LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday set aside appointment of senior Journalist Absar Alam as chairman of Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) for being illegal, with directive to the federal government to fill the post within 30 days.

Justice Shahid Karim announced the short verdict which was reserved on November 29.

Soon after the verdict, senior journalist Absar Alam resigned as Pemra chairman. The watchdog issued an official statement saying that “Chairman Absar Alam has immediately abandoned his charge after the decision of the Lahore High Court.”

Absar Alam had assumed charge as Pemra chairman on December 1, 2015.

The judgment has yet to be issued, though; the judge announced the verdict and directed the government to ensure merit to make the appointment.

During the proceedings, Justice Karim once remarked that the world has gone much forward but qualification of Pemra chairman was still BA. He had also raised a question that was it possible today that such post would be filled with a person having just graduation degree. The judge had directed the Pemra’s counsel to present record.

According to the presented record, Absar Alam was chosen as Pemra chairman among 40 other candidates.  

Munir Ahmad, a local citizen, moved the petition through Advocate Ahzar Siddique and challenged appointment of Alam as Pemra chairman for being made in violation of laws and based on nepotism.

The petitioner said that Absar Alam had been drawing Rs1.5 million salary per month whereas the post of Pemra’s chairman was equal to MP-I (Management Position) scale while the maximum salary for MP-I scale was Rs450,000.  However, the petitioner alleged that he was drawing Rs 15,00,000 including salary and other allowances besides other perks and privileges .

The petitioner’s counsel Advocate Azhar Siddique contended that the appointment of Alam was a clear case of nepotism and violation of merit on part of the federal government. The post of Pemra chairman was temporarily filled by the government, the counsel said.

He said that the government had relaxed educational criteria for the post to accommodate Alam. He also  argued that the government authorities issues ads twice to fill the posts of Pemra chairman.

A counsel representing the authority told the court that his appointment was made on merit as the minimum qualification for the post was fixed as graduation. The PM, he said, had also discretion to appoint any person who fulfills the requirements. There were terms and condition about salary for the said post, the counsel further said.

Azhar Siddique argued that Absar Alam could not meet the requirements of the posts and the government authorities issued another ad to accommodate him. He said the PM appointed him as Pemra chairman on the basis of personal liking and disliking and thus the merit was ignored. The counsel said that Absar Alam did meet the requirements of the said post. He asked the court to set aside his appointment.