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July 28, 2020

NGOs’ re-registration under Punjab Charities Act 2018 stayed

Lahore

July 28, 2020

LAHORE:The Lahore High Court Monday restrained the Punjab government from taking coercive measures against civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in terms of their re-registration under Punjab Charities Act 2018.

Justice Shahid Karim passed the order on a joint petition filed by over a dozen civil society organisatins and NGOs, including Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Aurat Foundation, South Asia Partnership-Pakistan, Asma Jahangir Legal Aid and Women Rights Association.

Representing the petitioners, Advocate Hina Jillani stated before the court that Punjab Assembly on Feb 28, 2018 enacted the law, Punjab Charities Act 2018. She said the government or the lawmakers never consulted the civil society sector and organisations before the enactment of the legislation piece. She pointed out that Section 12 of the law makes it mandatory for all charities to get them registered with the “Charities Commission” established under the Act. She said the Home Department published an advertisement in a number of newspapers on different dates during July 2020 giving a deadline of Aug 15 for online registration by all charities with the commission. Later, the counsel said, the department circulated instructions to district administrations to coerce the registration process and some NGOs had received letters from social welfare officials. She argued that the registration of “charities” had been arbitrarily determined and the requirement of the notification under Section 12 of the impugned Act had not been fulfilled. Therefore, Ms Jillani said, the registration process was not legally initiated and the time limit of Aug 15 intimated through a newspaper advertisement was without lawful authority and of no legal effect. She said imposing a deadline during a health emergency because of COVID-19 pandemic, when most offices of the NGOs were closed or only partially working, was not justified by any standards of reasonableness. As an immediate relief, the counsel requested the court to restrain the respondents from enforcing the deadline for re-registration process and also suspend the operation of the impugned Act, which she termed a draconian law. After hearing the arguments, Justice Shahid Karim restrained the government from taking coercive measures against the petitioners/organisations and sought replies from the respondents by the next date of hearing to be fixed by the office.

PSM: An accountability court Monday adjourned the hearing of ‘pig iron’ reference against officials of Pakistan Railways and Pakistan Steel Mills by August 10. The court has also extended judicial remand of an accused, Jwad Ahmad, for the same date in the same case. The reference has been pending before the court for the last five years.

In 2015, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) had filed a corruption reference against former officials of Pakistan Railways and others allegedly involved in a Rs 48.2 million scam, also known as ‘pig iron scam.’

According to a NAB, the reference was filed against Zahoor Khattak, Pakistan Railways former chief controller (purchase), Saeed Akhtar, former general manager (operations), Sameeullah Khan, former chief controller (stores), Behzad Mehmood, former chief mechanical engineer (loco), Yawar Abbas, former financial adviser and chief accounts officer, Tariq Maqsood, former financial adviser and chief accounts officer, S Amin-ud-Din, former deputy manager accounts of Pakistan Steel Mills zonal office, Lahore, Suhail Sana Qazi, former deputy chief engineer/incharge PSM, Jawad Ahmad, manager of M/s Pak Steel Traders, Lahore, and Zeeshan Ahmad, contractor/proprietor of Pak Steel Traders, for misuse of authority, violation of the Public Procurement Rules 2004 and award of a contract without advertisement. The railways officials allegedly in connivance with the contractor awarded the contract to Pak Steel Traders for procurement of 500 tonnes of pig iron, causing a loss of millions of rupees to the national exchequer. Bail: An anti-corruption court on Monday extended interim bail of one Engineer Imtiaz Akbar Bhatti and other officials of irrigation department until 20 August, accused of embezzling millions under the head of diesel purchase. The judge Sohaib Ahmad Rumi has also directed Investigation Officer of Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) to submit investigation report on the next hearing. As per case details, the ACE had registered a case against Imtiaz Bhatti and others on the charges of embezzling millions through bogus purchase of diesel.