Change of Bhong interchange location irks SC

Planning minister says uplift funds cut down from Rs1tr to Rs550b


Hasnaat Malik September 28, 2022
PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD:

The top court on Tuesday expressed anger over the planning and development ministry for changing the location of Bhong Interchange on Sukkur-Multan Motorway.

A division bench of the Supreme Court was hearing a suo motu case taking up an application filed by Raees Munir against changing the location of the interchange.

The application was moved in a suo motu notice taken by former chief justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed over a mob vandalising a Hindu temple in Bhong village of Punjab's Rahim Yar Khan district last year.

Earlier, the applicant had told the bench that in violation of the SC order, the government was changing the location of the interchange for political motives.

In compliance with the SC order, the planning and development ministry had submitted a report to the court.
It had stated that the construction of Bhong Interchange on Sukkur-Multan Interchange was approved by the planning ministry in its February 11 meeting.

However, it added that the construction of the interchangeable was not economically viable.

It was submitted to the court that the distance between Bhong and Jamal Wali was 15 kilometres. Besides, the report added that there was also a public demand for the construction of an interchange at Jamaldin Wali.

The ministry had requested the Supreme Court to allow study-based comprehensive traffic data and economic viability of both the locations for construction of the interchange.

“It is humbly submitted that economically viable option will serve both places as [the] distance between places is 15km. Due to constrained fiscal space, [the] provision of an interchange at both places is not possible for the government of Pakistan. It is further assured that the construction of [an] interchange at [the] most viable option as per [the] NHA [National Highway Authority] study will be expedited by the government of Pakistan,” the report added.

During the hearing on Tuesday , the bench expressed annoyance over the report and summoned the planning and development ministry secretary to explain why the location of the interchange was being changed.

After a break, Federal Planning and Development Minister Ahsan Iqbal appeared before the bench.

He told the court that the development budget had been reduced from Rs1 trillion to Rs550 billion.

Therefore, he added that several projects had been halted.

However, Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that if there was a need for any amendment to the order, then a review application should be submitted to the court.

Ahsan said the review application would be submitted to the court to inform it of the ministry's point of view.

He added that his ministry wanted to spend the funds at a place which could be more useful.

Ahsan further said he was recently acquittal in a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) case as a reference was filed against 25 officials of his ministry.

However, Justice Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi asked him not to give the reference of his case.

The minister said there were economic difficulties because of floods, adding that he wanted to inform the court about the funds situation.

Ahsan also said similar to judges, he had also taken the oath of his office.

The bench asked the ministry to submit a fresh report within three days. Additional Attorney General Rashdeen Qasuri appeared on behalf of the federal government in the case.

 

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