Journalist’s lawyer challenges the One Billion defamation suit filed by PNSC Chairman in Sindh High Court

Nasir Mahmood, former Chief Reporter of English daily ‘National Courier’ has challenged the maintainability of a defamation case against him filed by Chairman and four directors of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) before Sindh High Court, Karachi. The Journalist’s lawyer Hashmat Ali Habib of Hashmat Habib Law Associates in his application under Order VII Rule 10 CPC requested the Court to return the plaint as this honorable Court has no jurisdiction to entertain the Suit covered under Defamation Ordinance 2002. He said under section 13 of the Defamation Ordinance 2002 the District court has exclusively jurisdiction to try and adjudicate the suit.

 It may be mentioned here that the Chairman and four directors of Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) had filed a defamation suit for damages of Rupees One Billion in Sindh High Court against Nasir Mahmood, former Chief Reporter of English daily ‘National Courier.’

The Plaintiffs included; Rizwan Ahmed, chairman PNSC, Brig. Retd. Rashid Siddiqui, former Executive director administration, Capt. Muhammad Shakeel, Executive director commercial, Tariq Majeed, Executive director ship management and Syed Jarar Haider Shah Kazmi, Executive director finance. The Court has issued notice to the Reporter for 6th August 2019 for hearing of the case.     

According to details the plaint was filed against the news reports published on 29-05-2018 and 18-10-2018 respectively in the newspaper and a website blogspot.com on 26th April 2019 read as “PNSC affairs demand NAB attention” by the defendant. In his latest report the defendant had stated that:

The Chairman, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) Rizwan Ahmed who had purchased two South Korean-built tanker ships, MT Bolan and MT Khairpur in January 2019 by paying $4.3 million (PKR 60 crores) above market price has been rewarded by appointing at another lucrative post by authorities in Islamabad. Now he is also the Secretary Maritime Affairs in addition to his earlier charge of PNSC. According to reports the pair was valued at $56.4 million while the PNSC had forked out $60.7 million for 2012 and 2013 built vessels. But the Government notification tells a different story.

According to Establishment Division’s notification dated 8th April 2019, the Federal Government has been pleased to assign additional charge of the post of Chairman, Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC) to Mr. Rizwan Ahmed, a BS-22 officer of Pakistan Administrative Service, presently posted as Secretary, Maritime Affairs Division, for a period of three months or till the posting/ appointment of a regular incumbent; whichever is earlier, with immediate effect.

This is conflict of interest and flouting of the rules that has been so far ignored by not only the watchdogs of National Accountability Bureau (NAB) but by the officials of the law enforcement agency FIA. People are astonished to see who will investigate these wrong doings and to whom they should complain?

It may be mentioned here that recently in employees’ case; Sindh High Court had issued Contempt of Court orders against Chairman PNSC Rizwan Ahmed, while illegal HR practices within Ministry of Maritime Affairs were continued.

A vacancy advertisement for the post of Chairman Port Qasim Authority (PQA) dated 16th Feb 2019 in newspapers was evidence that how the ministry and it’s attached departments have no respect for rules of law. As per advertisement, the maximum allowable age for applicant was 62 years that is above the national superannuation age of 60 years. This is against the ESTACODE as well as against Supreme Court and Sindh High Court decisions.

Informed sources disclosed that the advertisement for Chairman PQA post with maximum age of 62 was favoring the directors already appointed in PNSC or some hand-picked persons who does not fulfill the national age criteria for Government Service. The sources also confirmed that few quarters within the ministry were favoring Hasan Subtageen who retired as CEO from FOTCO terminal at Port Qasim.

According to details, Supreme Court judgment in Cr.O.P.89 of 2011 had clearly set the principles for HR practices to be followed in Government departments, corporations and autonomous bodies. However, in spite of publication of various news items, Ministry of Maritime Affairs had chosen to ignore all the set principles and continued the illegal hiring and HR practices without stating any reason.

Asad Rafi Chandna is still simultaneously holding the charge of Chairman PQA, DG Ports & Shipping, and the Head of Fisheries department (three-in-one) since many months and no change in office holders has been made by Ministry of Maritime Affairs. In this regard a petition was already filed in Sind High Court against this illegal act of Ministry and Minster-in-Charge Ali Zaidi.

After the defeat in legal battle on hiring persons of over 60 years of age in Sindh High Court, CP-16033/2011 by Karachi Dock Labour Board, various attached departments of Ministry of Maritime Affairs had stopped hiring persons of over 60 years of age except Pakistan National Shipping Corporation where till date three (3) Executive Directors of over 60 years of age are employed, presumably with the consent of Minister and Adviser on Shipping.

The most interesting fact is that the incumbent Chairman PNSC Rizwan Ahmed had earlier served in Establishment Division Islamabad before taking charge at PNSC and he is well aware of the retirement and hiring rules of ESTACODE. Even then three directors Capt. Muhammad Shakil (Director Commercial), Tariq Majeed (Director Ship management) and Brig (R) Rashid Siddiqui have continued the work in PNSC and they are given extension of contracts without advertisement of posts or following the due process by Chairman and PNSC Board of Directors.

On 24th Feb 2019, PNSC advertised several vacancies while the criteria set out was largely in favour of few internal candidates and favorites of above mentioned illegal directors instead of merit, as per past practice of PNSC. In year 2016, instead of recruiting directors on open merit, PNSC had recruited Capt. Shakil (GM Commercial) as Director Commercial and Jarar Haider Kazmi (GM Finance) as Director Finance as criteria was set out to favour them and ruled out other candidates.

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