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Chief Justice embarks on mission of self-accountability, summons ‘Judicial Bigwigs’ in EOBI fee case

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The Supreme Court of Pakistan has embarked on a difficult journey by issuing notices to the top guns of the judicial fraternity, who minted massive money in terms of fee for representing the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).

A two-member bench of the top court comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan, Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan has served notices to two serving judges of Islamabad High Court – Justice Mohsin Akhter Kiyani and Justice Athar Minallah – and scores of other lawyers for receiving a fee, without completing the due process.

According to the standard operating procedure, no lawyer can be paid a fee exceeding Rs 0.1 million by state-owned institutions, without getting the approval of federal law department which is law ministry. Considering the legal provision in mind, the judges in question received a heavy fee, in flagrant contradiction with the rules.

The notice of the top court, over the payment of a hefty fee to a bevy of A-lister legal experts confirms that the superior judiciary believes in accountability across the board, despite criticism from multiple quarters.

Justice Athar Minallah, before he was elevated as a judge, received Rs0.85 million while the firm with which Justice Kayani was associated, received Rs 0.658 million by the EOBI, in 2012. Moreover, some top lawyers of the country including Aitzaz Ahsan and Babar Sattar also got a lion’s share in the funds of EOBI, which was battling legal tussle under the Chairman Zafar Iqbal Gondal.

During the hearing on Friday, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Sohail Mahmood blew the lid off renowned jurists of the country by stating that EOBI had engaged different private counsel in 87 cases in violation of rules. Sohail also expressed that some of the lawyers including Khawaja Haris and Rasheed A. Rizvi also charged heavily, but after getting a go-ahead from the law department.

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Looking at the combined fee received by the lawyers, Babar Sattar enjoys the upper hand as he was roped in by EOBI for as many as 34 cases against rules, for which he received Rs 1.16 million, approved by former EOBI chairman, Zafar Iqbal Gondal. The official document furnished before the top court implies that Aitzaz Ahsan was hired for Rs2.5 million, with the approval of law ministry, however, in two other cases, the lawyer in collaboration with his fellow, received Rs0.7 million.

Interestingly, contrary to the perception, Khawaja Haris, who represented former Premier Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers Case, got approval from the law ministry before receiving Rs 6 million. Not only Haris, Advocate Rasheed A. Rizvi and Advocate Saiful Malook also received millions in terms of the fee but after following the due process.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has embarked on a difficult journey by issuing notices to the top guns of the judicial fraternity, who minted massive money in terms of fee for representing the Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI).

Shockingly, the report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) confirms that the law ministry’s nod, for payment of hefty fee, was obtained in a single case, wherein Aitzaz was hired for Rs 2.5 million.

Furthermore, the FIA also drew a comparison of the current fee paid to the lawyers, in the range of Rs 20,000 to Rs 80, 000, with that paid under the chairmanship of Zafar Gondal in millions, though the nature of cases is the same. The FIA, however, did not equate the violation with crime and resorted to saying that it was mismanagement on part of Gondal, as the cases were filed against the statutory organization and not against the chairman.

Read more: Silencing critics: Chief Justice turns judicial jet towards KPK

The apex court has adjourned the hearing till June, however, it will be grilling the renowned faces of the country for the visible ‘conflict of interest’. The tightening of screws against the judges and reputed lawyers confirm that the superior judiciary was on a mission of self-accountability and the conflict of interest which became an apparent reason for the disqualification of former Foreign Minister, Khawaja Asif, will be under discussion for one more time.

Another tragic aspect of the EOBI fiasco is that at one end, the institution was unfazed to engage lawyers in millions, while on the other end, it had fixed the minimum pension as Rs 5,250, less than half of the minimum wage enshrined in the budget. Although the apex court is investigating the matter and has sought replies, it is likely that the pension will be raised a little bit.

Looking at the combined fee received by the lawyers, Babar Sattar enjoys the upper hand as he was roped in by EOBI for as many as 34 cases against rules, for which he received Rs 1.16 million, approved by former EOBI chairman, Zafar Iqbal Gondal.

The EOBI was established in 1976, in line with the Article 38 (C) of the Constitution which ensures compulsory social insurance, however, it is wading through controversies, to this day. The skewed policies of the institution were laid bare in 2014 when its chairman Zafar Iqbal Gondal was arrested for purchasing land in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi at exorbitant prices in violation of EOBI rules.

Read more: Chief Justice vows to recover written off loans

After a thorough probe, Gondal was dismissed from service in 2017. The notice of the top court, over the payment of a hefty fee to a bevy of A-lister legal experts confirms that the superior judiciary believes in accountability across the board, despite criticism from multiple quarters.


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