LAHORE - Shahid Hamid advocate, former Punjab governor, was hired by the Punjab government as private counsel to defend $ 1.6 billion Orange Line Metro Train Project before the Lahore High Court, a local TV reports claimed yesterday.

Shahid Hamid is considered to be very close to the PML-N as his brother Zahid Hamid is federal minister in the present cabinet. The sources told The Nation that he had been hired on special directions of the Punjab Chief Minister and had been given the task of vacating all stay orders becoming hurdle in the way of the project.

Senior officials with Punjab Law and Parliamentary Affairs department, however, did not confirm hiring of Shahid Hamid as counsel of Punjab government in Orange Line train case.

Previously, Khawaja Haris advocate was hired on Rs 1. 35 million to defend the project but could not come up with convincing arguments before the two-judge bench.

The sources said that he left the case purely due to violation of the court’s orders restraining the government to stop construction on Orange Line Project, especially at historical sites. He faced agony all the time he appeared before the bench. The sources said he reimbursed fee to the government.

The next date of ­hearing of the case is due on February 24. The shortage of time will possibly persuade the newly hired counsel to seek more time to study case for his preparation.

On January 28, a division bench of the LHC headed by Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh stayed construction of the project within 200—foot radius of eleven historical sites of the city on several petitions challenging the project.

The sites where the work was barred include Shalimar Gardens, Gulabi Bagh Gateway, Buddhu ka Awa, Chauburji, Zebunnisa’s tomb, Lakhshmi Building, General Post Office, Aiwan-i-Auqaf, Supreme Court’s Lahore registry building, St Andrews Presbyterian Church on Nabha Road and Baba Mauj Darya Bukhari Shrine.

Some members of the civil society, local organizations and lawyers had challenged the project terming it a big threat to the environment as well as to the historical sites of the city. 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.

The lawyer stated that the project put heritage of the Lahore city at stake as 26 historical and protected monuments, including Shalimar Gardens, General Post Office, Old Anarkali and Kapoorthala House, Supreme Court-Lahore registry, Lahore High Court and Chauburji were going to lose their significance.

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,” Mr. 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.