Sets aside LHC decision; Chairman of China’s NDRC lauds judgment; PTI responsible for Orange Line delay: Shahbaz
Declaring Lahore’s High Court’s decision null and void, the Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Punjab government to complete the Orange Line Project.
A five-member bench, headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan has formed a committee, led by a retired judge, to oversee the impacts of the project on the effected heritage sites.
The court said it hasn’t observed anything illegal in the project and asked the authorities to set up two committees, which would oversee it.
The decision which was split 4:1 was reserved eight months ago. The judgment was announced by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan after the bench had reserved its verdict on the matter in April.
Justices Ejaz Afzal Khan, Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Maqbool Baqar and Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel were also part of the larger bench hearing the case.
The bench had taken up identical petitions filed by the Punjab government, National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak), Punjab Mass Transit Authority, Lahore Development Authority and Civil Society Network against the Aug 19, 2016 LHC judgment suspending construction work on OLMT within 200 feet of 11 heritage sites in the provincial capital.
“With majority of 4 against 1, Maqbool Baqar, dissenting, we endorse and approve the NOCs/permission letters issued by the competent authorities and the recommendations of experts relating to execution, mitigation and remedial measures required to be adopted by the executing agency and allow the project to proceed subject to the conditions and directions,” the court order stated.
On the other hand, Chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission has lauded the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, allowing the construction of the Orange Line Metro train.
China is willing to continue the project as per original agreement signed in May, 2014, said a senior official of the Commission here on Friday. The project valued $1.6 billion was first of its kind in the country.
The signing ceremony of the agreement held in Shanghai was witnessed by President Xi Jinping and his Pakistani counterpart Mamnoon Hussain.
The court directed the petitioner to make all necessary arrangements to ensure that the monuments remain stable and undamaged in all respects during the execution of the project as specified in the HIA and Study of Control of Vibration, Noise and Foundation.
Vibration monitoring shall be undertaken as a part of the monitoring plan using the crack measure devices such as Avongard Standard Tell-Tale throughout the construction period and for an additional period of 10 weeks from the date of commencement of commercial operation of the train or such further time as may be directed by the Director General, Archaeology.
In case, it is found that vibration levels at any stage of the construction or operation are exceeding safe limits, construction work / operation shall immediately be discontinued and remedial action shall be taken to ensure that such levels are brought down to acceptable limits.
In case, vibration levels exceed the acceptable limits, work shall immediately be stopped, remedial measures taken to the satisfaction of experts and further work shall not commence unless written clearance for resumption of work is given by the experts.
“An independent and experienced Conservation Engineer shall be appointed to monitor the Project, both during the construction and operation phases. He shall submit monthly reports to the Advisory Committee which shall make such further recommendations to the Director General, Archaeology as may be required to ensure that the Project as a whole is meeting all technical requirements meant to preserve, protect and conserve the antiquities or protected premises,” the order said.
Commercial operation shall not commence unless written clearance is given by the experts confirming that vibration levels have consistently been found to be within acceptable limits.
The speed of the train shall be reduced while passing near the monuments as recommended by the Directorate General of Archaeology from time to time on the basis of data made available to it and state of the art vibration measuring equipments shall permanently be installed at suitable places in and around the antiquities and special premises to monitor levels of vibration created by operation of the train. Records of the same shall be maintained and regularly checked by a responsible officer deputed to do so.
The court ordered that recommendations of the Advisory Committee (already set up) shall be placed before the Directorate General of Archaeology, who shall take necessary steps to ensure that the same are complied with in letter and spirit by all concerned agencies, contractors, sub-contractors and operators.
The court further ordered that where excavation is necessary it shall be carried out in a way that it would not affect any structure or foundation of the antiquities or special premises and where necessary special arrangements shall be made to stabilize and strengthen the structure of the antiquities and special premises.
All necessary safety arrangements shall be made in accordance with the best engineering expertise during excavation, construction and execution phases of the Project.
The court further directed that the executing agency shall install accelerometers, velocity transducers, noise detectors and vibration measuring equipment near the antiquities and special premises.
The appellant shall ensure implementation of additional mitigation and remedial measures as mentioned in vibration analysis report by NESPAK, Heritage Impact Assessment as well as in the reports submitted by Dr. Uppal and Dr. Rogers.
Excavation would be carried out in a way that would not affect any of the exposed or buried structure of the Special Premises.
The bench ordered that a dedicated hotline shall be set up, telephone numbers whereof shall be prominently displayed in public areas around all anti quities and special premises for reporting damage or deterioration observed by members of the public or tourists.
The court ordered the provincial government that the Hydraulic Tank of Shalamar Garden should be restored to its original position and the surrounding area will be converted into a green area.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif on Friday blamed the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf for the 22-month delay caused in the construction of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project.
The chief minister was speaking to media in Lahore, shortly after the Supreme Court’s orders which cleared the way for completion of Orange Line Metro without any delay.
“The PTI had submitted an application to the Supreme Court. Then, as hidden enemies strike, they did the same in the Lahore High Court. The revenge they have taken is not from me. They have taken revenge from the poor people of the city.”
Following the decision, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif congratulated people on social networking site Twitter.
“Alhumdulillah… Orange Line finally gets go-ahead by the Supreme Court… Today people won over the vested interests… All efforts and energies to be employed to complete this mega public welfare project as early as possible InshaAllah! Aap sab ko Mubarak.”
Shahbaz Sharif welcomed the apex court decision saying the project would provide international level travelling facilities to commuters.
“Congratulations to Pakistanis, particularly, the people of Punjab,” said Shahbaz Sharif. “The project is a milestone for Pakistan and we will now work day and night on it, to overcome the delay in the completion of the project.”
The chief minister added that the project was to be inaugurated on Dec 25 according to the original plan. When asked when the project would be operational, Shahbaz said he would inform of the date at a later date. “But PTI and Imran Khan Niazi’s team delayed the project for 22-months.”
He elaborated that the Lahore High Court had a stay order on the project for 14 months and the apex court announced its verdict eight months later.
Shahbaz added that 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, Shahbaz said they have been unable to even lay a brick for the metro project in Peshawar after a passage of four and a half years.
Punjab’s chief minister further said if the project had been built on time and not subject to delays, 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.”