The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday summoned former information minister Pervez Rashid and other officials, demanding to know why Pakistan Television (PTV) allegedly spent hundreds of millions of rupees on former chairman Attaul Haq Qasmi over his two-year term.

Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a 2006 petition filed by a producer who worked at PTV, which claimed that the absence of a Managing Director (MD) in the state-run institution had a negative effect on the organisation’s operations.

Qasmi had ignited controversy in April 2017 when he appointed himself PTV MD while also remaining the chairman of the state-run broadcaster. Five days later, under immense pressure, he was replaced by Information Secretary Sardar Ahmed Nawaz Sukhera, who was appointed as acting MD at the time. The two had known differences, and Qasmi subsequently resigned in December last year saying that it had become “increasingly difficult… to work for the restoration of [the] past glory of PTV”.

During the hearing, the deputy attorney general informed the court that PTV allocated more than Rs270 million to Qasmi in the form of compensation and other employee benefits, as well as advertisement funds, over his two-year term. This figure was confirmed by the information secretary, who was present in the court.

According to Sukhera, Qasmi received at least Rs 2.7 million every month in salary and other benefits. The former chairman was also allocated an advertising budget for a programme he used to host on PTV, he told the court.

The large amount of compensation Qasmi allegedly received during his time at PTV caught the eye of Justice Nisar, who observed that the former chairman incurred at least Rs10 million in expenses for the state-run broadcaster each month.

“Pakistan is a poor country and this money belongs to taxpayers. How can it be distributed like this?” the chief justice asked.

He also questioned the grounds on which Qasmi was appointed as chairman of the company.

Sukhera responded saying Qasmi was a veteran playwright and author who had contributed to PTV in the past.

He explained that the board of directors had referred Qasmi for the post of chairman and his appointment summary was moved by former additional information secretary Saba Mohsin Raza. The summary was then sent to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif for approval.

The CJP said that he may summon Sharif with regards to his role in the appointment. Formal summons were sent to Qasmi, the prime minister’s principal secretary Fawad Hasan, the secretary of the establishment and the former additional information secretary.

The case was adjourned till February 12.

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