Selection criteria lowered, rules bypassed

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Selection criteria lowered, rules bypassed


NAB looking into the illegal appointments of STZA chairman, COO and others


Corruption is rampant in Pakistan and so is nepotism. A large number of sensitive and important positions are doled out to favourites, disregarding and violating all the prerequisites, rules, procedures and the merit.

A number of key appointments at the Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA), including that of its Chairman Amer Ahmed Hashmi and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) Masroor Ahmed Qureshi, are the classic example of how rules were violated and appointment standards lowered to ensure that the two get these jobs.

The STZA, created for the development of the scientific and technological ecosystem, aims at building knowledge ecosystems, exploring and boosting Pakistan’s IT potential and promoting an entrepreneurial and tech-driven future.

Despite these high-flying objectives, the STZA has failed to make a smooth takeoff because of the illegal appointments at its key position, authoritative sources told BOL News. An issue that has now also come on the radar of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).


According to an official statement issued on April 19, the NAB chairman has authorised complaint verification on this matter and directed the DG NAB, Rawalpindi to probe it in accordance with the law.

According to the documents available with the BOL News, the entire process of selection of STZA’s chairman, chief operating officer and other executives was done in violation to the laid down selection process.

The STZA chairman is a key post that requires merit-based appointment through a due process involving vacancy announcement in the leading newspapers, scrutiny of applications and interviews. After the completion of the entire process and consultations, the prime minister appoints the selected candidate.

However, in the middle of December 2020, Hashmi’s appointment as the STZA chairman was announced without following the due process. Hashmi was allocated an office on the fourth floor of the Prime Minister Office on the Constitution Avenue, Islamabad.

Later, to cover up this illegal and unlawful appointment, the then government published a “vacancy announcement” in the local newspapers on January 3, 2021, inviting applications for the post of the STZA chairman.

Just a day later, on January 4, 2021, the official STZA website published news about the appointment of Hashmi as the STZA chairman.


Similarly, on January 8, the official website of the Prime Minister’s Office announced the appointment of Hashmi as the STZA chairman. However, the official notification was published by the Cabinet Division on February 16, 2021.

The way Hashmi was appointed without following the prescribed rules and procedures shows blatant nepotism and favouritism, said an official at the STZA, requesting anonymity.

After the publication of the advertisement for the post of the STZA chairman on January 3 by the Cabinet Division, no committee was ever notified to scrutinise the applications for the position; no shortlisting by the committee was notified; no interview was conducted and no consultation was ever made, he said.

There is no record that shows how many candidates had applied for the slot, how many were shortlisted and interviewed for the post.

The minimum qualification for the STZA chairman post was downgraded to graduation in Business Administration, Business Management, Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, which appear specifically aimed at adjusting Hashmi.

As per the business rules, written official permission should have been sought from the Federal Cabinet for downgrading the qualification requirements from the Master’s degree to a Bachelor’s degree, but in this case, no such permission was ever sought or any such notification was ever issued by the Cabinet Division.


Hashmi was in charge of the NUST Science and Technology Park (NSTP) from 2009 to 2019, but in those 10 years, the technology park was never operational; meaning, he has no experience in operational science and the technology park, which was an essential requirement for the post.

Similarly, Masroor Ahmed Qureshi was appointed the chief operating officer in violation of the rules and requirements for the position.

As per the advertisement published in the newspapers for the post of appointment of the COO, the applicant should have at least eight years in C-Level or equivalent position in large national and international companies or organisations in relevant positions.

The applicant also needed to have a proven track record of taking significant decisions in related areas mentioned in the key responsibilities.

However, Qureshi does not have the required experience, nor have any track record of taking significant decisions in those areas of responsibilities.

Also, there is nothing on record to show that Qureshi has any strong linkage in the senior leadership of the federal, provincial and municipal governments along with the expertise in the regulatory laws applicable to STZA’s development across Pakistan.


Similarly, Qureshi did not possess a proven record in building cutting-edge financial strategies for diverse ventures, preferably in the large-scale assignments, involving foreign direct investment (FDI) and public-private partnership and ensuring operational presences in all arenas on cost management financial reporting, development and implementing financial policies and procedure for organisational excellence and agility.

In Qureshi’s case too, there is no record that explains how many candidates had applied, shortlisted and interviewed, as no committee was ever constituted to scrutinise the applications.

Other STZA officers, including Chief Human Resource Officer Talha Roa, CIO Abdul Rahim Ahmed, Director Planning and Strategic Communications Hamza Saeed, Director (Policy) Research and Market Intelligence Muhammad Ali and Director Licensing Legal and Compliance Iqra Mushtaq were also appointed illegally.

Only last week, the Islamabad High Court declared the appointments of all members of the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC) illegal and ordered their removal from their posts with immediate effect.

The court in its verdict noted that the decisions and orders passed by the members, including the PMC president and vice president would be deemed illegal from September 25, 2020.


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