A division bench of Lahore High Court issued a stay order on Thursday against the construction work for the Orange Line metro train project within 200 feet of historical buildings along its route.
Justice Abid Aziz Sheikh and Justice Shahid Karim issued the order on a petition moved by several activists before they adjourned hearing till February 4.
As many as 11 historical buildings along the route have been identified in the petition. These include Chauburji, St Andrew’s Church, the GPO building, the Supreme Court Lahore Registry, Shalimar Gardens, the tomb of Mehrunnisa, Budhu ka Awa, the tomb of Darya and the Shah Cheragh building.
The petitioners’ counsel told the court that the government had initiated work on the project in September last year. He said it had signed a contract with a Chinese bank in January this year for additional funds.
He said the government was wasting public money.
The court asked Khawaja Harris, the counsel for the government, about the steps the government had taken to preserve historical buildings along the route.
The court asked if the government had sought clearance from the departments before launching the project. Harris was unable to satisfy the court on these counts.
Counsel for the petitioners told the court that the government had transferred a director general of the Archaeology Department to ensure approval for the project. He said so far 26 people had died due to the project.
He said the project lacked proper planning. He said before construction was launched, electricity, water and gas lines had not been shifted to the proper places. He said the government had also failed to issue a traffic management plan.
He said there were no alternative routes and thousands of people suffered in traffic jams due to the construction. He said often ambulances remained stuck traffic jams for hours.
The counsel said that the Rs365 billion project had been not approved by the Punjab Assembly.
They said the project had put Lahore’s architectural heritage at risk.
He said the government was diverting funds allocated for other sectors like education and health for the metro train project.
They pointed out that the UNESCO also opposed the project for being a serious threat to the heritage sites.
The petitioners asked the court to suspend the construction work on of the Orange Line metro train and stay demolitions and allocation of funds under the project until a final decision was made in this regard.