 45 percent salaries of all the employees of the Foundation, the petitioner added.

Besides, the counsel added, the contemnor also changed the basic criterion of minimum qualification and experience of all against the all the top posts in the Foundation and flouted the court’s order.

The petitioner pleaded the court to punish the contemnor for deliberately and intentionally violating the court’s order and also sought cancellation of minutes of the meeting conducted under the chair of the contemnor. However, the PEF Act was amended to make provision for politicians to be included in its BoD for their vested interests and to frustrate the fate of court proceedings, the sources said.