Petition against Sharmila: How expensive is an adviser to the CM?

Sharmila Farooqui, adviser to the Sindh chief minister, has disputed media reports alleging that the Supreme Court has admitted any petition against her. She has, however, acknowledged that a petition has been filed by Habibul Wahab Khairi, the chairman of Al-Jehad Trust.

“It has not been admitted by the apex court,” she told The Express Tribune over the phone on Friday.

The petitioner has, challenging Farooqi’s eligibility to become an adviser, requested the court order her removal from office as she was allegedly benefiting from perks and privileges illegally and in violation of the 18th Amendment under which a chief minister can appoint only five advisers. The petitioner has alleged that she cannot hold public office as she is a beneficiary of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, that allowed certain bureaucrats and politicians a pardon. The Supreme Court has struck it down.

This is the second time that a petition has been filed against Farooqi. Earlier, she was removed from the post of information adviser to the CM after Barrister Zameer Ghumro challenged the eligibility of advisers in view of the 18th Amendment.

Perks and privileges

An adviser draws a salary of Rs20,000, rent worth Rs22,000, an annual grant of Rs100,000 and free medical care for them and their families.

He or she is also entitled to travel first class and a yearly compensation of Rs300,000 in case of air travel. The adviser is provided Rs100,000 to furnish their residence.

Current status

After the appointment of 17 advisers was challenged in court their number was restricted to five in February last year. The CM removed 12 advisers including Farooqi. Later new posts were created in order to accommodate a few of them.

Rashid Rabbani, Waqar Mehdi, Siddique Abu Bhai who were serving as advisers, have been appointed as coordinators and special assistants. Rabbani was earlier an adviser on political affairs and is now working as a senior special assistant on political affairs. They are believed to be: Farooqi, Imamuddin Shoqeen (mines and minerals), Imtiaz Shaikh (special education), Syed Aijaz Ali Shah Sheerazi (rural development), Haleem Adil Sheikh (relief), Khawaja Izhar-ul Hassan (without a portfolio).

Siddique Abu Bhai has been appointed a coordinator and Waqar Mehdi a special assistant for the press and media. Meanwhile the number of special assistants has climbed to 15. They receive the same perks as advisers. Imtiaz Ahmed Mallah has been made special assistant for the complaint cell.  Other special assistants include: Ismail Dahiri, Salman Abdullah Murad, Noor Jehan Baloch, Pehlaj Mal Nihlani, Ghulam Haider Rahu, Agha A Khan, Shamshad Qureshi, Anwar Lal Dinn, Pervaiz Ahmed Ansari, Muhammad Ameen, Khadim Hussain and Noor Hussain. However, no one knows what their departments or role are.

My name is Sharmila, I may become a senator… even if it isn’t 2020 yet

KARACHI – Four female candidates have been short-listed for the upcoming Senate elections, and one of them is Sharmila Farooqui who was banned for 20 years in 2000 from running for any office. Nevertheless, one of the four candidates would be finalised after an interview at the Sindh Chief Minister’s House on Tuesday (tomorrow). The interview would be conducted by Member National Assembly Faryal Talpur – President Asif Ali Zardari’s sister – and Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah. Out of 37 applications received, the Sindh chapter of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has short-listed member of the provincial assembly Humera Alwani, Sadia Javed, Hina Dastagir and Sharmila Farooqui for the reserved seat for women on Sindh’s quota.
Farooqui, a strong candidate for the Senate seat, was removed as chief minister’s information adviser amid the Supreme Court’s pending decision regarding her plea bargain.

On April 12, 2000, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Court-IV in Karachi had convicted Farooqui and her parents in the Pakistan Steel Mills corruption case and barred them from taking part in any election or holding any public office for 20 years. The three had later approached the Sindh High Court against their conviction, following which the high court had referred their case for a retrial on technical grounds to the same NAB court. During the course of the retrial, Farooqui and her parents filed a plea bargain with the NAB court to avoid further conviction.

Their plea bargain was accepted by the then NAB chairman and later approved by the NAB Court-IV. According to the Constitution and opinion of legal experts, a person who receives a plea bargain is deemed to be convicted. On April 28, 2001, the NAB court declared in its judgement that Farooqui and her parents were disqualified to be elected, appointed or nominated to hold any public office for two decades. Despite her conviction, plea bargain and disqualification, Farooqui was appointed chief minister’s adviser, enjoying not only perks and privileges of a public servant, but also an extraordinary political clout.

