LAHORE - The Punjab government which is poised to complete the Orange Line project at all cost has issued revised no-objection certificates with a view to removing all restraints regarding historical monuments falling on its route, The Nation learnt yesterday.

The official documents available with The Nation say the Punjab Archeology Department issued revised approval/no-objection certificates (NOCs) and addendum in addition to NOCs/permissions granted earlier for the construction of Orange Line on historical monuments and special premises falling on the project’s route.

The prayers of the petitioners in their petitions against the project, a senior law officer said, may be infructuous as the NOCs/approvals have been given after due consideration of the Lahore High Court’s orders and other public and private agencies’ reports.

A division bench, headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and comprising Justice Shahid Karim, stayed construction of the project at 11 historical sites on January 28, 2016, on the petitions challenging its construction.

Civil society and others had challenged the project, pleading it was a threat to the cultural landscape of the city as well as a major environment protection problem. The petitioners had prayed in their petitions that this project should be declared as null and void and the money being spent on it be spent on other projects like heath and education sectors.

The Punjab Archeology Department issued 10 revised NOCs/addendums after due consideration of Lahore High Court orders and other reports. The NOCs issued for the places include Supreme Court Lahore Registry, Shah Chiragh Chambers, General Post Office building, Tomb of Hazrat Mauj Darya Bukhari, South of Shalimar Gardens, Ghulabi Bagh Gateway, North of Buddha’s Tomb, East of Chauburji Gateway and west of Zaib-un-Nisa’s tomb.

“The archeology director general, vide a letter dated 20-5-2016, issued an addendum in addition to and in furtherance of NOCs/permissions dated 30-11-2015 regarding construction of Orange Line Metro Train project under Section 3(1) of Punjab Special Premises (Preservation) Ordinance, 1985, which has also been supplemented with certain conditions,” said the documents.

In two different surveys held by The Nation, it was revealed that construction of Orange Line project continued at all 11 sites despite the restraining orders of the LHC.

On the other hand, the LHC yesterday directed the Punjab advocate general to come up with arguments on the questions raised on the issuance of new NOCs for the construction of Orange Line project.

During the hearing, Punjab Advocate General Shakilur Rehman along with AAGs Samia Khaild and Jamal Mamdot as well as LDA Counsel Khurram Chughtai supported the respondents and submitted the document issued by the transport department, saying Lahore Development Authority, in furtherance of decision of the Punjab government, had withdrawn its share of 1 percent from the total budget of the project. Thus around Rs 75 billion allocated for the project could be saved, they argued. On this, the bench asked the AGP what he would say about the Archeology DG who issued NOCs without proper visits to the historical monuments.

The judge also asked how the DG issued NOCs within three-days of his appointment. The bench questioned if it was possible for the government to demolish Shalimar Gardens under an NOC. “The NOCs were issued first and then were taken on the record. What was the harm if proper planning would have been done before issuing these NOCs?” the bench further questioned.

The petitioners’ counsel, Advocate Azhar Siddique, argued the government took loan against huge interest rate. The public money was being wasted for the project which lacked proper planning, he argued.

Asian Development Bank offered loan against 0.75 percent interest rate, but the Punjab government took it from a Chinese bank against 6 percent interest rate, said Siddique. He said Rs 200 billion were allocated for this project and the government could get only Rs 162 billion.

Punjab Additional Advocate General Shan Gull prayed to the bench to ask Azhar Siddique to file all civil miscellaneous applications at one go. Thus, he said, Siddique’s name could get some place in Guinness Book of World Record for filing maximum applications in just one petition. The court would resume hearing on June 7.