ISLAMABAD - In total disregard for a summary approved by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a move is underway to secure another three-year contract for the chairman of Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources, whose term expired on January 21, it was learnt reliably.

Last month, the prime minister signed a summary, asking for advertising the vacant posts including the slot of the PCRWR chairman, official sources told The Nation. Over a dozen institutions including the PCRWR function under the Ministry of Science and Technology. 

According to sources, there was no concept of look after charge and since the former chairman was previously in grade-19, he could not now be made part of the council, whose chairman has to be a grade-21 officer.

The sources in the Ministry of Science and Technology confirmed that a summary for the extension of the contract of PCRWR chairman Dr Muhammad Ashraf was ready to be signed by the minister and to be sent to the Cabinet Division for approval from the federal cabinet.     

The three years tenure of PCRWR chairman was expired on January 21. The chairman, however, keeps showing up to the office and a back-dated order (notification) was issued on behalf of Federal Minister Rana Tanvir Hussain on January 16 to give ‘look after’ charge to the former chairman of PCRWR. Currently, a majority of research lab work under the lonely state-owned water research council is paralyzed.

Not only National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) was shut almost and denied accreditation by the Pakistan Accreditation Council since 2016 but also 24 water-testing laboratories across Pakistan also stood shut down due to the shortage of manpower.

The PCRWR has refused to extend the contract of some 150 employees inducted under the development project a few years back. The removal of these employees has affected the work of the research laboratory.

Since 2016, neither these employees, many of whom got training from abroad, were made permanent nor paid salaries, rendering hundreds of their family members to face a financial crunch. Majority of them was over age now and cannot qualify for other government jobs.

There were precedents in the past in PCRWR and other departments, when persons inducted for development, were made permanent after converting the development projects into non-development ones. The PCRWR is almost non-functional at a time when the Senate was told that Pakistan tops the list of hepatitis patients, mostly falling prey to it after consuming contaminated water.

When contacted, Dr Ashraf said that they didn’t remove any employ from the job and these employees were working on safe drinking water and their contracts expired on December 31, 2015.

Regarding the shutdown of the research laboratories, he said that eight laboratories were working perfectly while the work of the remaining was affected due to the absence of 150 employees.

Regarding his appointment as the chairman, he said that he was appointed to grade-21 after he qualified the competitive exam and his appointment was legal.

He said that his summary for the fresh contract was approved by the Board of Directors of the PCRWR and they were waiting for the prime minister approval.

Regarding the prime minister’s directives of advertising the post of the chairman, he said that he has no idea of any such directives. Regarding working as the chairman PCRWR even after the expiration of his contract, he said he was a member of the council and was going to the office purely for technical work.