Eight months after the Lahore High Court halted the Orange Metro Line Train (OMLT) project, the Supreme Court (SC) has now overruled its verdict and has approved the construction of the rapid transit system while legally mandating that an expert committee oversee the environmental and heritage loss elements of the project.

This is a good step for all sides. It is crucial to understand the most of the project had already been completed-halting the train project would have caused losses in billions of dollars-especially since OMLT was going to be financed by Chinese Exim Bank. In case of failure of the project, the Chinese contractor would be entitled to recover liquidated damages at a rate of 0.02 per cent of the contract price of civil works.

The judgment was a competent one- since it weighed the considerations of the Punjab government without compromising on the importance of preservation of heritage sites. These national monuments are reflective of our glorious past, carrying immense cultural, social and historical significance, and aesthetic charm and artistic beauty; and through UNESCO conventions, Pakistan is obliged to ensure their “identification, protection and conservation”. However, the preservation and the OMLT project should not be reduced to a case of competing interest, when both can be achieved with some effort, prudence and diligence. This is why the Judges stipulated in the order that the government should make all necessary arrangements to ensure that the monuments remain stable and undamaged in all respects during the execution of the Project.

The government should not rest easy with its win. The project delay had led to cost overruns and left Lahore in a state of flux near the construction sites.  The work must be restarted with the utmost priority as it is one of the earliest and most visible manifestation of CPEC - which is facing skepticism and hurdles with every day; with accusations of corruption levelled on Pakistan.

While it is true that some parties may have wanted to unnecessarily delay OMLT for political reasons, as Shahbaz Sharif accuses Imran of doing, the government must realizes that some of the legal troubles are of its own making. If it hadn't gotten questionable Environmental Impact Reports and hadn't messed around with the tender procedure, this delay could have been avoided. It must now do everything by the book and fully empower the overseeing heritage committees to ensure no more problems arise.

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