Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday took notice of the appointment of state minister and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Zartaj Gul’s sister to the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) after it generated a debate about the government’s meritocracy.
Special assistant to the prime minister Naeemul Haque tweeted that the premier had directed Minister of State for Climate Change Zartaj Gul to withdraw a letter she wrote to Nacta regarding her sister’s appointment.
“This was against the ethics of PTI, which has always opposed nepotism. No one in the PTI government can promote their relatives/friends by using their positions,” Haque said.
Haque appeared to be referring to a letter dated Feb 27, 2019, written by an individual in Zartaj’s office to Nacta, which cited a telephonic conversation regarding Shabnam Gul’s appointment in Nacta.
A copy of the letter is circulating on social media. Nacta initially declined to comment on the authenticity of the letter received, but a later statement issued by a spokesperson said: “Zartaj Gul did not write any letter. The letter attributed to her, which is being discussed in the media, was written by Zartaj Gul’s principal staff officer to the secretary Interior.”
Shabnam Gul, a BPS-18 officer, was serving as assistant professor in the International Relations Department of the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) and was appointed as director (BPS-19) in Nacta, Islamabad, on deputation for three years.
According to a Nacta notification, “The services of Ms Shabnam Gul, Assistant Professor, Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) are required for her posting against an available vacant post of Director (BS-19) in Nacta in Islamabad on a deputation basis.”
LCWU Vice Chancellor Dr Farkhanda Manzoor earlier told Dawn that Nacta had requisitioned that the services of Shabnam Gul be placed at its disposal.
The appointment drew ire on social media after it emerged that Shabnam and another researcher had been disqualified from future teaching jobs by Punjab University in 2007, and that a researcher’s studentship for an M.Phil degree was also cancelled on charges of plagiarism.
The complaint against the state minister’s sister was that she and another researcher of the Department of Kashmir Studies at University Oriental College had allegedly plagiarised from a Master’s degree thesis and research paper on Kashmiriyat and political parties of Kashmir by KH Khursheed. They had released a joint plagiarised book titled: Tareekh-i-Kashmir: 1947 to date, in 2006.
Separately, a notification issued by LCWU also made the rounds on social media on Sunday. The authenticity of the notification was confirmed by the university to DawnNewsTV.
The notification dated April 4, 2019, refers to a meeting that took place on March 6, in which the Advance Studies and Research Board had decided to allow Shabnam Gul and two others to continue their PhD research work at the university’s Political Science Department.
The state minister herself took to Twitter late on Saturday night to tweet Nacta’s notification regarding the matter. Describing it as a “comprehensive clarification”, Zartaj claimed it “blew away the nonsense being peddled in a section of the local media regarding supposed breach of merit”.
“One cannot disenfranchise a deserving candidate just because they happen to be related to a government minister,” she said.
Nacta in its notification had explained that it had “followed 100 per cent merit and due process” in the requisitioning of the services of Shabnam Gul.
“Nacta received a total of 12 requests from employees of different federal and provincial government departments working in BS17-19 for posting in Nacta on deputation basis,” a notification issued by the body on June 1.
“A three-member committee was constituted to interview these applicants and shortlist the suitable officers,” it said.
“Interviews were conducted on May 14, 2019, and the committee recommended six of the 12 candidates for sending their cases to the Establishment division for further processing,” the notification added.
It said that Shabnam Gul was one of the selected candidates recommended on the basis of merit by the committee as she “is a PhD scholar with several papers on counter-extremism and terrorism, and [was] found appropriate and relevant for the research wing”.