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CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja’s Nephew Secures Key PRA Position Illegally For 7 Years, Bypassing Merit

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LAHORE: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja’s nephew, Salman Zafar, has secured the position of Director of Information Technology (IT) at the Punjab Revenue Authority (PRA), allegedly using his uncle’s influence to bypass job criteria, qualification requirements, and merit, The Scoop (TS) has learnt.

Sources privy to the development told TS that over the past seven years, Zafar withdrew a salary and incentives exceeding those of the Chairman of the PRA. “He didn’t have the required qualifications for this role, but his uncle, a top bureaucrat at the time, ensured his appointment. The merit was completely ignored, and many eligible candidates were not considered,” a senior official at PRA said.

Agreeing with him, another senior PRA official stated that the requirement for the position was a Master’s in IT or Computer Science. Zafar, holding a BS in Electrical Engineering, was taken on board illegally at the behest of his uncle Raja and was initially appointed for three years.

“He was selected merely on the basis of interviews, and later his contract was renewed. He was drawing a salary and perks associated with the BS-19 position,” a senior official maintained.

Sources maintained that Zafar’s appointment was influenced by the current Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Raja, who was a powerful bureaucrat and Zafar’s uncle. When the advertisement for the post was issued, Raja had served as Chief Secretary Gilgit-Baltistan (April 2014-April 2015), Chief Secretary Azad Kashmir (January 2016-April 2017), Petroleum Secretary of Pakistan (April 18, 2017-August 26, 2018), Railways Secretary (November 2018-December 2019), and from January 27, 2020, he assumed the office of Chief Election Commissioner.

Connections To Prominent Bureaucrats

Zafar and his uncle Raja are also connected to several prominent figures in the country’s bureaucracy, including Amir Ali Ahmad, former Chief Commissioner Islamabad; Zohaib Ranjha, former SP Investigation (Lahore); Muhammad Ali, former DC Faisalabad; and SP Bilal Zafar, former DPO Chiniot. Raja is the son-in-law of Saeed Mehdi, a former top bureaucrat who served as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Raja’s wife, Rabab Sikandar, a serving Customs official, was promoted to Chief Collector Customs by the PDM government in 2022.

Regularisation Effort Thwarted During Caretaker Government

Sources maintained that a serious effort was made during the caretaker government of Syed Mohsin Raza Naqvi in Punjab to regularise Zafar, but it failed because the caretaker chief minister and his team made decisions based on merit and refrained from illegal actions.

Scrutiny Committee Questions Legality of PRA Director’s Appointment

During the caretaker government’s tenure, a scrutiny committee meeting held on January 2, 2024, raised serious concerns about the initial appointment and subsequent regularisation of Salman Zafar. Sources told The Scoop that the committee emphasised the need to examine the legitimacy of Zafar’s initial contract-based appointment before considering his regularisation.

The committee highlighted that Zafar’s appointment as Director of IT was proposed in the context of establishing the Punjab Government Revenue Automation Pvt Limited (PGRAL), a project that was never realised. Furthermore, the advertisement for his position, published in The Dawn on August 7, 2015, indicated a need for an IT expert to lead a “Restaurant Invoice Monitoring System” (RIMS). However, the RIMS project has long been discontinued, rendering the original need for his role obsolete.

Compounding these issues, the committee noted discrepancies in Zafar’s qualifications. The job advertisement specified a requirement for a Master’s degree in Computer Science or a related IT discipline. Zafar, however, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering, which the committee deemed irrelevant to the IT-focused role. This discrepancy raised significant doubts about the recruitment process, which was based solely on interviews.

The participants of the scrutiny committee were unanimous in their view that the legality of Zafar’s initial appointment must be thoroughly scrutinised before any consideration of his regularisation.

Chairman PRA’s Role 

Sources confirmed to TS that the scrutiny committee recommended a thorough probe into Zafar’s appointment, but Chairman Javed Badar, instead of referring the case to the Finance Department, brushed Zafar’s case under the carpet and did not pursue the scrutiny process.

“Zafar tried to use his uncle’s influence to get himself regularised, but he failed during Mohsin Naqvi’s tenure as caretaker Punjab government,” a senior official said.

TS made several attempts to reach Chairman PRA for an official version but was unsuccessful. Zafar, however, stated that his appointment was completely on merit and that the questions raised by the scrutiny committee were baseless.

 

Hassan Naqvi
Hassan Naqvi
Hassan Naqvi is an award-winning digital, print, and broadcast investigative journalist who is the co-founder of The Scoop. He also hosts his web shows 'The Scoop' and 'The Hassan Naqvi Show'.

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