Will stop water supply to cement factories if necessary, says CJP in Katas Raj case


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Thursday lamented the government’s inability to safeguard one of the Hindu community’s well-known places of worship, Chakwal’s Katas Raj temple, and ordered a committee be set up to probe the issue.

The CJP made the remarks during the hearing of a suo motu notice taken on the basis of media reports that the Katas Raj temple complex pond was drying up because cement factories nearby were drawing a large amount of water through a number of drill bores, severely reducing the sub-soil level.

In addition, almost every home in Katas Waulah and Choa Saidan Shah draws water through boring due to the absence of a proper supply network. The unchecked plantation of eucalyptus saplings in the region has compounded the problem.

“This temple is not just a place of cultural significance for the Hindu community, but also a part of our national heritage,” the CJP observed, adding, “I want a solution to this problem.”

The Punjab government and a district coordination officer submitted reports on the matter in court on Thursday, and the additional advocate general made important disclosures about a cement factory operating in the area, saying its water usage is greater than the entire population of the city of Chakwal.

The CJP subsequently ordered the Punjab advocate general to establish a high-level committee to probe the matter and decided to issue a notice to the cement factory.

“If necessary, we will even summon all four chief secretaries and the prime minister’s principal secretary,” he said, adding that experts would need to be taken on board.

Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf, who was earlier absent from court, arrived after a short break in the hearing following CJP’s dissatisfaction over his absence.

Once Ausaf arrived in court, the CJP stressed the importance of protecting the rights of minority communities.

Ausaf was directed to form a committee on the matter and become an assistant to them, and the CJP suggested that an ordinary citizen of Chakwal, General (retired) Safdar, who often raises his voice about the issue, be included in the committee.

“Our goal is to find a solution to the matter of how water can be provided,” Nisar said. “If we need to close down 10 tube wells or halt the water consumption of the factories, we will do it.”

The chief justice lamented that the cement factories appeared to have cut away more than half the mountains in the area.

However, he noted, the court was not against setting up factories “but they should be located in places that do not cause inconvenience to ordinary citizens”.

“It is unacceptable to live without access to clean water or air,” the CJP asserted.

The case was adjourned until next Thursday.