Govt urged to act against ex-chief SECP for ‘alleged’ corruption

The News

ISLAMABAD: A corporate and tax counsel has asked the authorities to take action against ex-chief of Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) Zafar Hijazi for allegedly making illegal appointments, giving out-of-turn promotions and corruption, The News learnt on Saturday.

The tax counsel Mohammad and Ahmad, through Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan Azhar Saddique, filed the application on behalf of Amina Malik, chairperson of non-government organisation Armaan Welfare Foundation. The application was filed in the office of prime minister, finance minister and Chairman SECP’s policy board.

The application urged the authorities to ask Hijazi to immediately refund terminal benefits of Rs11 million that was illegally paid to him and refer the matter to the National Accountability Bureau for an investigation and inquiry, pertaining to the corruption, and misdeeds done by Hijazi during his service tenure at the SECP.

Hijazi was appointed as chairman SECP by ex-finance minister Ishaq Dar, who was a close friend of Hijazi. The applicant said Hijazi is a below average chartered accountant who could not secure any job after completion of his earlier terms as commissioner in SECP from 1999 to 2003, which was also awarded to him by the then finance minister “in total disregard of merit”. Hijazi remained jobless from 2003 to 2014, and he didn’t practice chartered accountancy. He was publishing a regional small newspaper in the city of Abbottabad.

After Dar became federal finance minister in 2014, he reappointed Hijazi as chairman SECP. The application said Dar discarded the whole process of appointment of SECP

commissioners, which was at final stage when Dar took charge as the minister. After scrapping the earlier process, Dar restarted the hiring and ended at appointing Hijazi as SECP chairman. “This delayed the appointment of SECP commissioners for over four months.”

The applicant alleged that after his appointment, Hijazi started hiring amongst his clan and cronies as consultants and advisors as well as outsourcing arrangements. “An enquiry can definitely confirm that none of the appointments and arrangements was on merit,” it said.

Moreover, it was alleged that Hijazi was involved in serious litigation in connection with divorce and child custody of his son Arsalan Zafar. He started accommodating his personal lawyers by awarding them SECP’s cases on hefty fee, namely Rahat Kaunain and Riyasat Gondal. Hijazi awarded them millions of worth cases on account of SECP as well as directed different entities falling within SECP’s jurisdiction to refer the cases to above-mentioned lawyers.

In addition, he ‘unlawfully’ appointed son of his lawyer Riyasat Gondal in the SECP. Hijazi also got his son out-of-turn promoted in advance, “a rare case in any organisation”. He also appointed Ali Sidique, son of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) politician and his close friend Siddiq-ul-Farooq despite knowing the fact that Ali Sidique did not possess the requisite qualification and skills. Unfortunately, Siddiq-ul-Farooq’s son was died a few months after joining the SECP. To accommodate his family, Hijazi immediately introduced a policy of death grant in SECP and paid a hefty amount to the family of Ali.

The applicant further said Hijazi, who used to live hand to mouth till the time of his appointment as SECP chairman. Within his service tenure, Hijazi managed to make assets worth Rs100 million, including one kanal plot in Park Enclave, Rs35 million investment in mutual funds and Rs40 million investment in National Investment Trust units.

Hijazi, during his tenure, ‘artfully’ hid the corruption in Orange Lime Metro Train project. He also concealed the information request of China Securities Regulatory Commission regarding Multan metro project.

The applicant, referring to a recent audit report of Accountant General Pakistan Revenues, said the audit raised ‘serious’ objection on the payment of Rs7.733 million as terminal benefit, Rs2.7 million as fixed bonus and Rs100,000 annual increment to the suspended chairman.

The auditor observed that grant of fixed bonus, annual increment and terminal benefits were irregular and unauthorised despite having under suspension and under trial in the court of law. The applicant demanded the government to order Hijazi to immediately refund all the additional terminal benefits.

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