LAHORE - The stay orders on Orange Line project is causing loss of billions of rupees to the government while the courts cannot interfere into the policy matters of the state, Attorney General of Pakistan Salman Butt told the Lahore High Court yesterday.

The AGP told the court that if any project is blamed on corruption or any mala fide intention then that project could be examined and probed by an independent judicial inquiry.

A two-member bench headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh heard the case while Attorney General of Pakistan Salman Butt, newly appointed Advocate General Punjab Shakil-ur-Rehman and many other lawyers were present in the court. The affectees of the project also thronged the court.

The AGP argued that Orange Line Project is of public interest and in all over the world, such projects are preferred over historical sites. On it, Justice Sheikh remarked that “It does not seem right as UK built many mega projects but she did not even touch her assets.”

The judge asked the AGP to complete his arguments by March 8 (today). The bench also ordered the local commission appointed to examine the violation of the courts’ orders regarding stay on construction of the project at historical sites to file their report soon.

The court also issued notice to the Punjab government to furnish reasons behind initiation of Orange Line Project – a mega project, over other important sectors like education and health in an application seeking reasons behind it.

Meanwhile, Advocate Azhar Siddique who was representing the civil society said that the federal government could not prove its link with this project on solid grounds so far. Mere filing an application to vacate stay does not mean that it is the proper party in the case, he argued.

On January 28, the LHC stayed construction of Orange Line Project within 200 feet of 11 historical sites of the city after the government’s lawyer failed to give reasons behind the change of route of the project.

The eleven historical sites are Lakashmi building, Shalimar Gardens, GPO Chowk, Aiwan-i-Auqaf, Shah Charagh building, Supreme Court registry, Saint Andrew Church, Baba Mauj Darya’s shrine, Ghulabi Bagh, Bhudhu ka Awa, Chauburji, tomb of Zeb-un-Nisa and others.

The petitioners including Cecil and Iris Chaudhry foundation, Judicial Activism Panel (JAP), Lahore Bachao Tehreek and members of the civil society also challenged the project.

Kamil Khan Mumtaz, an activist of the civil society, said “The government is utilizing funds allocated for other sectors like education and health on this project---which is simple hazardous,” Mumtaz is also one of the petitioners who had challenged the project before the court praying that it should be set aside. He stated that Unesco also opposed the project for being a serious threat to environment and other reasons.

They prayed the court to suspend all process, including initiation of Orange Line Project, demolition, building of any part, and as well as allocation and spending of funds pertaining to the project until decision on the petition.