Upon revelation about Punjab government’s regular practice to get No Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the concerned authorities after commencing infrastructure development projects the Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali on Thursday remarked that “there is monarchy in the name of democracy in the country”.
On August 19, 2016, in response to petitions of Kamil Khan Mumtaz and others, the Lahore High Court (LHC) had stayed construction work of Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) in the 200-foot radius of 11 heritage sites, protected under the Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance, 1985 and Antiquity Act, 1975.
Eleven heritage sites included Shalamar Gardens, Gulabi Bagh Gateway, Buddhu ka Awa, Chauburji, Zebunnisa’s Tomb, Lakhshmi Building, General Post Office, Aiwan-i-Auqaf, Supreme Court’s Lahore registry building, St Andrews Presbyterian Church on Nabha Road and Baba Mauj Darya Bukhari Shrine.
Punjab Masstransit Authority, Lahore Development Authority, Punjab government and National Engineering Services Pakistan challenged the LHC verdict before the Supreme Court with a plea to vacate the stay order.
On Thursday, a 5-member larger bench led by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali observed, “As to why mockery was being made with the nation on the name of democracy in the country – bad governance under the garb of good governance was being exercised – people need to stand over the situation”.
Representing the Punjab government in the matter before the court, former Attorney General for Pakistan Makhdoom Ali contended that there is no legal violation but it is a matter relating to national heritage.
However, he gave consent to the bench’s option for reconfirmation of the technical reports of the OLMT project to which a member of the bench Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh said, “I am glad that Punjab government is not adamant”.
Expressing his commitment to protect the heritage of Lahore, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh asked Makhdoom Ali to satisfy the court that there would be no damage to heritage sties of Lahore through the project presently and in the next century as well.
In his response, the counsel said that there would be no real damage of heritage, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh bluntly said, “So you are considering there may be damage – It is our heritage – it is my heritage – we need to be satisfied that culture of Pakistan is not put at stake – we’ll not allow to vandalise Lahore – no structural damage would be tolerated”.
The appellant’s counsel submitted in terms of structure there would be no structural damage, adding there may be visual impairment to which Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh said there must be international measures in visual impairment and court shall decide on the issue after examining the measures.
Mohammad Azhar Siddique appeared on behalf of the respondents. Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh said the court was not showing concern in the matter for any individual but to protect heritage sites in Lahore.
Siddique urged the court to issue an order for the Punjab government to refrain from practice to seek NOC after commencement of a project to which the bench said that the court has to decide about the other part of the plea at first.
Later, issuing directives to both the parties to submit three names of independent and impartial technical experts on heritage, without revealing to each other, from which the court shall select some names, who will make the matter simple for the court. The hearing of the matter was adjourned till October 14 (today). –Business Recorder