The government has appointed two independent directors to the board of Pak Arab Refinery Limited (Parco) in a dubious way that has raised eyebrows.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the board of directors of Parco was reconstituted recently, though its term was going to expire in August 2023.

The government has appointed Ahad Cheema, Adviser to the Prime Minister with the status of federal minister, as an independent director to the Parco board.

Dr Jahanzeb, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) with the status of minister of state, has also been appointed as an independent board director of Parco.

The two PM aides having portfolios of federal minister and state minister are holding political offices and therefore could not become independent board members of Parco, industry players said. It was a sheer violation of the law and a case of conflict of interest, they added.

Sources said that corporate governance rules also did not allow such appointments. “The board’s tenure is going to expire in August 2023. Therefore, there is no justification to appoint these directors just before the end of the board of directors’ term,” a source remarked.

Sources pointed out that the government had given extension twice to the board of directors of Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC). However, in the case of Parco, it seemed to be in a hurry and made “controversial appointments” of independent directors.

Moreover, according to the law, the minister concerned will chair nomination committee of the board of directors. But in the case of Petroleum Division, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif is the chairman of nomination committee for oil and gas companies whereas the minister concerned should chair the body.

The appointments were made through the circulation of a summary, which required the consent of only 17 ministers. Many cabinet members were kept in the dark by not placing the matter before a routine meeting of the cabinet, sources said.

According to a notification issued on February 2, 2023, any “candidate will not suffer from conflict of interest, which includes political office-holders whether or not in a legislative role”. Those appointments were also against the notification which the coalition government had issued.

The notification also bars the appointment of political portfolio holders as board directors of state-run oil and gas companies.

Queries were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office, secretary petroleum, state minister of petroleum and SAPM Dr Jehanzeb. Jehanzeb asked to seek comments from the Petroleum Division. Others did not respond to the request for comments.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2023.

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