PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench on Monday declared illegal the Fata Secretariat`s act of terminating 52 employees of a World Bank-funded Rural Livelihood and Community Infrastructure Project (RLCIP) from Dec 31, 2016.
While accepting a joint petition of those employees, Justice Qaiser Rasheed Khan and Justice Qalandar Ali Khan announced the setting aside of the Dec 29, 2016, impugned notification for the job termination.
Mohammad Asif Yousafzai, lawyer for the petitioners, said the RLCIP was funded by the Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF)through the World Bank for the betterment of certain areas in Fata. He added that the petitioners were employees of the said project and were functioning against different posts in different areas.
The lawyer said the contracts of the employees were extended from time to time after obtaining a no objection letter from the World Bank.
He added that the last extension was given up to Dec 31, 2016, and that a further extension was later approved until March 31, 2017, whereas the project would continue until 2018.
The lawyer said under the agreement, the relevant quarters had to give a 30 days prior notice for the termination of contractsbut in that case, none of the petitioners was given such notice.
He said though work on the project was under way, the director general (projects) wrote to the economic affairs secretary on Dec 26 for relieving the project staff members and appointing new ones.
The lawyer said just three days later, the DG issued the impugned notification stating the project staff members` contracts won`t be extended beyond Dec 31.
He said the impugned notification was against the law, facts and norms of justice and therefore, it was not tenable and liable to be set aside.
The lawyer said the respondents had violated the clause of the contracts by virtue of which they wereunder legal obligation to give the one month prior notice.
He requested the bench to direct the respondents not to terminate the services of the petitioners until the completion of the RLCIP.
The lawyer said it was an injustice to terminate the services of the petitioners and to recruit other personsin theirplace.
Last month, the World Bank warned Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra that the province would lose at least $27 million meant for its and Fata`s economic revitalisation if the government didn`t approve PC-1s of the two key donor-funded projects, including the RLCIP.
A letter written by World Bank country director PatchamuthuIllangovan to the KP governor said the World Bank as the administrator of the MDTF for KP, Fata and Balochistan supported by 13 donor countries had the privilege of supporting the development of tribal areas over the last five years.
It added that if the PC-1s of the Economic Revitalisation of KP and Fata and RLCIP were not approved immediately, the staff members and resources would be given the one-month termination notices on Feb 28 in anticipation of the projects` closure on March 31.
The governor was requested to step in for the approval of the PC-1s for the speedy processing of the World Bank funds earmarked for them.