LAHORE – The Lahore High Court on Thursday restrained the Punjab University from spending its funds on the much-hyped laptop distribution ceremony being held on March 23 (today) at Quaid-i-Azam Campus. (Initially, it was to be presided by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who is now not available. In his absence, his brother and PML-N president Nawaz Sharif will distribute the gadgets to the students. Reportedly, the PU had earmarked Rs30 million for the CM’s ceremony.)

During the hearing the court was told that the Punjab chief minister was running a political campaign of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif to affect the results of the coming general election and for the purpose was using the national kitty. Petitioner’s counsel Aftab Ahmad Bajwa also contended that the public money “should not be spent on political ceremonies”. Mr Bajwa also opposed the participation of Mian Nawaz Sharif as chief guest of the distribution ceremony and requested it to issue directions to restrain the PML-N chief from participating. At this, Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that the court could not stop Nawaz Sharif from chairing the ceremony.

The petitioner Nazir Ahmad submitted that VC Dr Mujahid Kamran had sanctioned a supplementary grant of Rs30 million for arranging the laptop distribution ceremony without permission of the PU Syndicate. The VC arranged the function to oblige Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and PML-N President Nawaz Sharif by inviting them as chief guest, the petitioner submitted, adding that a number of halls were available for the said function, but the VC selected Quaid-i-Azam Campus to oblige Mian Shahbaz Sharif as he had selected him as the VC.

After recording initial arguments, the court sought reply from the Punjab Government and the vice-chancellor for April 12, and directed the government not to spend the funds of the university. On the other hand, a spokesman of the Punjab Government has claimed that the laptop distribution ceremony was being held as per the order of the Lahore High Court. According to a handout, issued here on Thursday, the spokesman said that the Punjab Government would bear all the expenses to be incurred on the function. He said the government respected the court order and would ensure their implementation in letter and spirit.

Meanwhile, the hundreds of students of PU’s evening and replica classes have been staging protests for the last couple of days over what they alleged discrimination in provision of free laptops by the government. On Wednesday, they had vowed to create a rumpus when the chief minister came for the laptop distribution ceremony.