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December 29, 2018

SC seeks plan for payment of compensation for lives, properties lost in protests

Top Story

December 29, 2018

LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed discontent over the reports submitted by the provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa about the damage to public and private properties and loss of lives during the protests erupted across the country after the acquittal of Christian woman Aasia Bibi in a blasphemy case.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar directed the federal and provincial governments to submit their plans for the payment of compensation to those having lost their lives and properties during the protests by religious organisations.

The government should have invited the claims through newspaper advertisement, observed Justice Ijazul Ahsan, a member of the bench. He said the report was not satisfactory rather a faulty one. Justice Umar Ata Bandial was also part of the bench.

"What action has been taken against those issuing fatwas (edicts) of murder," the chief justice asked the government's lawyers without naming the leaders of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP). The CJP said it is yet to be seen whether they were qualified to issue fatwas.

A Punjab law officer told the bench that as many as 2,936 activists and their leaders had been detained. He said 503 cases were registered, including 26 under terrorism charges. He stated that the amount of the damage caused to public property had been estimated at Rs40.6 million.

"Who will compensate those who lost their vehicles and got injured during the protests?" asked the chief justice. The law officer said the damage to private property was estimated at Rs3.3 million in the province.

An additional home secretary told the bench that the matter of mode of compensation amount will soon be taken up by the provincial cabinet. Chief Justice Nisar said he knew that the cabinet decided to take up the issue after the court took notice. "It should be clear who will run the country. The government has to establish its writ and must not allow those who paralysed the country to protest against a judgment," remarked the chief justice.

"Motorway was closed and edible items, including vegetables and fruits, were not allowed to bring inside the cities", the chief justice pointed out. Meanwhile, the IGP Sindh told the bench that 342 protesters were arrested in 41 cases registered by the police. The report filed by the KP government revealed that 62 people were arrested. It said the protesters had not caused any major damage to public and private property in the province. An officer from Islamabad said no incident of ransacking or damage was reported in the federal capital.

The chief justice ordered the federal and the provincial governments to submit their comprehensive plans about payment of the compensation to the people who lost their vehicles, properties or life during the violent protests. The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.

RAILWAYS LAND: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday ordered high courts and subordinate courts of all the four provinces to decide the cases relating to Railways land within two months.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, issued the order while hearing a case regarding alleged illegal allotment of railways land on leases for decades and encroachment of railways land.

Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad and old administration of the Royal Palm Golf and Country Club also appeared before the court.

At the outset of the proceedings, the CJP asked whether the administration of has been changed. The outgoing administration informed the court that the possession of the Club had been given to M/s AF Ferguson, an chartered accountant firm.

The administration submitted that the 10-year old record of the club was already available with the railways. On this, the chief justice observed that AF Ferguson would not carry out the audit of the club, instead the auditor general of Pakistan would accomplish the task.

The matter regarding legal status of Royal Palm Club lease would be heard in Islamabad, the CJP added.

The CJ asked whether an illegal cinema house as well as a marriage hall had been set up at the club, making it clear that such activities would not be allowed. The CJ pointed out that the former club administration would be held accountable for every single penny.

Sheikh Rashid pointed out that the cases involving Railways precious land of Rs. 123 billion were pending in courts across the country. To which, the bench directed for providing a list of the pending cases with the courts.

During the course of hearing, the minister complained that he did not have powers to change even railways legal team. The chief justice asked why he could not change the team.

Who is the team's head? he asked. Sheikh Rashid submitted that Advocate Tahir Pervaiz was head of the legal team and he had obtained a stay order from high court against his removal. To it, the chief justice asked Advocate Tahir Pervaiz that if the railways administration did not want to keep him, why he wanted to cling to the job.

To which, Tahir Pervaiz, a former sessions judge and brother of a sitting LHC judge, replied that he was appointed through a due process of law and his contractual term had not expired yet.

On this, the chief justice expressed dismay, observing that he knew how he got the job. "Shall I disclose it in the open court," the CJP angrily asked. However, Tahir Pervaiz insisted that Sheikh Rashid could not expel him from the job. The chief justice observed that the court could dismiss him. "You may be held accountable for misconduct, the CJP said, adding that don't do injustice to the nation. The court sought the record of the stay order against his removal for Saturday (today).

KHOKHAR BROTHERS: The Supreme Court on Friday ordered the Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) to complete its investigation against Khokhar brothers and also register a case against all those officials of the Revenue Department involved in allowing consolidation of their land.

A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was hearing a suo motu against illegal occupation on the properties of individuals by PML-N MNA Afzal Khokhar, MPA Saiful Malook Khokhar and Shafi Khokhar.

ACE Director General Hussain Asghar told the bench that Shafi and Saif were summoned but they did not join the investigation. He also complained that the town municipal administration was not extending their cooperation to the ACE. On this, Chief Justice Nisar summoned Lord Mayor Col (retired) Mubashar Ahmad and adjourned the hearing after Jummah prayers.

The mayor made his appearance during the second phase of hearing and told the bench that all the required record was supplied to the ACE soon after he received information of the proceedings. He assured the court of full cooperation in the investigation being held by the ACE.

Meanwhile, the Lahore Development Authority's legal adviser told the bench that a team went to Khokhar Palace in Johar Town but it was not allowed to inspect the property. He said that the four approved maps possessed by the Khokhars did not belong to the land where they built their palace.

ACE DG Asghar pointed out that the maps of the palace's land were not approved as they did not have property rights. The bench directed the ACE head to complete the investigation within a week and also allowed him to take legal action against the Khokhars, if required.

MARRIAGE HALLS: During the course of hearing, Chief Justice Nisar directed the mayor to take steps to control the traffic mess in the City especially during wedding functions time. The top judge suggested him review the 10pm time limit for the marriage functions.

However, Mubashar Ahmad complained that he was a powerless mayor as he could not even order construction of a road or installation of streetlights in the City. "I enjoy my office whenever I go abroad but here I have no power," the mayor added. He said the deputy commissioner had the power to change the hours of marriage halls.

On this, the CJP asked Lahore DC Saleh Saeed, present in the court, to take notice of the people's sufferings and review, if she could, the wedding functions' hours. Chief Justice Nisar observed that he witnessed the commuters being stuck on roads during the peak hours in the City.

The bench also asked the mayor to move a separate application if he had any complaint of having no authority. The bench remarked that the local government system should be strengthened.

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