Civil society condemns CM’s inciting remarks


LAHORE: The Pakistan Civil Society Forum has expressed grave concerns over Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s call to public violence in the event that the Supreme Court does not sanction the current project plan for Orange Line Metro Train.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the forum strongly condemned the October 8 address of Shehbaz Sharif to the media, in which he said that preventing public projects from materialising will result in a bloody revolution and called on the public to war against those preventing their timely completion. It said that the statements could only be deemed an attempt to influence the apex court, incite violence and suppress dissent.

It is worth mentioning here that the Orange Line is being constructed along a route on which 11 heritage sites are located. A judgment from the Lahore High Court last year had halted construction on the project, a decision which was later appealed in the Supreme Court by the provincial government. In its statement, the Pakistan Civil Society Forum said that the continued construction on the project, despite the Supreme Court not having issued its decision on the appeal, shows an utter disregard of judicial authority.

The chief minister of Punjab is not only attempting to influence the decision of the courts but also wasting public funds, it said.

In his speech to the public, Shahbaz Sharif declared that the Orange Metro Line was a project for the poor; however, he failed to take into account the large scale displacement of largely poor populations, the removal of thriving economies and the extraordinary human rights violations caused by this project, it said. He failed to mention the 69 deaths and dozens more injured, primarily from among the poorer sections of society, due to the careless, unregulated and speedy construction of this project, the forum further said, adding that Shehbaz Sharif also failed to mention that the project is financially unfeasible and will require enormous subsidies on a daily basis, which will come from the pockets of the same ‘awaam’ for whose benefit this project is intended. The statement also pointed out that the case regarding the financial transparency of the project is still pending in the Lahore High Court.

The forum further said that Shehbaz Sharif’s allegations of political partisanship against the petitioners in the court cases do not hold water since none of them are affiliated with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or any other political party, and said that Shehbaz Sharif himself is politicising the project; this approach undermines the democratic right of citizens to seek redress and to hold the government accountable for the violation of national laws and the fundamental rights of the people, the statement further read.

In conclusion, the forum appreciated the Punjab CM for stating that he would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision and choose an alternative for project completion should the Lahore High Court’s judgment be upheld by it. The forum also urged the concerned authorities to make any alternative plans for the Orange Line Project fully available to the public as is required by law, and to issue visas to the UNESCO Reactive Mission to Shalamar that have been pending since 2016, so that requisite international oversight is provided for the protection of Pakistan’s national heritage.