Sweet, bitter relief | Pakistan Today

Sweet, bitter relief

  • Good news for Orange Line

Following an entire year of desolation in the Courts of Pakistan, the N-league finally managed to secure some relief from the judiciary. The Punjab government was, ultimately, given a go-ahead to proceed with the construction of the Orange Line train in Lahore.

Where on the one hand even miscellaneous applications of the N-league were being dismissed by the judges be it the Apex Court or the Accountability Court, this decision was indeed a breather. At the very least, they acquired permission to move forward with a constructive attempt to prepare for the general elections. Will the train actually serve their political interests is a question to be answered by the people of Lahore in the next general elections.

By modernising Lahore and that too specific parts of Lahore, the younger Sharif and his camp believe that they will be able to manoeuver the entire election. To our utter bewilderment that seems to be the actual case. In 2013, the Metro Bus supposedly proved to be the jewel in his crown and enabled him to continue his rule for another tenure.

Remarkably, the legal battle pertaining to the Orange Line took its toll not only on the parties but at the general public too. During pendency of this legal battle, the project was halted for a period of almost 22 months. With the roads and pavements, along its route, ripped off the Lahoris endured nearly two years of traffic jams and dusty atmosphere. Even though the smog already plays its part, now on an annual basis, the torn up route of the train itself was a significant addition to air pollution.

By modernising Lahore and that too specific parts of Lahore, the younger Sharif and his camp believe that they will be able to manoeuver the entire election

The Punjab government released a video where Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif is being informed about the victory. I couldn’t help but notice the person on the other side of the phone informing Shahbaz of the decision didn’t refrain from showering his leader with praises and amidst the news he is persistently heard to be praising Mian sahib and his efforts for his province and the country.

The decision and its merits aside there are a few painful facts which are part of reality and extremely despairing. The 22-month delay in the project has augmented its estimated price to $2.6 billion from an earlier estimate of $1.6 billion. This amount is a hefty burden on the national exchequer. It could have been used elsewhere, though the incumbent government isn’t too keen on using exchequer funds for the purposes of education and healthcare but we may have witnessed a fresh string of underpasses and fly-overs.

My reservations with the Supreme Court’s decision are the time and delay in rendering its judgement. Obviously, I fully understand the burden and workload but it would be beneficial for the country if the decision had been issued earlier and without lag of seven months. If at all the permission to endanger heritage sites in Lahore was to be granted, then a short order would have ensured the taxpayers’ money was not wasted. Would have even saved Shahbaz Sharif from continuing his delusional thinking and contemplating other measures to modernise Lahore.

Such erratic delay in a decision is worrisome and thought provoking. Where decisions like Panama can run day-to-day and the judgement can be rendered within two months, then I presume this case to be of greater significance as it involves financial loss. Ironically, no one can be taken to task for this loss as it wasn’t the government deliberately delaying the project.

On the contrary the Punjab government was a little too keen to move ahead with it as it is presumably going to be the party’s cornerstone for the upcoming general elections. The Lahoris at the behest of the Orange Line train will once again massively display their love for being ruled by a despotic leadership.

An immense need persists to speed-up all institutions of the country and make them more effective. Our judiciary already remains one of the most effectively run institutions of the country and there remains no doubt about their ability to work. However certain situations such as the Orange Line are of incredible importance and the judiciary should take a more unorthodox approach towards adjudicating such cases. Bearing in mind the financial daily losses being incurred, the larger bench could have averted millions if not billions of rupees in losses had they rendered their decision on a priority basis earlier. Out of the 22 month lag, seven are prima facie on account of the judiciary’s time consumption.

The same bench, I can state without hesitiation, is capable enough to have rendered the same decision within two or at the most three months. The superior judiciary has from time to time issued guidelines for its subservient courts for efficacious disposal of cases and decisions being announced within three months of initiation. Though that remains wishful thinking.

It would be highly commendable if the superior judiciary would take the lead and set out perimeters. If they themselves are going to take seven months to author their dictates then a relatively low-qualified civil judge might take a decade, which they already do.

Allowing the government of Shahbaz Sharif to proceed with endangering the environment will have its consequences and pretty soon we will be able to feel them.

In spite of the above, the decision in itself isn’t one of the landmark rulings. We have witnessed severe judicial activism in the past decade and continue to do so, however mostly in cases of political nature. The same activism would be appreciated if it was to keep the government in line. For instance by stopping them from such expenditure and forcing them to invest in the education sector as any such investment is an investment in the future of our country.

This conversation obligates me to reiterate from a previous piece, “Dhool chehre pe thi, saaf aina karta raha”.