LAHORE - The Lahore High Court on Monday set aside appointment of senior journalist Absar Alam as Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority chairman for being illegal, directing the federal government to fill the post within 30 days.

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

Soon after the verdict, senior journalist Absar Alam resigned as Pemra chairman. According to the Pemra’s official statement, Chairman Absar Alam has immediately abandoned his charge after the decision of the Lahore High Court.

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

Although judgment has yet to be issued, the judge announced the verdict and directed the government to ensure merit while making the appointment.

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

According to the record produced by the Pemra counsel, Absar Alam was chosen as Pemra chairman out of 40 other candidates. 

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

The petitioner said Absar Alam had been drawing Rs 1.5 million as monthly salary whereas the post of Pemra’s chairman is equal to MP-I (management position) scale. He added maximum salary for MP-I scale is Rs 450,000 but he is drawing Rs 1.5 million in addition to other perks and privileges .

The petitioner’s counsel, Advocate Azhar Siddique, contended the appointment of Alam is 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 the government had relaxed educational criterion for the post to accommodate Alam. He also argued the government authorities issued advertisement 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 is graduation. The PM, he said, has also discretion to appoint any person who fulfills the requirements. There are terms and conditions about salary for the said post, the counsel further said.

Azhar Siddique argued Absar Alam could not meet the requirements of the post 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 ignored merit. The counsel said Absar Alam does meet the requirements of the said post and prayed to the court to set aside his appointment.