LAHORE - PTI leaders Zubair Khan Niazi and Waqas Siddique have filed civil miscellaneous applications with the Lahore High Court, seeking court permission to withdraw their main petitions against alleged corruption in public sector companies as well as appointment of MPAs as directors of these companies. The applications will be taken up today.

Talking to The Nation, Advocate Sheraz Zaka, counsel for the petitioners, said that his clients wanted to withdraw their petitions due to delay in dispensation of justice. He said these petitions had been pending for two years, but the court did not decide them.

Zubair Khan Niazi had made PML-N MPA Majid Zahoor and Lahore Waste Management Company respondents in his petition.

Waqas Siddique and Opposition Leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed had moved petitions against five public sector companies -- Lahore Waste Management Company, Punjab Saaf Pani Company, Punjab Agriculture & Meat Company, Lahore Parking Company and Lahore Transport Company – over alleged mismanagement and corruption.

Waqas has moved a civil miscellaneous application to withdraw his petition on the above mentioned ground, whereas petition of Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed has been fixed before Justice Shahid Karim for arguments today.

These petitions were fixed before different judges during the last two years. Petition of Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed was fixed before Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and now it has been sent to Justice Shahid Karim, says Sheraz.  Petitions of Waqas and Zubair were initially fixed before Justice Ali Akbar Qureshi and then before Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah. The chief justice heard these petitions and then referred them to Justice Shahid Karim who will take up these petitions today.  A petition of similar nature moved by Sania Kanwal, a lawyer, has been fixed before Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi. This is in the context that how these petitions were dealt with administratively.

Last week, Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi went hard on Punjab Chief Secretary Zahid Saeed and admonished him for failing to present record of 60 public sector companies being run at the expense of public money, during hearing of a petition challenging alleged corruption in Punjab Saaf Pani Company.

The hearing on petition against Punjab Saaf Pani Company brought all similar petitions in the limelight.

Justice Naqvi also sought details of legal status, salaries and perks enjoyed by their heads. The judge passed three consecutive orders for record of all these companies but every time the provincial government could not submit record. This irked the judge who expressed dismay over the lethargic attitude of the government officials.

Justice Naqvi addressed chief secretary and said the court was not found of inviting him but he had been summoned only to explain why details of these companies were not being provided to the court.  The chief secretary replied that these companies were being run independently. This further annoyed the judge who remarked that what was the use of the chief secretary if 60 companies were being run independently.

At this moment, law officer Shan Gul intervened and handled the situation by saying that the chief secretary had a supervisory kind of role and he would explain it later. The law officer challenged the court jurisdiction to summon the record. He pointed out that under article 212 of the Constitution the court could not seek record of public servants. It falls under the domain of the services tribunal to seek record, he said. However, the court did not seem convinced. The court went on to say that no one would be allowed to establish monarchy or law of jungle in Punjab. Each and every penny of this nation was precious for the court and it would not allow waste of public money. Every newborn in Pakistan has a debt of Rs120,000. This debt has skyrocketed from Rs35,000 per person to Rs120,000 per person in a few years, he said. The sole purpose of establishing such companies is to accommodate their blue-eyed people at lucrative posts, he said.

Justice Naqvi expressed serious concerns over establishment of public sector companies and huge salaries being given to their chief executive officers.

The judge observed with regret that officers of BS-20 working in government departments would be getting not more than Rs150,000 per month, but in such companies they were getting salaries of two million to four million rupees each.

Addressing law officer Shan Gul, the court said instead of improving their performance and getting the court’s order enforced, law officers went to the chief justice to complain against judges. However, Shan Gul showed his ignorance about any such activity. The law officer sought 15-day time to provide the record and the court refused to give time. The court granted 10-day time and adjourned the hearing until October 18.

Sania Kanwal had moved a petition against alleged corruption in the Punjab Saaf Pani Company as well as the procedure for appointment of manager (legal) at the company. Being an eligible candidate, the petitioner had applied for the post but she was never called for an interview by the authority.

The other case, which surfaced as a prominent matter of public interest, was the matter of trees allegedly being felled in the provincial capital. Justice Ayesha A. Malik showed displeasure and directed the legal adviser to the Parks and Horticultural Authority (PHA) to file a reply and produce record of felling of trees across the city of Lahore during the construction of mega projects, including Orange Train, signal free corridor project and widening of Canal Road project.

The judge on April 28 had directed Environment Secretary Saif Anjum and director general of the Punjab Environment Protection Agency to file replies. PTI leader Andleeb Abbas had moved the petition. In this case, it was pointed out by the petitioner’s counsel that PHA officials could submit reply for the past ten months. On this, Justice Malik ordered the officials to come up with a reply and adjourned the proceedings till second week of December.

Sheraz Zaka, the petitioner’s counsel, said the Punjab government had given an undertaking to the Supreme Court that for every tree felled, the provincial government would plant ten trees, but this undertaking had not been complied with so far. He said that fundamental rights of citizens were at stake and Lahore city was becoming one of the most polluted cities in the world due to felling of trees of various kinds, including Arjun, Dhak, Mahwa, Bahara, Alstonia, Sheesham, etc.

The counsel said the Punjab government in 2015 had issued an environment policy, which talked about plantation. Neither this policy was implemented nor the undertaking given by the Punjab government to the apex court was complied with. He asserted that trees play a major role to keep the air clean and produce oxygen. He said that smog had already made people’s lives miserable and now cutting of more trees would multiply the miseries of the people. He claimed that the government in the name of development is turning the once beautiful city of Lahore into a concrete jungle and so far 620 trees had been cut for construction of Lahore Orange Line Metro Train Project and widening of Canal Road from Doctors Hospital to Thokar Niaz Baig and on the outskirts of Harbanspura.

He submitted that to ensure biodiversity and food security in the province, the government should formulate and implement the Punjab Forest Policy. He said the government should enhance the forecast cover to 25 percent of the area of the province and take action to stop deforestation. He said the provincial government should be restrained from felling trees.

The petition seeking registration of high treason case against Mian Nawaz Sharif also remained prominent during the last week. LHC Justice Sardar Ahmad Naeem again issued notice to the SHO to submit reply.

Earlier on October 4, the judge had admitted this petition for regular hearing and ordered the SHO of the Defence Police Station to submit a report on the petition, but he failed to comply with the order. The judge again issued notice to the SHO for November 6.

A resident of DHA Lahore, Jawad Ashraf, moved the petition submitting that on July 28 a five-member bench of the Supreme Court had disqualified Nawaz from the PM’s office for failing to declare his salary, which he had not withdrawn as an executive of a Dubai-based company, as an asset when filing his nomination papers in 2013. He said that Nawaz Sharif’s speeches were tantamount to treason. He had submitted an application to the police for registration of a high treason case against Nawaz Sharif but so far no action was taken, he submitted. He sought directions for the police to lodge a high treason case against Nawaz Sharif.