The recent 845 appointments in Pakistan Railways through ‘balloting’ have been challenged before the Lahore High Court (LHC), with the Pakistan Railways Employees (PREM) Union pointing out that a majority of the newly appointed staff belong to the two Rawalpindi constituencies of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and his nephew Sheikh Rashid Shafiq.
The PREM Union filed the petition before the Rawalpindi bench of the LHC through its counsel Imran Shafique with a request to set aside the inductions.
The railways authorities had advertised 322 posts of different categories in BS-1 to BS-5 in October 2018, according to the petition. Another advertisement was published only a month later, with the number of vacant positions being increased from 323 to 845, the court was informed.
The petition said thousands of people had applied for these posts, but the appointments were made through ‘balloting’ rather than on the basis of merit. “The concept of recruitment through balloting is quite alien to the law of the land. The candidates who secured highest marks in the skill/written test and proved their mettle in the interviews had deserved to be appointed on the basis of open merit, but the railways authorities while changing the criteria placed all successful candidates in the same position and decided their fate on the basis of draws/balloting,” it added.
The court was further informed that more than half of the so-called successful candidates belong to the constituency of the incumbent Minister for Railways. “One gets amazed to note that out of almost 29 constituencies of the National Assembly from Rawalpindi division (i.e. Pakistan Railways Division), more than half of the candidates remained successful from just the two constituencies of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed and his nephew MNA Sheikh Rashid Shafiq”. The petition pointed that the honourable court could “verify this aspect by summoning the record for judicial review”.
According to the petition, ‘secret balloting’ was staged to select the blue-eyed ones. “It is quite unfortunate that the official respondents misused their authority and played at the hands of political elite for their motivated designs,” it said.
The LHC was informed that 58 per cent seats were to be filled on the basis of open merit, 20pc quota was reserved for the children of Railways Employees, 10pc was reserved for ex-employees, 5pc for orphans and handicapped, and 2pc for disabled persons. However, the petition said, even those quotas were not taken into consideration during the induction through balloting.
It argued the concept of balloting was against the constitutionally recognised principle of intelligible differentia required to be observed in recruitment. “There is no scope of intelligence or differentia when the entire process is to be left on the mercy of balloting. If this practice is allowed, then the very concept of merit and fitness for appointments at government offices will be badly affected,” the PREM union stated.
When contacted, Pakistan Railways chairman Sikandar Sultan Raja said the federal government had issued directions to fill the vacancies from BS-1 to BS-4 through balloting. However, he added, the matter could be probed in order to ensure transparency in case there was any kind of discrepancy.
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