Besides being illegal on constitutional grounds, the decision to award a Senate ticket to Farooqui could further irk the civil society and Sindhi nationalists who are already irritated on the presence of non-Sindhi senators, inlcuding Shaukat Tareen, Rehman Malik, Farooq Hameed Naik, Dr Aasim and Faisal Raza Abidi, on the votes of Sindhi members of the provincial assembly.
This could be another bone of contention among the PPP’s own ranks, especially in interior Sindh which is the original power base of the party.

On the condition of anonymity, an MPA said, “The PPP is aiming for at least eight Senate seats in Sindh, but this could create problems for the party leadership because voters are questioning the merit of the senators already elected on the votes of the MPAs.”

Petition moved against Sharmila Farooqui, her father’s eligibility

ISLAMBAD – Despite repeated reminders, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Justice (r) Deedar Hussain Shah has not submitted comments to the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the alleged disqualification of Sharmila Farooqi, adviser to the Sindh chief minister.
A well-placed source said for the past four months, the NAB chairman had “turned a deaf ear” to the SC order to submit comments on Sharmila’s disqualification decided in a plea-bargain case on April 28, 2001. The source alleged that NAB chief was using delaying tactics only to protect Sharmila. The Supreme Court directed the NAB chairman to submit comments regarding Sharmila’s disqualification within two weeks after hearing a human rights petition filed by one Aslam Siddiqui.
However, the NAB chairman failed to comply with SC orders. On October 12, 2010, SC’s Human Rights Cell director again issued a reminder, which the Deedar again failed to comply with. The director finally put the NAB chairman on notice to comply with court orders on or before January, 2011. Documents reveal that on April 12, 2000, Accountability Court No IV Karachi convicted Sharmila and her mother Anisa Farooqi and father Usman Farooqui on corruption charges.
They were sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment each. Later, the convicts filed an appeal before the Sindh High Court, which remanded their case for a re-trial on technical grounds. During the course of the re-trial, the convicts entered a plea bargain with NAB in order to avoid further conviction. Their plea-bargaining was accepted by the then chairman NAB and later approved by the Accountability Court No IV Karachi.
The accountability court in its judgment on April 28, 2001, declared Sharmila Farooqui, Anisa and Usman disqualified to be elected, appointed or nominated to hold any public office for 21 years. Notwithstanding her conviction, plea-bargaining and disqualification, Sharmila was appointed adviser to the Sindh chief minister, to enjoy not only perks and privileges of a public servant but also an extraordinary political clout.

NAB again fails to file reply in Sharmila case

ISLAMABAD: The NAB has again failed to file reply before the Supreme Court in a case against adviser to Sindh Government Sharmila Farooqi.

A man had complained to Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that Sharmila Farooqi was a NAB convict and cannot hold public office for 10 years. In his application, he said that Accountability Court No 4 of Karachi ruled under a plea-bargain adjudication on April 24, 2001 in an accountability reference, filed against Sharmila and her parents, that she cannot hold any government office for 10 years under the NAB Ordinance.

On the plea, the CJ had asked the NAB on Aug 24 to file a reply within two weeks but NAB failed to respond in four months. Upon this the Human Rights Cell of the SC reminded the NAB on December 9 to file a reply by December 20, 2010. However, the Bureau failed to come up with any response.

The applicant had asked the court to declare the appointment of Sharmila Farooqi, an NRO beneficiary, as illegal and order withdrawal of all emoluments and privileges she got from the government exchequer during her appointment as adviser.


Sharmila and the media: Irresponsibility at its best

“Gang rape in Clifton” was a headline plastered across most newspapers today; while most news agencies protected the victim’s identity, English newspapers Daily Times and The Nation violated media ethics by publishing her full name, the area where she lived, the license plate number of her car and other details about the victim’s personal life.

