Court orders formation of two committees and Rs100 million fund for historical sites
LAHORE: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled in favour of the provincial government and has given conditional permission to Punjab government to carry on the construction work of Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project through the 11 historical sites of the city.
The court accepted the appeal of the Punjab government and others against the LHC decision with conditions and ruled by a 4-1 judgment that it observed no illegalities in the multi-billion rupee project. Justice Ahsan read out the verdict whereas Justice Baqar wrote a dissenting note.
According to the details of the verdict, the court has ordered the formation of a five-member technical committee, with overarching authority, within 30 days to oversee the technical aspects of the project.
The committee will include experts from the archaeology department as well as a former Supreme Court justice.The committee will oversee the construction work through the historical sites and make sure no harm comes to them during the process. It will present its recommendations to the chief minister.
The court has also directed the provincial government to commission a Rs100 million fund for the protection and safekeeping of the sites.
The proceedings regarding the project had begun in the Supreme Court after the Punjab government had filed petitions in the apex court following Lahore High Court’s (LHC) verdict ordering partial halting of construction in the Punjab capital.
A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and comprising Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Maqbool Baqar, Ijaz-ul-Ahsan and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel had reserved the verdict in the case on April 17.
The provincial government had filed an appeal against LHC’s August 2016 order suspending construction of the $1.6 billion OLMT within 200 feet of 11 historical sites in the city. The LHC order was issued on a petition filed civil society activist Kamil Khan Mumtaz.
The historical monuments include the Shalimar Gardens, Gulabi Bagh Gateway, Chauburji, Zebunnisa’s Tomb, Lakshmi Building and the General Post Office. These heritage sites are protected under the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance, 1985 and Antiquity Act, 1975.
The project, which was included in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor earlier in the year, is expected to run on electricity and transport up to 250,000 passengers a day.
Shehbaz Sharif congratulates masses for the ‘victory’
Soon after Supreme court made the verdict granting permission to the provincial government to resume the construction work of the OLMT project, Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif took to Twitter to congratulate the people of the victory in the courts and showed resolve for speedy completion of the project.
In his tweet, Shehbaz Sharif stated,” Orange Line finally gets go-ahead by the Supreme Court. Today people won over the vested interests. All efforts & energies to be employed to complete this mega public welfare project as early as possible… “.
Alhumdulillah… Orange Line finally gets go-ahead by the Supreme Court… Today people won over the vested interests… All efforts & energies to be employed to complete this mega public welfare project as early as possible InshaAllah! Aap sab ko Mubarak -ss
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) December 8, 2017
Launched in May 2014 by Shehbaz Sharif, in collaboration with a Chinese company, the project is set to be the country’s first metro line, but it got embroiled in a legal battle in LHC which ordered a stay on several sites as the development was trampling over heritage sites in Lahore.
Later while speaking to media in Lahore, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif blamed Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) for the 22-month delay in the execution of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project, shortly after the Supreme Court allowed the provincial government to continue with the project.
The chief minister, , termed the apex court’s decision a victory for his administration, and said it was not just for Punjab but for all Pakistanis.
“The PTI had submitted an application with the Supreme Court. Then, as hidden enemies strike, they did the same by approaching the Lahore High Court against this public welfare project. The revenge they have taken is not from me. They have exacted revenge on the poor people of this city,” said Shehbaz, adding, “Our political opponents travel in big lavish cars and buy aircraft by looting public money and have no knowledge of Pakistan’s goals.”
“They [PTI] are criminals of the public and the masses will never forgive them for their crimes,” the CM said, recalling that through their dirty politics they had hurt the country in the past as well.
“Despite the passage of four-and-a-half years, no development project for the masses has surfaced in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa… how these people [PTI-led provincial government] will face the voters in 2018 elections,” he wondered.
The chief minister said that the project was to be inaugurated on Dec 25 according to the original plan. Asked when the project would be operational, Shehbaz said he would inform of the date at a later date.
He elaborated that the Lahore High Court (LHC) had a stay order on the project for 14 months and the apex court announced its verdict eight months later.
Shehbaz said the PTI did not want the people to benefit from an efficient and cheap mass transit system.
“The project was to run from Dec 25, now, due to the delay we are absolutely out of line.”
Criticising the opposition party further, Shehbaz said they had been unable to even lay a brick for the metro project in Peshawar after a passage of four and a half years.
Shehbaz said if the project had been built on time, it would have lessened thousands of cars on the road and could have led to less severe smog in the provincial capital. “The tickets for the metro project would be reasonable and the price would be set keeping the common man in mind.”