ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali said on Thursday the country was being run like a “monocracy” in the name of democracy.
“This court has repeatedly been saying that monocracy exists in this country in the name of democracy, but it is for the people who voted the [current] rulers to power to stand up against them,” said the chief justice of the Supreme Court during a hearing on the case about the Punjab government’s ambitious Rs45 billion Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT).
Heading a five-judge bench of the court, Chief Justice Jamali observed that mockery and not democracy was being practised in the country, where bad governance was in vogue in the name of governance.
The court asked the petitioners as well as the respondents to propose by Friday (today) the names of three international consultants each who could advise the bench regarding technical matters.
SC asks petitioners, respondents to propose names of experts who could assist it in Lahore train case
These experts would be asked to re-verify the environmental assessment reports on which the Punjab government was relying in the case, namely the reports submitted by the National Engineering Services Pakistan Ltd (Nespak), Dr Pamela Rogers, Dr Uppal, the University of Civil Engineering and the Advisory Committee on the OLMT project.
The court had taken up identical appeals moved by the Punjab government, Lahore Development Authority, the Punjab Mass Transit Authority and Nespak against the Lahore High Court’s order for suspension of the construction work within 200 feet of 11 heritage sites in the provincial capital. The order was issued on a petition filed by civil society activist Kamil Khan Mumtaz.
The heritage sites concerned are the Shalamar Garden, Gulabi Bagh Gateway, Buddhu ka Awa, Chauburji, Zebunnisa’s Tomb, Lakshmi Building, General Post Office, Aiwan-i-Auqaf, the Supreme Court’s Lahore registry, St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Baba Mauj Darya Bukhari’s shrine.
“We do not want to say much, otherwise it will go too far,” the chief justice observed in response to a statement by Advocate Azhar Siddiq, one of the respondents in the case, who alleged that it had become routine for the Punjab government to initiate a project first and seek the no-objection and other certificates from the departments concerned later.
“Who elected the Punjab government, if not the people of the province,” the chief justice said. But he made it clear that during the hearing of the case the court would limit itself to determining whether or not the OLMT project would adversely affect the heritage sites.
A leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf from Lahore, Walid Iqbal, withdrew his petition seeking to become a party in the case after Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed declared categorically that the court would not allow anyone to vandalise the city.
At the outset of the hearing, senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan, representing one of the appellants, proposed that the matter be referred to a third-party consultant for technical assessment regarding the environmental aspects of the project.
At this, Justice Saeed said: “Lahore is not close to your heart alone, but also to ours.” He said that not only were his father and grandfather buried there but he also would like to be laid to rest there.
He asked the counsel to satisfy the court that there would be no damage to the historic sites due to the project. The counsel assured the court that there would be no real damage.