FO official challenges charge sheet issued over ‘leaks to media’
ISLAMABAD: An official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was told by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to approach the Federal Services Tribunal (FST) to circumvent disciplinary proceedings, initiated against him for allegedly leaking information to the media.
On Monday, IHC Justice Aamir Farooq dismissed the petition of Foreign Office acting director Yasir Mahmood, who had challenged a charge sheet issued to him. The charge sheet accused him of passing on information to media persons, which, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was part of a smear campaign “to tarnish image of the leadership, and senior officers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
The inquiry against Yasir Mehmood was initiated by the Foreign Office when it was alleged that he was the source for news stories by two journalists, Rauf Klasra of 92 News and Khawar Ghumman of Dawn.
Challenging the inquiry, the petitioner claimed it had been initiated with mala fide intentions, to cover up the wrong-doings of Foreign Office officials.
The officer has been on leave for over 2 years and was never the custodian of any government document, so no question arises of leaking it to the media, the petition claimed.
It alleged that the inquiry was actually meant to absolve the foreign secretary from responsibility of keeping the documents of his ministry in secure custody.
The stories that Yasir Mehmood is accused of leaking related to financial irregularities allegedly committed by Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jillani, who serving as foreign secretary at the time.
They dealt with the alleged hushing-up of an outstanding audit para for the recovery of Rs4.8 million and the allotment of a plot of land, worth Rs10 billion, to the Pakistan Foreign Office Women Association (PFOWA) free of cost, which the PFOWA sublet to a private school.
During the course of hearing, the petitioner’s counsel argued that the Foreign Office inquiry was baseless. Since the petitioner had cited both journalists as respondents, the counsel asked the court to them on notice to ascertain the factual position.
He argued that these stories appeared at a time when Yasir Mahmood had proceeded on ‘long leave’, so he could not have been the source for those stories.
Justice Farooq, on the other hand, pointed out that since there was a constitutional bar in the shape of Article 212, therefore the matter could not be heard at the high court-level.
Under the article, the FST exercises exclusive jurisdiction in “matters relating to the terms and conditions of persons who are or have been in the service of Pakistan, including disciplinary matters.”
However, the counsel noted that the FST chairman had been removed and the forum was non-functional, but his arguments could not convince the judge to entertain the petition, who referred to recent Supreme Court judgments and asked the counsel to approach the FST.