Enter Sharmila Farooqui

During her media briefing, Information Adviser Sharmila Farooqui publicly named the victim and spoke of her in an apparently derogatory manner; it seemed that she had expected the victim to give her a full-blown account of the incident, and when that didn’t happen, the disappointed official thought it best to describe the girl as “hyper” and “batameez”. She proceeded to say that the little information she had obtained from the victim was “her (the victim’s) version” and that investigations were under way. Is it too much to ask that Farooqui show sensitivity and professionalism to a rape case? It seems that she arrived at the scene after succumbing to media pressure and spoke casually about the horrific incident, implying that the victim’s version was warped and inconsistent.

‘She lived with her boyfriend’

The police were completely out of line when they disclosed that the victim resided with her boyfriend – a statement that was published in a newspaper today. It makes me wonder if this media-police tag team is some deranged version of Batman and Robin that thrives on sensational news. One creates frenzy and the other leaps to the occasion and spews information that catalyses the media hype.

It is utterly shocking that this victim is being harassed by the media, who seems to be conducting a trial of its own. What is worse is that the girls involved have been accused of having loose characters and are being depicted as “call girls” who are involved in “trafficking women”.

Is this why some news agencies have disclosed their identities? A victim’s personal life should by no means undermine the gravity of the crime that has been committed. Farooqui and the irresponsible media persons should issue an apology to the traumatised victim instead of making her out to be someone with loose morals.

My question is this: even if she is a prostitute – doe she not have the right to procedural fairness and a fair trial?

Sharmila Farooqi: Miss Information

KARACHI: Sindh’s information setup went through yet another shake-up on Tuesday when Sharmila Farooqi, adviser to the chief minister without a portfolio, was given charge of the department. She is the third person to be given the responsibility of media management by Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah in his two-and-a-half year tenure.

Sharmila is a known face on TV and in the newspapers. Not at all publicity-shy, she has been on the offensive from day one of her appointment as an adviser. The niece of Salman Farooqui, top mandarin with President Zardari, Sharmila has been at the forefront of defending the rights and wrongs of the government with such conviction that her appointment does not come as a surprise.

But there are those who doubt her still. She is not seen as a true-blooded PPP supporter, argue critics, who have questioned her appointment. Despite the opposition, Sharmila took charge from Jameel Soomro, who was appointed in January 2010.

Soomro was appointed by Qaim Ali Shah in place of Shazia Marri. Marri who originally belongs to Sanghar, is the daughter of Atta Muhammad Marri and Parveen Marri, both parliamentarians. Despite her political credentials, she failed to keep this high-profile job.

While seen as a popular minister, Shazia Marri was abruptly removed from her ministry under the cloud of various allegations.

Official sources said that she stopped giving advertisements to different vernacular newspapers and issued advertisements to the papers of her choice on her own terms and conditions. A few newspaper owners and employees started campaigning against her and staged demonstration and rallies in Karachi and other districts of the province.

Meanwhile, a senior PPP leader told The Express Tribune that the advertisement issue was actually an excuse to get rid of Marri.

The real reason was that in the provincial and federal capital, Shazia Marri was becoming more popular than the CM himself.

On one occasion President Zardari criticised all Sindh cabinet ministers but appreciated Shazia Marri and Sharmila Farooqi, saying that these two “are very active and know very well how to fight the party case. I watch them on television.”

As the president completed his sentence, Sharmila Farooqi exclaimed in obvious delight, “Sir do you really watch us on TV?” To this, Zardari looked away and ignored her. But he meant what he said.

Party insiders say that while Sharmila Farooqi continued to work under the CM’s command, after the public endorsement by the president, Shazia Marri became more independent and this led to her dismissal by the CM.

In her place came Jameel Soomro, who had started his career as an activist of the Sindh People Students Federation and later he was given the responsibility of media in-charge of Bilawal House. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto he became close to the president and worked at the media section of President House in Islamabad until he was given the information ministry in Sindh.

However, Soomro was not a PR man and soon complaints surfaced of his inability to keep the media happy. There were also stories of advertisements being given to favourites. The last nail in the coffin was the fact that Soomro could not ensure prominent publicity for the president during his long stays in Karachi.

Now with the appointment of Sharmila Farooqi as the de-facto information minister of Sindh, there are questions about how the media set-up will be managed in the province. Farooqi is a Zardari loyalist and knows how to be on the right side of the president’s sister Faryal Talpur, who onec scolded her in a meeting for her inability to deliver. Many predict she will last longer than both her predecessors.