ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday extended stay orders against the Peshawar High Court (PHC) impugned judgment dated 14-11-2019 on Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project, and sought reply from the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa government in this regard.

A two-member bench of the apex court comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed heard the case against the PHC ruling regarding structural change in the BRT project.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) had challenged the PHC verdict. During the course of proceedings, Justice Bandial said the provincial government could not escape from objections about the transparency of the project.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s counsel prayed before the court that the completion date of the project was July 31. However, the construction work came to a halt for 25 days due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus. He said a new completion date had not been given by the contractors as of yet.

 

Justice Umar Ata Bandial said the BRT project was being made from the taxpayer’s money and the provincial government was responsible for utilising the funds in a transparent manner. He said the government was custodian of the tax payers’ money and questions would be asked if the money was not used properly. He said it seemed that the provincial government was moving one step forward and two steps back on the mega project.

 

Extending the stay order against the PHC’s earlier judgment, the apex court sought a reply from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on objections raised by the petitioner and adjourned the hearing till date in office.

 

In November last year, a bench of the Peshawar High Court headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth had directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) authorities to probe the 35 BRT points while the FIA was also asked to look into various points including total cost of 27.37 kilometers road project.

 

The apex court had granted a stay against the PHC impugned judgment on February 03, 2020 and had stopped FIA from carrying out investigation against the BRT project while it had also sought the detail of the estimated cost of the project i.e. what was its initial cost and date for completion, and when it would be completed.

 

KPK Chief Secretary, Secretary Local Government & Rural Development and Secretary Transport Department in December, 2019, had jointly filed an appeal under Article 185(3) of Constitution against Fazli Karim Khan & others, DG Peshawar Development Authority and Project Director Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

 

The petitioners alleged that the respondent No.1 (Fazli Karim Khan) filed writ petition before the Peshawar High Court wherein he had challenged the construction and erection of Station 31 of ongoing BRT project on the ground that has blocked his house gate and devalued the property and has sought its removal.

 

The PHC while accepting the writ petition without adverting to the relief asked for by the respondent No.1 formulated 35 points in shape of questions and directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for investigation and inquiry in disregard of the law.

 

The petitioners maintained that a similar writ petition (4217/2017) was filed before the PHC in 2017 which was dismissed vide judgment and order dated 07-12-2017 by the then chief justice of the High Court. Astoundingly CM No.847-P/2018 regarding some transfer matter was filed in the already dismissed writ petition (4217/2017) wherein the PHC directed NAB to conduct investigation and inquiry into the BRT project vide judgment stated 17-07-2018, which was impugned before the august court, wherein the Supreme Court granting leave to appeal suspended the impugned judgment of PHC by maintaining status quo.

 

However, the PHC without considering the matter in dispute pending before the apex court again passed the impugned judgment & order dated 14-11-19 to writ petition No.2520-/2019.

 

The judgment reveals that a letter/report (without mentioning the same) has been reproduced in the impugned judgment and while copying the text even the ‘Flag’ that were mentioned in such letter/report were not omitted and have been incorporated in the judgment.

 

The PHC judgment has observed that due to the improper planning the short-term project was revised with 35% increase in cost and some of its components abnormally increased by 237% (Package 6), 200% (Package-9) and 147% (Package-4). This is testimony of poor planning for the project by the consulting firm with provincial government at the receiving end.

 

The project has grossly been mishandled and mismanaged from inception by the provincial government officials and thus so far three project directors were replaced, the High Court judgment said.

 

The project was initially conceived and reflected in ADP 2011-12 by the coalition government of ANP and PPP. The PTI government initially ignored the project however, they started spadework in January 2017 through a Transport Authority by Asian Development Bank. This was face saving project by the PTI government, which ultimately had adverse effects on provincial coffers and tremendous inconvenience for the inhabitants of Peshawar, it added.