ISLAMABAD: An intriguing pattern is emerging in key legal appointments, as most of them are going to family members and friends of top legal managers, including Law Minister Babar Awan, his state minister, Mehreen Anwar Raja and PM’s adviser on legal affairs Latif Khosa.
A big section of PPP supporters, including the members of the Pakistan Lawyers’ Forum, hoping to get some legal posts are feeling left out and betrayed. In the case of Mehreen Anwar Raja, her husband Raja Nadeem Haider has been appointed as the additional advocate general of Punjab. Shafqat Abbasi, her brother-in-law, was made a Lahore High Court judge in Dogar’s days, only to face humiliation when he was sacked along with other Jiyala judges following the Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry-led Supreme Court verdict.
But Shafqat Abbasi’s wife, Ambreen Raja who happens to be Mehreen’s sister, has been hired as federal counsel. Shafqat Abbasi’s brother, Aleem, has been appointed deputy attorney general. Mehreen’s law associate, Malik Aziz, has become member of the Federal Services Tribunal (FST).
The Statesmen continuously tried to reach Mehreen and she was called many times for comments but in vain. Her husband, however, confirmed being appointed as the additional advocate general.
Although People’s Lawyers Forum members say he was affiliated with the PNL-N, he has denied this charge. Khurram Khosa, the PLF president, when asked, said only Mehreen could confirm or deny the same.
Efforts to contact Shafqat Abbasi did not succeed. But people working close to him confirmed the appointment of his wife and brother on important positions.
Senator Latif Khosa, the sacked attorney general and now PM’s adviser, is running close behind Mehreen Raja in similar practices. While Mehreen mostly accommodated her relatives, Khosa has rewarded his sons and partners-in-practice.
His son, Khurram Khosa was elected the PLF president. Balkh Sher Khosa, another son, recently arrested by the Lahore police after being found drunk, was made federal counsel. Zubair Khalid, Khosa’s partner, has become additional advocate general and Arshad Qayyum, yet another partner, seized the slot of assistant advocate general.
Khosa’s close friend, Naveed Enayat Malik, is deputy attorney general. Malik’s brother, Pervez Enayat, was also appointed a high court judge during the Dogar days but was sacked with other PCO judges following the Supreme Court order.
While Latif Khosa was not available for comments, Khurram Khosa admitted that the above named beneficiaries were close to them either as law associates or friends. About his brother, Balkh, Khurram said he recently resigned from the position of federal counsel and is doing his own practice.
Babar Awan had his associate, Masood Chishti, appointed as chief legal adviser of the CDA. Chishti was looking after the cases of Awan after he became a minister.
Babar Awan recently told this correspondent that he has voluntarily left his practice after joining the ministerial office. He had also stopped pleading the cases after the Chief Justice of Pakistan remarked during a case that a minister could not continue his private practice while holding a cabinet position.
The CJ had remarked this during a case represented by Awan and he was not present in the court that day. As the court inquired about the counsel, it was told that Babar Awan would represent one party. The CJ said a minister could not continue private practice while holding a ministerial position. Awan then avoided going to the court and handed over his assignments to Chishti.
Masood Chishti was associated with Akram Sheikh, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court and politically affiliated with the PML-Q. Although he had nothing to do with the NRO review petition, Chishti was the man who filed this in a yet unknown capacity.
Another friend of Mr Babar Awan, Tanvir Qureshi, has been appointed as the deputy attorney general, notwithstanding the fact that he does not hold the licence required for appearing in the Supreme Court, a fact also admitted by him.
Qureshi confirmed that he is not authorised to practice in the SC but said he will be dealing with the government cases in the high court. Chishti admitted pursuing Awan’s cases after his senior was inducted in the cabinet as law minister.
Chishti, however, said Awan’s cases are now being pursued by Raja Abdul Rehman Advocate. Asked in what capacity he filed a review petition while being the legal adviser of the CDA, Chishti said he had no capacity to do this. He said he did so as Kamal Azfar, the federation’s counsel, was not present.
Latif Khosa and Mehreen Anwar were not available for comments while Babar Awan is hospitalised. Other lawyers had mixed reaction to these appointments. One senior lawyer termed this practice unfortunate, saying it has been happening for a long time. Speaking of a prominent lawyer who served as law minister under Gen Ziaul Haq, he said the ministry used to approve all the notices sent by the chamber of that minister. He said that the then law ministry had been doing this all the time, though it was considered professional misconduct. He said it is difficult to ascertain whether or not the current office holders are exercising such influence to benefit their chamber. As far the acts of rewarding the near and dear ones, he said it is unethical but can’t be construed as professional misconduct.
Another lawyer close to Mehreen Raja and Latif Khosa defended the practice saying the appointments have been made purely on merit. He said all the lawyers whose appointment is being questioned, were inducted keeping in view their ability, not their relations.